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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
After getting my first dog, I quickly wanted another because he is absolutely wonderful. His only downfall is his separation anxiety. As a background, he is 5 years old and in his previous home he was raised with his brother who is the same age and breed. We assume they are from the same litter since they look EXACTLY alike. I have been in contact with the adoptive family of his brother and he is experiencing separation anxiety as well. We both believe they developed anxiety, not just because of the change in environment but it is the first time in their life that they are totally alone.

The behaviorist has suggested the use of a Thundershirt and anti-anxiety medication. She was unsure if getting a second dog would help since they didn't really have time to assess them. They were both adopted quickly.
 

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What sort of behaviors is he exhibiting when you leave? What training methods or routines have you tried implementing to help reduce his anxiety? Did the behaviorist have any training recommendations?

Using medication is a pretty serious decision...It's best to avoid anti-anxiety meds except in extreme cases where training just isn't going anywhere because the dog's anxiety is so severe it's impossible to counter condition, or the dog is going to cause harm to itself. A lot of times, separation anxiety can be addressed through training and conditioning. There are also a handful of other supplements you can give to help that aren't as risky as an anti-anxiety medication...Melatonin can sometimes help. There's also Rescue Remedy or a DAP collar or diffuser.

As far as a second dog goes... I generally recommend that people have their current dogs fairly well trained, socialized and settled in, and to work on fixing any current behavior problems they have before adding a second dog. I know your idea is probably that getting your current dog a companion so he's never totally alone might help his separation anxiety. But I wouldn't count on it. For many dogs, having a canine companion is not the same as having their human companion around. They will still be anxious when you leave without training.

It's also very possible that adding a second dog now will result in you having TWO dogs with separation anxiety. If you keep them loose and your current dog is destructive or vocal, the second dog may join in on those behavior. It could just be double trouble.

Take a look through this sticky: http://www.dogforum.com/training-behavior-stickies/separation-anxiety-29576/

There's a handful of links there to articles and videos on separation anxiety, along with tips and methods for reducing it.
 

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Why is anti-anxiety medication "risky"? What's usually recommended as a first line treatment for dogs is Prozac, which isn't a high risk drug in terms of side effects, etc. It's certainly lower risk than a dog that will break off nails and teeth trying to go through a wall after their owner.

Maybe it's just my own experiences with anxiety, but I don't understand the prevailing opinion of "anything but medication!" when it comes to dogs and anxiety.
 

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Why is anti-anxiety medication "risky"? What's usually recommended as a first line treatment for dogs is Prozac, which isn't a high risk drug in terms of side effects, etc. It's certainly lower risk than a dog that will break off nails and teeth trying to go through a wall after their owner.

Maybe it's just my own experiences with anxiety, but I don't understand the prevailing opinion of "anything but medication!" when it comes to dogs and anxiety.
Yeah, "risky" wasn't the best choice of words.

I don't feel like it should be a substitute for proper training and conditioning, and that is often the attitude people have when they want to put a dog on a drugs. Some think that they can give the pill and like magic, it'll help. I've even heard of people giving the drug to puppies because they're "too hyper". It just concerns me that drugs were brought up here as a solution, even adding a second dog, but nothing about training.

Perhaps this dog does need it. But there's not enough information to tell whether this is mild separation anxiety, or whether the dog is trying to go through a window, or is having mental breakdowns. Hopefully the OP will come back and go into further detail about the types of behaviors his dog is exhibiting, and what techniques he/she has tried.
 

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My shepherd mix had anxiety issues with another dog present, she was anxious when I left. I had to fix her issues and a dog would not fix it. As she got older, she is use to other dogs so when my male was getting older, I did introduce another dog to maintain her comfort level. However, it was not a fix. When I would leave the site of my dog at home or in public places she would have anxiety attack and scream. So, I would say to see if it is you leaving in a public place. If yes, I am not sure another dog will fix.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
What sort of behaviors is he exhibiting when you leave? What training methods or routines have you tried implementing to help reduce his anxiety? Did the behaviorist have any training recommendations?

Using medication is a pretty serious decision...It's best to avoid anti-anxiety meds except in extreme cases where training just isn't going anywhere because the dog's anxiety is so severe it's impossible to counter condition, or the dog is going to cause harm to itself. A lot of times, separation anxiety can be addressed through training and conditioning. There are also a handful of other supplements you can give to help that aren't as risky as an anti-anxiety medication...Melatonin can sometimes help. There's also Rescue Remedy or a DAP collar or diffuser.

As far as a second dog goes... I generally recommend that people have their current dogs fairly well trained, socialized and settled in, and to work on fixing any current behavior problems they have before adding a second dog. I know your idea is probably that getting your current dog a companion so he's never totally alone might help his separation anxiety. But I wouldn't count on it. For many dogs, having a canine companion is not the same as having their human companion around. They will still be anxious when you leave without training.

It's also very possible that adding a second dog now will result in you having TWO dogs with separation anxiety. If you keep them loose and your current dog is destructive or vocal, the second dog may join in on those behavior. It could just be double trouble.

Take a look through this sticky: http://www.dogforum.com/training-behavior-stickies/separation-anxiety-29576/

There's a handful of links there to articles and videos on separation anxiety, along with tips and methods for reducing it.
Before I leave in the morning, I essentially dedicate almost two hours with him. Thirty minutes of walking when he first wakes up, eat, walk some more, play and cuddle time. When I leave, he paces around the house and barks. His toys and chew treats are untouched and there are scratch marks on the baby gate. Luckily, he pees in the pad. I tried to crate him, but it made his anxiety worse so I've dedicated the living room to him. The goal was to keep him away from the door. There's also a DAP diffuser near his bed, but I don't see any improvement. It's been 3 months already.

When I'm home, he's okay but doesn't really follow me around. I can take a shower and change in peace. I've left him with a sitter and he does just fine, as long as there is a warm body. We're still working on his sit-stay, but he's getting better. I'm trying to also desensitize him, leaving briefly, putting my bag on and not leaving but there's no change so far.

His trainer suggested that I leave him to sleep in another room, but all he does is claw and whine at the door and I'm the one losing sleep. Maybe I'm just a pushover. At least he's sleeping in his own bed. He was previously sleeping in my bed when he was sick. Another thing she suggested was feeding him once a day .... Something about how they sometimes eat once in the wild. He is a poodle, not a wolf so that was a suggestion I couldn't follow through with.
 

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Before I leave in the morning, I essentially dedicate almost two hours with him. Thirty minutes of walking when he first wakes up, eat, walk some more, play and cuddle time. When I leave, he paces around the house and barks. His toys and chew treats are untouched and there are scratch marks on the baby gate. Luckily, he pees in the pad. I tried to crate him, but it made his anxiety worse so I've dedicated the living room to him. The goal was to keep him away from the door. There's also a DAP diffuser near his bed, but I don't see any improvement. It's been 3 months already.

When I'm home, he's okay but doesn't really follow me around. I can take a shower and change in peace. I've left him with a sitter and he does just fine, as long as there is a warm body. We're still working on his sit-stay, but he's getting better. I'm trying to also desensitize him, leaving briefly, putting my bag on and not leaving but there's no change so far.

His trainer suggested that I leave him to sleep in another room, but all he does is claw and whine at the door and I'm the one losing sleep. Maybe I'm just a pushover. At least he's sleeping in his own bed. He was previously sleeping in my bed when he was sick. Another thing she suggested was feeding him once a day .... Something about how they sometimes eat once in the wild. He is a poodle, not a wolf so that was a suggestion I couldn't follow through with.
I think what might help is taking some steps to train an alternative behavior. The idea is to show him that barking and pacing doesn't make you come back....But an alternative behavior does. Like calmly laying down. It could take some time, but it will eventually become habit, and he'll be able to spend most of the day just being calm until you return. You just have to work gradually towards that goal.

This is a good article that breaks down the steps: Separation Anxiety Solution: Training Fido That Calm Behavior Makes You Return | Animal Behavior and Medicine Blog | Dr. Sophia Yin, DVM, MS
 

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There are two types of separation anxiety; separation anxiety and isolation distress. Separation anxiety is the inability to be apart from from key persons while isolation distress is fear of being isolated. Nicole Wilde has a chapter on how to test this in her book which is in the sticky, just that chapter is worth the price of the book. It does sound your dog suffers from isolation distress (which is great since it's easier to both treat and manage than sepanx from a specific keyperson) since he is ok with a sitter, doesn't follow you around etc. Does he have a dog friend that he is good with that he can be left unsupervised with for a short time to see how he reacts (record it on video or setup a webcam to watch him in realtime)?
 

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@TiggerBounce, I think your posts are spot on!
@hvik...I had no idea there were two types of separation anxiety! But yep, I have dog "sat" dogs who have the isolation distress and others who have separation anxiety...that's SO interesting to know. Thanks for this info.
This may sound "odd", but I have a couple of dog owners who I think have caused the separation anxiety in their dogs by NEVER leaving them alone and never socializing them in the outside world...they are for the most part cooped up in their owner's homes. Had another lady (who I think had a eating disorder herself) create the same disorder in her two dogs. The "rituals" I had to use to get the dogs to eat were just bizarre to say the least. I am not saying all owners create this situation if their dogs display separation stress...but it's something to be mindful of.
 

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@pkelley: Most trainers and even worse, behaviourists doesn't know this. Which is pretty bad since treatment and management is different for the two different types.
 

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@hvik
I totally agree with you, management and training is SO different for the two....I can't thank you enough for posting that information. It's the reason the foxhound I dog sit has major problems when alone...she was a #$%^ experimental dog at a major pharmaceutical company...omg...it all makes sense now....and why she will destroy a Kong kennel in two seconds flat...
 

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A second dog helped tremendously for us. Totally different personality and a few years older. This is not the norm from what I hear.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
There are two types of separation anxiety; separation anxiety and isolation distress. Separation anxiety is the inability to be apart from from key persons while isolation distress is fear of being isolated. Nicole Wilde has a chapter on how to test this in her book which is in the sticky, just that chapter is worth the price of the book. It does sound your dog suffers from isolation distress (which is great since it's easier to both treat and manage than sepanx from a specific keyperson) since he is ok with a sitter, doesn't follow you around etc. Does he have a dog friend that he is good with that he can be left unsupervised with for a short time to see how he reacts (record it on video or setup a webcam to watch him in realtime)?
I have yet to experiment leaving him with another dog. He's really good and happy to be around other dogs. Like I said in my initial post, he had his brother with him for 5 years. They were born together, raised together and now adopted separately. It's the first time he's been alone his entire life.

I'm hoping to get through this soon since day care is not in the budget right now and finding an affordable and reliable sitter is difficult to find. He actually just left to go in the bedroom (I'm in the living room) to go to sleep. He's on a schedule to he is very tired at this point.
 
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