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Discussion Starter #1
I was extremely happy to adopt our Labradoodle but it has become a bit of a nightmare. He suffers from severe separation anxiety and every time we leave the house he hurts himself and/or tears up the house. We are working with the Vet and doing all the behavior modification training work, but we are not seeing any progress.

I walk him for three miles each morning before I leave for work and for about 2 miles in the evening when I get home from work. For those familiar with Cesar's terminlogy, he is "calm submissive" on his walks. He rarely pulls on the leash at all... usually stays by my right leg and slightly behind me. In the house, he is very clingy. In fact, he is always underfoot and even tripped me today.

The Vet recommended that we kennel him when we leave. The dog chews on the kennel bars and actually chipped a tooth in the process. We also found that he is wearing the enamel off his teeth from chewing on the bars.

The Vet had us leave him out of the kennel one day to see what would happen. He scratched up the doors, chewed the doorknobs, tore down and chewed several window blinds, chewed up the patio door blind, urinated, defecated, broke into a closet and tore up everything in it. He cut his mouth in the process and there was blood everywhere. (The Vet has checked and it was a relatively small cut that healed itself)

The Vet decided that he needed to be medicated for the behavioral training to be effective, so he has been on both Prozac and Valium. The Valium made him hyper instead of calm, so she just changed that to Zanex (sp?) He does not seem any more calm and now seems to ignore direction that he normally follows.

Last week, he broke the bottom out of his kennel and pulled a rug from underneath into it and chewed it to shreds. I replaced the tray with a horse stall pad (about 3/4 inch rubber) cut to fit.

This week, he broke out of his kennel (He's like Houdini) and destroyed three more window blinds, opened the freezer and spread the food all over the floor, chewed up my daughter's boots, chewed part of the lid off of his food container (but didn't eat any food), and trashed our bedroom.

This behavior only happens when we leave the house. We have set up video cameras and have film of much of the behavior. The Vet gave us a referral to a behaviorist that is about 3 hours away who charges $480 per visit. We don't have the money right now, but we plan to make the trip as soon as possible.

This is so unbelievably frustrating! I have to admit that I am regretting the decision to get a dog. My wife and daughter call me crying a couple times a week because they come home to find things destroyed. I am still committed to working through this, but if I am honest with myself, my commitment is waning.

I would welcome any inspiration you may be able to provide. Has anyone ever overcome a problem this severe?

Thanks!
-Mike-
 

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I walk him for three miles each morning before I leave for work and for about 2 miles in the evening when I get home from work.
How old is he? Has this been the routine since you brought him home or was someone home with him more at first? If you didn't gradually introduce him to being left home alone for short periods of time at first, then increasing the time, that could be the cause of his severe separation anxiety.

In the house, he is very clingy. In fact, he is always underfoot and even tripped me today.
Teach him to give you your space.

I am still committed to working through this, but if I am honest with myself, my commitment is waning.
My suggestion would be to start from scratch. Give him one of those toys that slowly dispenses kibble just before you leave. Don't leave unless he is completely occupied by the toy. Wait five minutes and enter the house. Hopefully he's still focused on the toy. Enter calmly and if he runs to you overly excited and jumping around wait until he's calm before giving him attention. Continue doing this gradually increasing the time you're away, but the key is to only leave when he is calm and relaxed and to only give him attention upon your return when he is calm and relaxed.

I'm by no means a professional dog trainer, but any pro will tell you not to expect a change overnight. Overcoming this could take weeks or even months.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
How old is he? Has this been the routine since you brought him home or was someone home with him more at first? If you didn't gradually introduce him to being left home alone for short periods of time at first, then increasing the time, that could be the cause of his severe separation anxiety.
Thank you for the response!! I really appreciate it. He is 20 months old and weighs 60 pounds. We have been walking him twice a day since we got him about a month ago. The only change is that my daughter was walking him mid-morning when she got home from work and classes. I wanted to burn off more of his energy before we left, so I started walking him at 5:00 AM instead. His first week here, the kids were on vacation from college, so they were around. We all come and go throughout the day. Normally he is not alone for more than an hour and a half before someone is home, but a few days he was alone for 4 hours before someone returned.

Teach him to give you your space.
How do I do that? I have not seen that one in any of the training manuals. He will follow us as we walk around the house, get in front and then turn sideways and stop. We have tried to just keep walking so that he does not think he can "herd" us around this way, but it just about always makes us stumble.

My suggestion would be to start from scratch. Give him one of those toys that slowly dispenses kibble just before you leave. Don't leave unless he is completely occupied by the toy. Wait five minutes and enter the house. Hopefully he's still focused on the toy. Enter calmly and if he runs to you overly excited and jumping around wait until he's calm before giving him attention. Continue doing this gradually increasing the time you're away, but the key is to only leave when he is calm and relaxed and to only give him attention upon your return when he is calm and relaxed.

I'm by no means a professional dog trainer, but any pro will tell you not to expect a change overnight. Overcoming this could take weeks or even months.
We have tried the Kong stuffed with food. As soon as we touch the doorknob, he forgets everything else and fixates on our departure. We have been doing the process of conditioning him by jingling the keys and sitting down, putting on our coats and sitting down, opening the door and closing it then sitting down, etc. I figure that it will take hundreds or thousands of repetitions before this is really effective, it's just that, in the mean time, he is going to hurt himself and the house.

Thanks again for the response!! I will keep working on your suggestions!
-Mike-
 

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Wrong Crate!!!!!

IF YOU HAVE THE WIRE FENCE STYLE CRATE FOR THIS OBSESSIVE GUY GET RID OF IT!!!!!

Seriously. Go get a huge Kennel Cab for him. Something of solid construction with a wire mesh gate. It is more Den-like and will offer him his own safe feeling space.

The Cage your using now is a far cry from a den. It offers no feeling of safety as it is wide open and visible to the world. For a safe den felling he will need a Kennel Cab of solid construction. This will keep him safe, prevent him from biting on the bars from frustration and anxiety. Then you can drop those pills in the trash.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Wrong Crate!!!!!

IF YOU HAVE THE WIRE FENCE STYLE CRATE FOR THIS OBSESSIVE GUY GET RID OF IT!!!!!

Seriously. Go get a huge Kennel Cab for him. Something of solid construction with a wire mesh gate. It is more Den-like and will offer him his own safe feeling space.

The Cage your using now is a far cry from a den. It offers no feeling of safety as it is wide open and visible to the world. For a safe den felling he will need a Kennel Cab of solid construction. This will keep him safe, prevent him from biting on the bars from frustration and anxiety. Then you can drop those pills in the trash.
That was the kind I first used. He destroyed it the first day. I'll see if I can find a stronger, solid one.

Thanks!
-Mike-
 

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This may sound hard to do right about now, but what about a pal?
It’s hard for a pup to understand you have to go out to work or what ever you do during your day.
I always tell Poutine I am going to make money for more bones... Now he seems to understand, maybe because I have to put on a uniform to work with.

At first he wanted to tear my uniform apart, then he took revenge on my work shoes.. About a month ago, we started to talk to him about his “girlfriend” while looking for a new dog to be his mate.

He did not seem to get it much, but he did seem to get exited a bit near the end… Now he has “Alou” Alouette.

Alou is about ½ his size, but completely dominates him. He will come to tease her, but when she wants quiet time, she lets him know. To separate them, is to go through a few hours of yelping and barking.. but as soon as they are together, its play time and a very loving relationship has formed.

Used to be I had to crate Poutine before getting dressed to leave, now he just goes off to play and knows crate time is coming when I leave, he gets his toys together and brings them to the crate or as I call it now his “Crib”

I use a wire crate, but I like the idea of the closed in den feel a dog might need. I am presently planning on making a coffee table with the space under to be used as the new “Crib” sort of an in house dog house for them. We will see how this works out for them.

We had planned on having a couple of dogs as mates, maybe this is not part of your plans, if not, you might consider adopting a spayed pet from a shelter.



Time to go rest now... Yeah they love being together.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
The vet said that another dog would probably not help, but I have a couple friends who have offered to loan me their dogs to see if it helps. I'll have to find a way to set up a web-cam so I can watch what's happening in the house from a laptop in the driveway so I can intervene if things get out of control.

Should be an interesting experiment.
-Mike-
 

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We have been doing the process of conditioning him by jingling the keys and sitting down, putting on our coats and sitting down, opening the door and closing it then sitting down, etc. I figure that it will take hundreds or thousands of repetitions before this is really effective...
Yes! I think you've got a good grasp on what you need to do. I just saw an episode of It's Me or the Dog (I also like Cesar Millan) where a couple was having a sep. anx. problem with their dog and the thing that triggered her behavior was when they put on their coats. So Victoria had them go to the door, put on their coats, then immediately take them off and go sit on the couch. They repeated this several times until the dog didn't react. Then they would step out the door with coats on and literally step right back in. Again, they did it over and over...

...but I have a couple friends who have offered to loan me their dogs to see if it helps. I'll have to find a way to set up a web-cam so I can watch what's happening in the house from a laptop in the driveway so I can intervene if things get out of control.
Another excellent strategy! There are alarms that you can put on or near an object that you suspect he would get into which will emit a sharp noise and make him think twice about touching it and by viewing him from the laptop you'll be able to tell immediately if it works.

I'm very impressed with the lengths you are taking in solving these issues. Not many people would do the same before throwing in the towel. Please keep us updated on his progress!
 

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Thanks everyone!
I appreciate the encouragement! I bought one of the plastic travel crates today and made some reinforcing bars so it has six locking points instead of just the two on the latch. I think this will keep him from breaking out.

We had some good progress today. Normally when we leave, he panics and is kind of hysterical the entire time we are gone. Today, when I checked the video camera, he was hysterical for only three minutes after I left and then laid down and was quiet. After a while he started barking, but did not stand up. He just barked while he was laying down. It wasn't constant either. After about 20 minutes he got up and tried to break out, but then laid down again. In total, in the hour and a half I was gone, he only was trying to break out for 5 minutes. Most of the time, he just laid quietly, and the remainder, he barked but didn't even stand up.

That was with the old kennel (while I was out buying the new one). I put him in the new one this afternoon while I was home and he complained at first, but quickly settled down and laid down in it. I left for a while and my daughter was home. She said that he barked and whined a lot while I was gone.

It will be interesting to see what he does tomorrow when I use the new kennel. I'll let you all know!

-Mike-
 

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I commend you on your commitment and hard work. He is a lucky dog - I hope he gets to stay long enough to figure that out :). How did it go today?

It sounds like you are making progress. Don't let him out of his crate as soon as you get home. Ignore him until he is calm, then quietly open his door but tell him to wait. Perhaps you saw Cesar do it on the episode with the dog with separation anxiety. Calmly - shhhush (or whatever your sound is) and block him with your hand if he tries to run out excitedly, then invite him out when he is calm and go on about your business if he gets excited once out. Only reward a calm state. Once you get any of that you can start to put it on cue. I know Cesar says he is not a dog trainer, but there is no reason you can't be both. When your dog looks at you calmly and in a good state of mind, attach at word to it, repeat it quietly as you reward him with treats and/or pets and that word will come to mean go into that state just like he learns "down" means put your body on the floor. Teach the word by association throughout the day - not just in regard to the crate - and he will learn it faster.

If you need to use the metal crate you can make it more den-like by putting a sheet over the top, sides and back. But if the new crate works it is probably safer, so stick with that.

You do need to address him getting underfoot. Do it as a training lesson. Personally I am a clicker trainer, but there are many ways to teach anything. Using your calm, assertive energy walk toward him - into him if necessary - and tell him "move" (or whatever cue you want to use). As he moves praise and reward him with a treat. Repeat many times. Soon he will understand what "move" means and give you your space. You can teach him "get back" = back up, "away" = move away from the area, or whatever else you think of that might be handy. The more you words you teach him the better it will be for all of you.

It is the Labrador in him that is showing with his clingy, underfoot behavior. It is typical for them. Wanting to be with me where ever I am is one of the things I find endearing about them, but I do not want them to trip me or inhibit my movement. I teach mine to stay "out of my zone" at the stove when I am cooking - they line up along the opposite side and that's fine - it's like an invisible line. If someone drops a glass and they run in thinking to lick whatever spilled I stop them from getting near broken glass (or whatever) with my "away" cue. And they all learn "move" so I don't stumble over them. They also know to lie out of the way when I carry in groceries -- everyone gets a piece of carrot once I am finished. They are always with me, lie on my feet or on my lap and follow me everywhere (including to the bathroom), but they are not allowed to be dangerously underfoot.

Keep up the good work and let us know how it is going.

Amy
 

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Thanks for the suggestions. I will try them! Today he did well in his crate in the morning. I video taped it and he barked hysterically when I left at 7:45, but three minutes later he was laying down relaxed. My daughter came home at about 11:00, left him in for a while and then let him out. (We always leave put him in for 20 minutes or so before we leave and for about 20 minutes when we return. We try to ignore him during these periods) She took him out to go to the potty and then let him loose in the house.

I came home at noon and he was in a pretty mellow mood. I left a little before noon and my daughter put him back in the crate around 1:00 before she left. Turns out that somewhere between when I left and when she put him in the crate, he went downstairs and urinated and defecated on the carpet. He is well potty trained and had just been outside to go potty, so I don't know why he did this. He did the same thing yesterday.

My son got home at 3:30 and discovered that the dog actually managed to scoot his crate across the floor until it bumped against a recliner. He pulled the armrest cover into the crate through the vent holes in the side and tore it up. Then he managed to chew a hole in the armrest of the recliner through the vent holes. Fabric, padding and foam rubber are all chewed out in a big hole. :(

My wife is crying again and we had a family meeting to reassess our commitment to making this work. Wife voted to get rid of him. Son, daughter and I all felt that we wanted to keep working with him so my wife agreed to try to stick it out a while longer.

So... that's where it stands today. Every day is an adventure.
-Mike-
 

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I'm sorry you are having to deal with this.

I have an almost 8 year old lab who is still in her airline crate when we aren't home because her separation anxiety is so bad. We tried to keep her out of the crate for a while but she dug up the carpet, dug into the drywall, tore the couches, etc. She was pretty much destructo dog when home alone.

Here are some of the things that worked best for me when I was training her to stay in the crate:
1. Find your dogs favorite treat and only give it to her when she goes in the crate - it was a slice of white bread for my girl. =)
2. Put a sheet over the crate so they can't see out of the sides or back. The only opening was through the front which makes the crate more den like.
3. Start the training on a weekend... start by putting her in for an hour and come home and let her out. Leave again a little later and stay out longer. Since your dog is new to the home, it hasn't learned that you are coming home yet.

Hopefully this will help!
 

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Sounds to me like your dog needs a job! Ever tried Obedience classes? This is a must for a dog like yours. (And every other dog out there!) :)

Find a good obedience class to go to. There will be distractions and such which will be good for your dog. Your entire family should go to the classes and take turns training the dog.

Give your dog play time. Teach him to fetch etc.

I wouldn't cover his crate with any type of cloth as he will pull it in and chew it. I would build a wood top to go over the crate that will cover the vents on both sides. Also it would probably be a good idea to crate him in the kitchen or mud room or some other room of the house where he cant get to anything to chew through the crate.

You may want to try agility too. It's fun for the dogs and will help him out with objects and make him plenty tired for a good nights sleep! :)

If he gets along well with other dogs, see if the training place has a play class. Or even see if you can find a Kennel nearby that you can take him for day care. Those places have nice big play areas for the dogs and again, if he gets along with other dogs, he will be able to go out and play with them all day. This gives him a doggy pack that is very useful in his mental and physical development and well being.

Is he neutered? At his age remember that he is in his terrible 2's! He needs direction and training. Your doing a good start and people here gave great advice.

Keep up the good work! Once he is trained he will turn into a good dog. But it takes a lot of work and dedication from everyone in the household.
Give him time. The mixture of breeds that he is, they take to training, but do suffer high anxiety. I agree, throw the pills away!
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Thanks for the ideas! We did try beach towels over the crate and he did pull them in and dhew them up. The new enclosed kennel seems to be helping. We have him spend some time in it when we are home so that he does not only associate it with us being gone.

While my wife and I were at work yesterday, the kids (they're in college) kenneled him and left for a while when they left. Not a peep out of him with they left! Nothing even close to that has ever happened. I kenneled him today and he whimpered every so slightly then laid down and relaxed.

The big test will be tonight. My wife and I are going out to dinner and will kennel him when we leave. We have never been able to do that without him freaking out. I have a play-date with another dog this afternoon in a fenced yard, so running through the snow and playing with the other dog should tire him out well before we kennel him.

There are no dog obedience classes anywhere in the area. I have asked around and talked to the vet and there is nothing available unless I go about an hour and a half. That would be possible if they had the classes on the weekends, though.

The good news is that we've had a couple good days. the weather is great here today (40 degrees F after weeks of below zero and single digits) so we've had some really good time outside. We'll see how tonight goes!

Thanks again!
-Mike-
 

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Oh, I was so bummed when I read the post at the top of this page! But it sounds like things are picking up again! The weather this time of year does make it challenging to get them exercised enough. Just be consistent. When you find something that is giving you progress, stick to it instead of constantly trying to find new methods as that will just confuse him and cause more anxiety. Keep up the good work, we're all here for you! :D
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Thanks for asking!
Things have been better. He has not destroyed anything in over a week. I kennel him when everyone is going to be gone and lately he does not bark immediately when we kennel him or when we leave. Watching the video tapes, he usually barks every 30 minutes or so, but doesn't get too wound up. He still tries to break out every time, but those periods are not very long lately. I think he is getting a little more secure. :) We're not out of the woods yet, but I am very grateful to be seeing some progress.

Thanks again!
-Mike-
 

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Thats great to hear Mike! Im glad your sticking with him. I bet your gonn have one terrific dog when he's done being a puppy!
 
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