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Puppy Blues & Separation Anxiety? Please Help :(

1515 Views 5 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  sorsha
Hello, I'm new to the forum and desperate for some guidance.

My old dog had to be put down after battling dementia for years- her quality of life just wasn't there anymore. She was a border collie mix- very smart, very high energy. We overcame many issues together, including her storm phobia, mild separation anxiety, pulling, fear of men, etc.

I thought because I had some decent dog experience, I'd be completely fine getting another dog. After some time to think, and the encouragement of my family, I decided we'd get one. I found a sweet young mixed breed (they said golden x labrador, I think golden x newfie) up for adoption. I prepared for weeks for her to come, getting everything we needed. We went and saw her, and everyone in my family agreed on her.

Well, the day after we got her I suddenly felt so anxious and depressed. Like "what have I done? Why did we do this? Can I bring her back? Is she going to be okay?" etc. I looked it up and saw this is common and referred to as "puppy blues".

After talking it out and really thinking about it, I relaxed and all yesterday I was fine, up until I discovered she might have bad separation anxiety...

Some background on her- she was surrendered by her owner because he was taken away for months at a time. After that she went to a foster home with another dog. The other dog was dominant over my dog. They rarely ever left the dogs alone because they felt they weren't getting along well together. So, her foster dad worked from home and said she had been left alone maybe 1-2 hours, which I assume was probably only once. She lived there for about a month.

I've noticed she likes to follow you around the house. Sometimes if she's eating she will stop if you leave the kitchen. At first she got upset when individual people left, but is now okay with it if someone else is still there. However, we haven't had to leave her alone yet. Last night, we tried to leave for 5 minutes to see what would happen. She jumped against the door after we left, cried and barked. Then she went into the kitchen and jumped against the window, staring at us. When we came in she greeted us very enthusiastically, which we brushed off because we act like coming and going are no big deal (no hellos or goodbyes).

Well, obviously this discovery has really ramped up my anxiety because I'm worried about what to do. You read about separation anxiety in dogs and it can be really bad. She is much like the "velcro dogs" people speak of. She will get upset if you lock her in a room or lock her out of a room you are in as well.

My previous dog did have some anxiety, but if you tired her out and left the radio on she was usually fine. With this dog, her energy is totally different. I do make sure she is physically and mentally tired (i.e. you throw a treat on the ground and she's too tired to get it). However, there's like a secondary excitable energy that never goes away. If she gets excited by any stimuli, she's up again. I'm trying to teach her some patience and impulse control, but I'm worried. There is one day next week where she will have to be alone for an hour. What do I do...

I feel so overwhelmed, stressed and the need to escape. Then I feel guilty for feeling that way. It's an awful cycle. Please, help me :/

Some other info that might help.

She is 1 year old, spayed. I think she is a golden x newfie. I'd say she has a more medium-high energy, but she is very excitable no matter what.
We keep coming and going low-key.
We have been trying not to fuss over her much, as people say that can cause it.
She has chew toys, and she has to work for her food (stuffed kongs, mind games, etc).
She consistently gets a big walk incorporating fetch or "find it" in the morning. Usually, aside from the excitement, this keeps her pretty tired all day but we still take her for a midday and evening walk.
She has more anxiety about me leaving than other people. If my brother leaves, she relaxes quickly but apparently she made a fuss when he was here and I went to work.
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First, I am sorry for your loss. It's so hard to lose a dog, and I know when I got my current dog, I was also unprepared for how hard it was to adjust to a new (not very similar!) furry presence in the house. It's normal for things to be rough for awhile.

So normal that one of the foremost scientists & authors in the field of dog behavior has written some great blog posts about struggling to adapt to a new dog. I highly recommend reading this one: Three Ways to Confuse a New Dog

The piece of advice from that blog post that I would stress to you is this: try not to over-react to possible behavior problems. Yes, separation anxiety can be a big hassle, but it's also totally normal for a new dog, in a new home, to show signs of anxiety, be clingy, and have melt-downs when left alone for the first few times. You're doing a lot of good things, especially by keeping things low key and letting her settle in, and there's a good chance that you'll look around in 3-4 months and realize that some time, consistency, patience, and faith helped resolve many of the things you're worrying about now.

I live with a "velcro dog." By which I mean, if I am at home, she is usually either physically touching me or lying mere inches away. If I close the door when I'm in the bathroom, I only have to wait an instant before I hear a heavy sigh and the sound of a furry body settling down to wait for me on the other side of the door (even if other people are also home, sigh). And yet, she has learned to sleep in a different room from us, to be calm when I leave the house, to relax in a crate (at home or in the car), to endure occasional separation from me, and increasingly, to be a confident and independent dog. Some of those things came surprisingly easily to her, some required me to do a little extra work, like making sure she has a stuffed Kong or other treat to help her feel good when I leave...but none of it has been as awful as I worried it would be during the first few months, when I was feeling suffocated by my smothering, clingy new dog!

I don't think you need to continually exhaust your dog. In fact, I would not. Some exercise, sure, and some mental stimulation to keep her content and help her learn the new rules, but most of her energy can be spent on settling into this new place she finds herself. Being too tired can actually stress a dog out, especially when there are so many other things to adapt to. But I'm sure you'll find a good balance as you all learn to live together. And congratulations on the new addition, however much of a headache she's giving you for the moment!!
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Hello and thank you for your reply and condolences.

I guess it's mostly since I know about her background-how she had company 24/7 for at least a month straight. So when she acts anxious about our singular departures, I then worry about what will happen if we actually do all leave for a period of time. Then I feel guilty and feel like she'd be happier in another situation, maybe with another dog. A lot of this is obviously perpetuated by the anxiety that I feel.

As for the crate training, would you recommend it? As far as I know, she has never been crate trained. We tried to crate train our previous dog but the confinement frightened her too much (especially during storms) and she'd injure herself trying to escape. We just gave up the crate and although there were some incidents, she was much better.

I find that her energy just confuses me. She will be so tired, and then suddenly "ooh, a squirrel!" or dead at your feet, but as soon as you get up her head bolts up. With my previous doggy once she was tired, she was tired- for a bit. Her head wouldn't move, she'd be fast asleep. I know she is still adjusting, and still a puppy, but yet again- the nagging worry.
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I find crate training useful, but I also try hard to make sure that my dog doesn't spend a lot of time in her crate (does that sound contradictory? Probably!). There are some good training/behavior resources up above in the "stickies" thread, including one on crate training. If you do decide to go for a crate, making sure it's a positive place (i.e. avoiding training where you're waiting the dog out while she cries) is really helpful, and I think there are some good resources there. Susan Garrett's Crate Games DVD is pretty good.

Guilt and anxiety are totally normal. Be patient with yourself as well as the dog!
Not that it will work for you necessarily but I found addressing my departure by having my dog place in a particular location ( not a crate in my situation) and giving my dog a unique command associated with my departure is where I started, building for the future as I believe one should train and communicate today for tomorrow. You currently have that luxury with your new bud as the past will mostly be just that as she acclimates to her new life. Yeah the process is rough at first but your consistency of telegraphing your departure in a structured fashion will eventually become habit for the dog. Having a dog do the separation anxiety routine when the door closes leaves the human without influence, I'd set up a routine ( non-eventful perhaps blunt ) which signifies to your dog of your departure and places the dog in some sort of obedience before the front door closes. The duration should never matter, do the same if you go out to get the mail or you are gone for hours.

And same for me, sorry you had to say goodbye to your last bud but good for you taking in a new buddy, you know what to do, so go for it.
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Thank you both for your words of encouragement.

The anxiety kind of comes and goes. Usually higher in the morning and less in the evening. It also lessens if i go out for a bit or someone is home with me- ironically I hate being alone too, which is one of the pros we discussed about getting a dog.

Really, there's nothing wrong with my dog. She has some habits I dislike (foster home only fed her people food so she begs like a psycho), but overall I'm blown away by how trainable she is. For example, we didn't do a good enough job getting her acclimated to the cats so she had started chasing them (playfully, 0 aggression). Yesterday I did 2 training sessions with her. I got her to sit and every time she noticed a cat moving about I told her "good girl" and gave her a piece of kibble. Eventually, I played with the kitties with the laser pointer and continued the training.

After the training she hasn't really been chasing them- she gets curious and goes to sniff or investigate, but doesn't charge like she had been. I have also been praising whenever the cats move and she just watches, sniffs, basically any positive reaction. This is only after 2 sessions in one day, so I'd say she's even more responsive than my previous dog who was a border collie mix o.o'

Can anybody give me advice on how to get her to stop barking when I leave her alone? I don't mean when I physically leave the house, but when I'm the only one home and i take a bath or something. She just barks and barks at the one cat. I wasn't sure if it was better to correct her, or just ignore her?

Thanks guys. I hope I adjust to it soon.
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