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Hi all,

Not sure if this is the right place to post, so please direct me elsewhere if I'm wrong, but I wanted to ask advice on separation anxiety. We have two dogs--a 10-year-old schnauzer mix and a 12-year-old dachsund mix. We recently (May) moved (our fifth apartment in the last 10 years) and it triggered separation anxiety in the schnauzer. She started howling and barking upon our leaving. We consulted a behaviorist who told us about toys to keep them busy, ignoring them upon coming home/leaving, disassociating cues (keys, shoes, etc.) and building up to longer periods of time alone. We simultaneously put our dog on Trazodone.

All seemed well until mid-July, when the Trazodone apparently stopped working and the behavior returned. We transitioned to Prozac with Xanax for panic. That seemed to do the trick until this past weekend, when the same behavior started creeping back. She has been on Prozac for more than two-and-a-half months, so it's not a question of waiting for effectiveness to kick in. The same thing that happened with the Trazodone--initial effectiveness with a lessening effect after a month or so--seems to have happened with the new combination of meds. I will double-check with my vet, but I believe we are giving max doses for both the Prozac (10 mg/day) and Xanax (.5 mg/day) for a 15-pound dog.

We are at our wit's end. We have been taking the dogs to daycare and had been tapering down on that with the hope of settling at 2x/week (we had been going full-time while we worked on training). Daycare is, of course, expensive and we have to send both dogs. We also then feel stuck at home on days and at times when the daycare isn't open. I should note that while we want our dog to improve and be able to cope when we are away, the more immediate problem is that we have neighbors who complained about the noise when we first moved in and now we're terrified of them going to the HOA board. We can't move because we bought the place, and I'm not willing to give the dog away--she's been with us her whole life and I love her so much--but this is creating serious problems. Any advice is welcome.

Thanks!
 

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Please don't be terrified of the HOA board
Yeah they have some power but there would be many warnings first
Do your neighbors work? Does the dog make noise all day?
 

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The two dogs are Muffin and Trixie. Muffin has the problem. They are home alone all day while my husband and I are at work. Most of our neighbors also work so it's not a problem (at least during the week) but we have an elderly upstairs neighbor who is always home. She's the one who complained.

We tried leaving them home multiple days this week and Muffin had only one good day. The other days we have come home to recordings of more than 20 minutes (over a 6-to-8-hour period) of her whining, barking and howling. And that's what the recorder picks up.

We have now spent thousands of dollars on vets, a behavioral trainer, and doggy daycare, and we feel we are still at square one. My husband has really lost his patience and I believe he would give Muffin up. I am not willing to do so.

We were thinking of buying a Nest so we can watch them and talk to them throughout the day. We can also try yet another medication (so far we've tried Trazodone, followed by Prozac plus Xanax) but I worry she cannot be cured.

Again, any suggestions or ideas appreciated. Thank you!
 

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The two dogs are Muffin and Trixie. Muffin has the problem. They are home alone all day while my husband and I are at work. Most of our neighbors also work so it's not a problem (at least during the week) but we have an elderly upstairs neighbor who is always home. She's the one who complained.

We tried leaving them home multiple days this week and Muffin had only one good day. The other days we have come home to recordings of more than 20 minutes (over a 6-to-8-hour period) of her whining, barking and howling. And that's what the recorder picks up.

We have now spent thousands of dollars on vets, a behavioral trainer, and doggy daycare, and we feel we are still at square one. My husband has really lost his patience and I believe he would give Muffin up. I am not willing to do so.

We were thinking of buying a Nest so we can watch them and talk to them throughout the day. We can also try yet another medication (so far we've tried Trazodone, followed by Prozac plus Xanax) but I worry she cannot be cured.

Again, any suggestions or ideas appreciated. Thank you!
I think those are all good ideas. I would definitely exhaust the medication route before doing anything. I would also try to do as much doggy daycare as you can afford, I know it is pricey. My thought is that if you give the upstairs neighbor who is home some breaks from the noise even a day or two a week while you are figuring things out, he or she will be less likely to escalate the matter.

This never happened in previous apartments but it is happening in this one? I wonder why.

I"m so sorry this is still going on, I hope you get some answers soon
 

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My minpin has only been with me for 9 days, but he still reacts to sounds in and around the condo complex. It's very quiet in the condo complex itself, so he hears everything. Thankfully he doesn't bark, just the occasional whine and low growl. For the first few days, I made it a point to walk Monty through every level of the condo complex and let him sniff every door. Had him all around the outside of the condo too, just let him explore.

Considering it's only happening since this last move for you, I have to wonder if it's something in the complex itself? Some kind of noise that people can't hear. Something as simple as an ultrasonic mouse repeller will drive some dogs nuts.

Have you ever let the schnauzer explore the apartment complex?
 

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How often and how long do you walk them for? What do you leave them with to do when you are gone? The reason she is getting used to the drugs is because high anxiety dogs just like high anxiety humans can easily build up tolerances to psychiatric medications. It usually takes a combination of things to work out anxiety. Medication in some cases is needed, but most often lots of exercise is needed, especially right before you leave, and it is highly recommended to leave some type of mental stimulation toys for your dog's to play with. What I used to do with my dog when he was getting used to me working every day, was I'd start with an hour walk before I left, then I would give him two types of toys, one that would start him playing right away such as a puzzle toy with smelly treats that he had to find and he'd start playing with that before I left and not even notice when I left. Then when he was done with that toy he had the ability to move to the other one which could be a Kong with frozen peanutbutter or something he would be particularly obsessive about chewing until he could calm down completely and just eventually fall asleep.
 

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(I'm quoting the relevant paragraphs here to see

Hi all,
Not sure if this is the right place to post, so please direct me elsewhere if I'm wrong, but I wanted to ask advice on separation anxiety. We have two dogs--a 10-year-old schnauzer mix and a 12-year-old dachsund mix. We recently (May) moved (our fifth apartment in the last 10 years) and it triggered separation anxiety in the schnauzer. She started howling and barking upon our leaving. We consulted a behaviorist who told us about toys to keep them busy, ignoring them upon coming home/leaving, disassociating cues (keys, shoes, etc.) and building up to longer periods of time alone. We simultaneously put our dog on Trazodone.

All seemed well until mid-July, when the Trazodone apparently stopped working and the behavior returned. We transitioned to Prozac with Xanax for panic. That seemed to do the trick until this past weekend, when the same behavior started creeping back. She has been on Prozac for more than two-and-a-half months, so it's not a question of waiting for effectiveness to kick in. The same thing that happened with the Trazodone--initial effectiveness with a lessening effect after a month or so--seems to have happened with the new combination of meds. I will double-check with my vet, but I believe we are giving max doses for both the Prozac (10 mg/day) and Xanax (.5 mg/day) for a 15-pound dog.
Thanks!
The two dogs are Muffin and Trixie. Muffin has the problem. They are home alone all day while my husband and I are at work. Most of our neighbors also work so it's not a problem (at least during the week) but we have an elderly upstairs neighbor who is always home. She's the one who complained.

We tried leaving them home multiple days this week and Muffin had only one good day. The other days we have come home to recordings of more than 20 minutes (over a 6-to-8-hour period) of her whining, barking and howling. And that's what the recorder picks up.

We have now spent thousands of dollars on vets, a behavioral trainer, and doggy daycare, and we feel we are still at square one. My husband has really lost his patience and I believe he would give Muffin up. I am not willing to do so.
So- the dog with the issue is the schnauzer, Muffin, who will howl and bark when you leave. This issue started in May when you moved into a new house- did she show this behavior before, ever? What has been the change in the dog's routine besides moving into a new house? Is there something that were doing before that they're not able to do now?

She has been medicated several times with different medications, which will work briefly and then stop working quickly afterwards. You're gone for 6 to 8 hours a day- you said you recorded her once, and she barked for 20 minutes? In 20 minute increments, or that was just the longest she barked at once, or she just barked for 20min and then quieted down the rest of the time?

First: on the issue with the neighbor. Is she at all understanding or pleasant? Have you communicated the situation to her- that you're trying very hard to change the behavior and resolve the situation. Do you think she might respond to something like a baked good and a card thanking her for her patience on the issue? Anything nice that you can do to try and show you understand its frustrating to have a barking dog below her.

Second: on the issue with the dog. I'm not convinced this is actually separation anxiety. Separation anxiety really means a dog is convinced it is going to die if its owners are gone- they will hurt themselves trying to get to their owners. It is a problem behavior and one that sounds really hard to live with, but I don't know that it's separation anxiety, specifically. You said you'd recorded her before. Does this dog scratch at doors to try to get out? Does she sit right in front of the door the whole time? What is she doing most of the time? When you're home, does she need you to be in her line of sight all the time? Can she be shut in one part of the house and you in the other without freaking out? I'm curious- do you feel bad about leaving her? Guilty? Anxious about it yourself?

What is her general routine? How much exercise does she get now vs before you moved? Does she seem happy when you're home, or is she always anxious?

It sounds like maybe medication is not going to be able to play as much of a role in the easing of this behavior as you would like. It does sound like perhaps her body is very quickly building a tolerance to the meds.
 

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I agree that it doesn't sound like separation anxiety, but something @jagger said reminded me of the issue my parents have with their pug, Molly. Anytime she heard a noise in the condos around us, she would bark for a good 10-15 minutes, even after the noise stopped. It took a long time to find a solution, but we've figured out that keeping a television on and having it on a channel where there is lots of relaxed conversation (usually a talk show or the jewelry selling channel) will keep her satisfied and usually quell her barking as long as it isn't too close (aka with the t.v on she will still bark at someone knocking on the door, but not at cars driving by or our neighbors opening their door). I'm assuming that it was just too quiet for her when we weren't home, or maybe she thinks the people in the t.v can hear the outside noises too, so there's no need to alert them to it, but either way it worked for us.

Also on the subject of your neighbor, I second the idea of sending a card or small token of appreciation for their patience, I know if I was elderly and lived alone it would make me feel a lot better to know that my neighbors are nice. I have also been the neighbor that complained before, and while I never would have gone to the apartment management, it was really nice when they apologized and gave me a sweet Easter card. (My neighbors sister was in town and her two dogs barked all day long, I was working nights at the time so it took about 4 days of no sleep before I complained). Because of that incident when I got Benjamin I wrote notes letting my neighbors to the left and right, and the people above and below me that I was training a rescue dog and I appreciated their patience if he was loud, but I was working on it and if they had any questions let me know. Long story short, I think the best way to keep her from going to the HOA is to nip it in the bud and talk to her yourself so she knows you as a person and not just the neighbor with the barky dog.
 

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I agree, anything you can do to make contact with the complaining neighbor will help. Even just to apologize and say you are working on it. Sometimes that is all people want, to know that you hear them and are taking them seriously. I'm sure you've already done this! I lived under a toddler who ran around pounding the floors and jumping off of furniture until midnight every night and if his mother had just talked to me when I complained, I would have taken a different approach.
 

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Have this on my front door, gives the neighbours a chuckle and lets them know what's going on just in case. I've spoken with my neighbours, they've all met the dog now.
 

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I think it makes people a little more understanding if the dog is barking or whining when I'm not around. As long as it's stated that it is being worked on - if you can give specifics, all the better, makes them more understanding.

I realize with the walks through the condo from door to door, floor to floor, there are dogs in the building I've never seen. many of them are barking hard and fast.
 

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Has she displayed this behavior in the other locations? If you are willing, I will put together a video to help you retrain the dog to ensure the anxiety dissipates.

Do any of the dogs currently take any medications at the moment? Was there any change in medication vs behavior? (Any changes in behavior based upon a medication).

For training, what we want to do is 'encourage' the anxiety and then correct it behaviorally. Not to worry, I am doing this all for FREE (I love what I do)
 
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