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Guys and gals, my wife and I could really use your advice on how to handle some issues we’re having with our new dog.
We’ve actually had the dog for a little over a year now. She’s a ~25 lb mutt we think a mix between some beagle, golden retriever, and maybe some Australian shepherd. We rescued her when she was about 2 years old, she’s a little over 3 now. Some of my wife’s kids (she’s a teacher) found the dog without a leash in the parking lot of their apartment complex and long story short the dog ended up at school and my wife took it home. Btw, we made every effort to find the original owner (flyers, flyers at the pound, at the aspca, on fb group, craigslist, you name it) but to no avail. So we kept the dog.

She is the sweetest dog ever, but for over a year we have been really really struggling with her issues. She has SEVERE separation anxiety, SEVERE terror of thunderstorms, and absolutely CANNOT be put in a crate. We’ve gone through all of these trials in trying to be good pet owners but it’s obvious that for the first 2 years of her life she was in a bad home. At first we thought the crate would help keep her safe and calm while we were at work. I would come home at lunch every day to let her out to the bathroom, to play a little, and watch a little tv while I ate some lunch at home. She would physically hurt herself relentlessly trying to escape the crate. We went through 3 of them. So we got large gates to quarantine off sections of the house so she had more space but wouldn’t have free reign to pee where she wanted. She was almost 100% potty trained during the weekends, when we were home. But we think her separation anxiety triggers relapses with that, as well as chewing. She never scews anything when we’re home – only when we’re gone.

The latest development in her issues is a severe terror of thunder. It would be fine if she went off by her own and hid, or barked, or something. But instead, she gets completely unresponsive to outside stimuli (commands, comforting, etc). She goes blank. And she tries to crawl on top of us, literally. We literally cannot sleep when she does this. She doesn’t respond to “No,” she’s shaking so bad and so afraid that she’s not even hearing us probably. It’s like she’s trying to occupy the space between our ears is the best way to describe it. It’s infuriating. She will not sit still for more than 5 seconds. We brought this problem up at the vet and have since tried Xanax. It doesn’t work. She has the same exact behavior even when on Xanax.
And now, we’re coming to you guys for some help because we’re out of options. We’ve literally spent probably $7,000 on this dog since we got her a year ago (biggest piece being fencing in our backyard, but also getting her spayed, all the shots, vet appointments, she got sick once, she hurt herself twice when it thundered when we weren’t home she tried to crawl over a gate and pulled out of side claws and the other time was from mauling her own face on the side of the crate trying to get out)

But seriously, this dog is 100% perfect when we’re home. Super friendly, potty trained, cuddles, gets along with our 2 cats, doesn’t bark, doesn’t beg for food, knows sit, stay, and my wife even taught her to ring a bell by the door when she needs to go to the bathroom.

We would never give her up, but what we’re afraid of is that she’s either going to hurt herself when we’re gone or have a heart attack. I have cameras setup around the house and can see that when we’re gone she cannot sit still. She’s in panic the entire time. Believe it or not she was actually better before, now it seems something has triggered and caused her to regress. We had a stretch of 4-5 months where she was fine in her quarantined area. But now she’s chewing doorknobs, chewing trim around the door, and never sitting still when we’re gone where before she would just get bored and find something loose to chew up (a book, remote, etc) but she would also eventually get tired and take a nap. She doesn’t seem to do that anymore. It’s like she’s getting worse.

My wife will be out for summer break soon and wants to work on helping the dog with this problem through training of some kind. Do you guys/gals have any advice on this?

We’re about to go to the vet and see if there’s any other medicine for treating this dog’s terror for thunderstorms (we get a lot around here) something like a mild tranquilizer because seriously we’re afraid her heart is going to explode. It’s painful to watch how scared she is and while she’s walking all over your head.

I’m leaving a bunch of stuff out I’m sure, it’s been a constant battle with these problems and every day brings a new challenge it seems. If you have questions, just ask.

Thanks in advance!
 

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Given how severe her reaction is I think you're on the right track involving a vet, I'd ask if they know a good behaviorist too.
 

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Helping a Dog With Severe Separation Anxiety | Whole Dog Journal
For Seperation Anxiety, read this. It is a serious condition, and you must be PATIENT. But I promise, you will see some progress. It may never completely go away, but it can get better. A behaviorist would be the best person to help you with this.

For the thunderstorms, have you ever tried a Thundershirt? It works for some dogs, it doesn't for others.

For the crate, here is an idea. You will have to do it very, very slowly. Patience is the key here. NEVER go on to the next step until the dog is comfortable with the first step and has been for at least a few days:
1. Put the crate in a fairly large room. Give your dog a treat when it goes into the room. However, please make sure that you dog knows it is getting the treat because it is near the crate. Point at the crate, stand near the crate, or change rooms every time so your dog knows that the treats are not associated with going in the room, but seeing the crate.
2. Same as Step 1, but try a smaller room this time. Again, only move on once the dog is completely comfortable with the crate being in the same room as it.
3. In the small room (you'll need to be creative). Gradually, each day, move your dog very slightly closer to the crate and give it a treat then. Your dog should eventually become comfortable with being right up in front of the crate.
4. Now for the tricky part. You probably know how this works now, but here it is: get your dog to put a foot in the crate. A nose. Even a toenail works. Don't move the dog yourself. Lead it in there with the yummiest treats, and as soon as the foot touches the crate, use whatever kind of motivation and praise your dog likes. Hug your dog, enthusiastically say, "Yay! Good dog!", bring out the favorite toy, anything that your dog loves. Repeat ONCE every day, no more.
5. After you've been doing step 4 for a while, gradually encourage your dog to go further into the crate. It might look like this:
Sunday: Puts foot in crate
Monday: Puts foot in crate and sniffs around a little
Tuesday: Puts two feet in crate
Wednesday: Still only puts two feet in crate
Thursday: Puts front half of body in crate
Etc, etc. You get the picture. Remember, respond with lots of praise and do the whole process very slowly! Start with doing it once a day, and adjust that based on how your dog is reacting. Patience is the most important thing here; if you force your dig to do anything at all, the fear of the crate WILL increase.

Theoretically, you could try the same thing for the thunderstorms as well. Hang out with your dog during thunderstorms, and immediately after thunder, offer a treat.

Hope it all goes well! I'm praying for you and your sweet Beagle! You and your wife are such loving dog parents, and I'm sure quite a few dogs wish they had owners like you!
 
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