How can I help my clingy dog with separation anxiety?

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In summary: I think so. He's getting better at it, but it's going to take some time.In summary, Duke is a relatively new dog who is very clingy. His training has come along well, but he gets really miserable if he is left alone. He is also getting better at being detached from the situation, but it will take some time.
  • #1
turbo
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Our (relatively) new dog Duke is very clingy. I call him Velcro Dog for a reason because he needs to be with me always. His training has come along quite well, in part because he is willing to give me so much of his attention, even in the face of distractions, like another dog, neighbors, etc.

The problem is that he gets really miserable if I leave him alone. He whines and cries and sounds absolutely pitiful. I can take him anywhere in a vehicle, and leave him in the car while I go pick up some materials, pay a mechanic, etc, and he is calm and patient and greets me happily when I return to the vehicle. It's different when I leave him at home though. Yesterday, I had to finish digging out my septic tank for a leach-field inspection, finish hauling weeds out of the garden and burn off the remainder of the weeds, vines, etc. All through that time (several hours) I could hear him whining and crying, with an occasional "Hey!" kind of bark. I tried putting him on an outside run where he could see me from time to time, with no success. I moved him to our elevated back deck where he could see me pretty much all the time, with no improvement. I put him back in the house and tried to ignore him until he got tired of the drama and took a nap or something. No good. When I finished up in the garden and came back to the house, he was still crying, and he immediately transformed into "ecstatic dog" when I opened the front door.

I try not to make a big deal about leaving his presence, and do not ask him to follow me around the house, though he certainly does. Anybody got any ideas how to reduce the separation anxiety? Normally, he eats about 3 cups of food/day, but yesterday, he finished only 1/2 his food, and today his bowel movement was very runny and rank - probably from all the anxiety yesterday afternoon. I'm dealing with a number of issues that will require me to leave him along for hours here and there in the next few weeks, and I don't want to make him miserable or sick. Any suggestions?
 
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  • #2
Does he have the same attachment to your wife?
 
  • #3
I think what you did was good: when you are doing work put him in a separate place where there is no direct contact, but he can still see you. That way he can get used to the separation. The fact that he was still wining means you need to be patient. Don't pay any attention when he is wining, but once he quiets down reward him (it may be better for your wife to give the reward, to not excite him too much).

Do you have anything that's comfy to him? Something he can lie on/in, possibly something with your scent on it. It might be that he is not comfortable in an open space, and having something that he is familiar with could put him at ease.

What did you do when you came back to the room and he was ecstatic?
 
  • #4
lisab said:
Does he have the same attachment to your wife?
Not to this degree, no. Of course she leaves for work every morning and returns in the afternoon, so it's just the two of us here.
 
  • #5
Monique said:
IDo you have anything that's comfy to him? Something he can lie on/in, possibly something with your scent on it. It might be that he is not comfortable in an open space, and having something that he is familiar with could put him at ease.

What did you do when you came back to the room and he was ecstatic?
I might try putting one of his dog-beds on the deck next time, with one of my shirts. When he sleeps in our bedroom (on his own bed, of course) almost every morning I find that he has grabbed the shirt I took off the night before and is using it for a pillow. If it's one of my long-sleeved shirts with pockets, it will have treats in one pocket that I use to reward him during training. He never bothers the treats - just pulls the shirt onto his bed and lays his head on it.

When I came back in the house and he was flipping-out happy, I tried not to feed into that departure-arrival dynamic. Instead I deflected his attention to something else and gave him a verbal reward and an ear-rub when he did something I asked him to do.
 
  • #6
Could be he will need a lot of time to learn to be alone, obviously his past haunts him.
 
  • #7
Borek said:
Could be he will need a lot of time to learn to be alone, obviously his past haunts him.
It could be. He was abandoned, picked up as a stray by Animal Control, then was incarcerated in the animal shelter from May until September. That had to be pretty stressful.
 
  • #8
turbo-1 said:
I might try putting one of his dog-beds on the deck next time, with one of my shirts. When he sleeps in our bedroom (on his own bed, of course) almost every morning I find that he has grabbed the shirt I took off the night before and is using it for a pillow. If it's one of my long-sleeved shirts with pockets, it will have treats in one pocket that I use to reward him during training. He never bothers the treats - just pulls the shirt onto his bed and lays his head on it.
You can find an old cloth and wear it with you the whole day and then use it to train him to be quiet when you're not around. First leave him on his own for a very short time and increase the time more and more, but make sure he remains quiet during that time.

I hope he will respond well to your training, with some patience he should be able to get used to being by himself.
 
  • #9
I think these suggestions are good. The Humane Society has some recommedations http://www.hsus.org/pets/pet_care/our_pets_for_life_program/dog_behavior_tip_sheets/separation_anxiety.html" that might help, too.

Interesting - I was going to suggest crate training, but they say at the bottom of the page that it won't help separation anxiety.
 
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  • #10
The whining during being gone versus the ecstatic upon your return needs some flattening. When you return home, ignore Duke for about 3 or 5 minutes before you greet him. He will still be happy with the interaction without your giving him this an immediate reward.
 
  • #11
I think Monique's suggestions are best. Leaving for very short times (but unpredictable) times and then returning will help him learn that you do return before he gets so anxious as to be sick. You might also want to recruit help of another person, perhaps your wife on weekends, to come in and give him a reward when you're not there so he learns that being patient waiting is a good thing.

If you need to be away long periods of time before he has a chance to adjust with just behavioral modifications, talk to your vet about anti-anxiety medications. Especially since he gets upset enough to disrupt his eating and bowel habits, some anti-anxiety meds might be best to keep him comfortable and relaxed while you work on behavioral rewards.
 
  • #12
how could he NOT be clingy! :biggrin:

he's just got used to you …you’ll have to be patient :)
 
  • #13
lisab said:
I think these suggestions are good. The Humane Society has some recommedations http://www.hsus.org/pets/pet_care/our_pets_for_life_program/dog_behavior_tip_sheets/separation_anxiety.html" that might help, too.

Interesting - I was going to suggest crate training, but they say at the bottom of the page that it won't help separation anxiety.
Thanks for that link, Lisa. Duke is not destructive, nor does he break his housetraining, but he exhibits every single sign they cite under "Does my dog have Separation Anxiety" - every one.
 
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  • #14
symbolipoint said:
The whining during being gone versus the ecstatic upon your return needs some flattening. When you return home, ignore Duke for about 3 or 5 minutes before you greet him. He will still be happy with the interaction without your giving him this an immediate reward.
Yep. I'm down-playing the whole leaving/retuning dynamic, but may have to move even more slowly. "Baby steps!"
 
  • #15
You might try putting one of your old pair of pants or something with your smell on it where he sleeps/stays. This might give him some sense of security.
 
  • #16
dlgoff said:
You might try putting one of your old pair of pants or something with your smell on it where he sleeps/stays. This might give him some sense of security.
I'll be sure to fart while wearing them, first! It's our male-bonding thing. :-p
 
  • #17
turbo-1 said:
I'll be sure to fart while wearing them, first! It's our male-bonding thing. :-p

I bet you two go out to the woods to pee together too :-p.
 
  • #18
lisab said:
I bet you two go out to the woods to pee together too :-p.
Yep! We like to walk on the trails together and there are no rest-rooms in the woods. Duke and I are pals. I don't pee on Duke and Duke doesn't pee on me.

He has a doggie-friend down the road that loves to sniff his privates, but Duke is not real comfortable with that level of closeness, even though he likes Max. I need to help Duke be comfortable in his new world.
 
  • #19
Have you considered a second dog?
 
  • #20
turbo-1 said:
He has a doggie-friend down the road that loves to sniff his privates, but Duke is not real comfortable with that level of closeness, even though he likes Max. I need to help Duke be comfortable in his new world.

Are you going to sniff his other end so that he gets used to it?
 
  • #21
A friend of mine recently got a Basset hound who was also a rescue, and also had pretty bad separation anxiety. She called the rescue facility and they said to act like you are about to leave (as in put on your jacket, rattle your keys around, get your backpack etc), and then just sit back down. She did this all day for a couple of days and now he seems to be much better. I've heard not to pay much attention to them when you get home and they are ecstatic to see you, which stinks, I like to be greeted by the insane mongrel when I walk in the door :) Anyway, good luck!
 
  • #22
AstroRoyale said:
A friend of mine recently got a Basset hound who was also a rescue, and also had pretty bad separation anxiety. She called the rescue facility and they said to act like you are about to leave (as in put on your jacket, rattle your keys around, get your backpack etc), and then just sit back down. She did this all day for a couple of days and now he seems to be much better. I've heard not to pay much attention to them when you get home and they are ecstatic to see you, which stinks, I like to be greeted by the insane mongrel when I walk in the door :) Anyway, good luck!
Thanks. That's pretty much what I'm doing - coming and going unannounced, with no fanfare on my part when I return. It's hard not to give in when he's so excited to see me. I took him to the local scenic overlook to run and play, and had him chase and fetch tennis balls for over an hour, so now he's crashed out at my feet. Still, if I get up to get a glass of water or something, he'll be right there. If I tell him "stay", he will do that until I say his name to "release" him, and then he'll come to me, but that's a special case, since he knows I'm still in the house. When we are outside, he has to be within sight of me. I installed a nice cable-and-pulley dog run for him, but he is miserable when he's out there alone. One issue at a time...
 
  • #23
Usually it's the other way around. People cling to their pets!
 
  • #24
WhoWee said:
Have you considered a second dog?
I don't think that would help - just complicate the situation. He is fixated on me (much more so than on my wife) and it's my absence that upsets him.

Getting another dog might make matters even worse, since Duke might feel that he has to compete for my attention, making it much harder for me to sort out his reactions and judge any progress we might be making on the "separation" issues. We'll just have to work through it, somehow. I just took a short pit-stop, and sure enough, Duke had to escort me to the bathroom, wait for me and escort me back to my desk. Velcro Dog in action.
 
  • #25
JasonRox said:
Usually it's the other way around. People cling to their pets!
He was abandoned by his previous owner, picked up as a stray by Animal Control several towns away from here and incarcerated in the Humane Society shelter from May until September, when we rescued him. He is a very smart dog - maybe too smart, with bad memories of this past year.
 
  • #26
Here is Duke on his living-room bed with a pair of my un-laundered pants. Baby-steps!

dukewithpants.jpg
 
  • #27
turbo-1 said:
Here is Duke on his living-room bed with a pair of my un-laundered pants. Baby-steps!

No, puppy steps...you're re-raising him :smile:.
 
  • #28
lisab said:
No, puppy steps...you're re-raising him :smile:.
I hope it works, basil! I love him, and I'm willing to put in all the time it takes. He is a sweetie.
 
  • #29
turbo-1 said:
Here is Duke on his living-room bed with a pair of my un-laundered pants. Baby-steps!

dukewithpants.jpg

how sweet :smile:.. that’s a clever advice, I remember when I was a kid I used to get my mom’s scarf if she’s not around, to calm down myself and sleep.
 
  • #30
He's one fortunate dog to have you as an owner :smile:
 
  • #31
turbo-1 said:
He was abandoned by his previous owner, picked up as a stray by Animal Control several towns away from here and incarcerated in the Humane Society shelter from May until September, when we rescued him. He is a very smart dog - maybe too smart, with bad memories of this past year.

Oh, I read all your posts.

Still super cute though.
 
  • #32
Monique said:
He's one fortunate dog to have you as an owner :smile:
Thank you Monique. It's a two-way street because he brings me a lot of joy.

I have decided that our most high-energy times should be outdoors, and at a location away from our house. A 1/2 hour of vigorous "fetch" wears him out enough so that he is less excitable when we get back home. There is a rest-area/scenic overlook on the hill next to the one we live on, and it's pretty open there, with mowed-down lawn. I put a 30' training lead on Duke's collar, but don't actually hold onto it unless we are doing some obedience training, or he gets distracted by something. I carry two tennis balls, and throw one 50-75 feet or more - he'll run it down and bring the ball back and drop it at my feet so I will throw the second ball. Good exercise for him, and I don't have to chase him around or try to grab the ball out of his mouth. The ball I have in my hand always looks more exciting to him than the one in his mouth.

Dukefetch.jpg
 
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Related to How can I help my clingy dog with separation anxiety?

1. How do I know if my dog has separation anxiety?

If your dog follows you around constantly, becomes anxious when you are getting ready to leave, or exhibits destructive behaviors when left alone, they may have separation anxiety.

2. What can I do to help my clingy dog with separation anxiety?

There are several things you can do to help your dog with separation anxiety. These include gradually increasing the amount of time you are away, providing them with mental and physical stimulation before leaving, and creating a safe and comfortable space for them to be in when you are gone.

3. Should I punish my dog for exhibiting clingy or anxious behaviors?

No, punishing your dog for separation anxiety will only make the problem worse. It is important to address the root cause of the behavior and work on training and techniques to help them feel more comfortable when left alone.

4. Can medication help with separation anxiety in dogs?

In some cases, medication prescribed by a veterinarian can help with separation anxiety in dogs. However, it should not be used as the sole solution and should be combined with behavior modification techniques.

5. How long does it take to help a clingy dog with separation anxiety?

The time it takes to help a clingy dog with separation anxiety can vary depending on the severity of the case and the individual dog. It is important to be patient and consistent with training and techniques, and to seek professional help if needed.

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