Severe Separation Anxiety - Hungarian Vizsla Forums
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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-24-2011, 10:38 PM Thread Starter
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Severe Separation Anxiety

We adopted a beautiful new Vizsla puppy named Axel. Before us, he had three other owners... the result of irresponsible teenagers who wanted a puppy. He is five months old and so far very true to all the characteristics we've researched about Vs. We think he is the best dog in the world. We have had him for a month and he is responding very well to all of our training... except being left alone.

I know that Vizslas are VERY attached to their owners (something we love about them) and having so many homes may have made him a little nervous, but we think his reaction is a little overboard. Let me start by saying that we DO NOT leave him alone for long periods of time. I stay at home almost all the time and only need to leave him to run errands for a couple of hours max once or twice a week. We felt that crate training was the best way to keep him safe while we were out, so we bought him a sizable crate and followed all the suggested steps. He loves his crate... he will take toys inside and sleep inside when we don't allow him on the couch. He doesn't mind if we shut him in, as long as we are home with him.

THE SECOND we step out the door (whether he is in his crate or not) he starts whining loudly, which leads to him barking loudly... for HOURS. We live in an apartment, so it is unacceptable to let him "bark it out". He gets himself so worked up that on multiple occasions he has pooped or peed in his crate and tracked it EVERYWHERE. We KNOW for a fact that this is not because he can't hold it, because he sleeps through the night and goes on long car rides with no problem... he is totally housebroken. I've read as much as I can about this and have been told it is due to extreme separation anxiety. I hate to think that he is terrified when we leave, but it is IMPOSSIBLE for someone to be with him 24/7/365. None of the crate training sites have suggestions past this point. ANY HELP??
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-24-2011, 11:19 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Severe Separation Anxiety

Oh, and before anyone has the chance to get offended...

Yes, I know my dog is not a purebred Vizsla. He has a black nose, brown eyes and a white patch on his chest. I did not buy my dog and get scammed and I am not concerned that he is a mutt. No, he is not a Redbone Coonhound. I do believe that he is mostly Vizsla and if you read down a list of V traits... he will match them 10/10.
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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-24-2011, 11:53 PM
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Re: Severe Separation Anxiety

hi! First of all, axel is one handsome pup! I think it's wonderful that you adopted him and want to work through this. I know little about separation anxiety but for other issues I frequent Patricia McConnells blog and I find her to be very humane, humble, and evidence based (she has a PhD in animal behavior or something similar). She has a book on treating separation anxiety that might help called I'll be home soon. Also check out her blog (google her name and she will come right up). I suspect that you somehow need to work on counterconditioning and desensitizing your pup to your absence-- wish I could give you exact tips on how to carry that out. Hope she can help and don't give up! You sound like the best thing that's happened to this little guy besides his looks and sweet heart!
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-25-2011, 12:14 AM
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Re: Severe Separation Anxiety

Hello, this forum has lots of dedicated members who will eagerly help you out.

A Viszla dog changes your life style, if U decide to keep him. They be can walked for hours and still have enough energy to run like mad.
They usually become loud and distructive even self destructive if not stimulated properly. I read somewhere a V chewed through drywall out of boredom.
Good news is, they only bark if they really have to. Otherwise quiet dog.

You may have adopted multiple problems. This is just to get the ball rolling:


1. Dogs in general really don't like to poo and try not to pee in their (den) crate.
- Do you walk him in the morning? https://www.vizslaforums.com/index.ph...cseen.html#new
- When do you feed him? better not feed 1 or 2 hour before locking the crate and leaving him.
- Water should also be restricted 1 or 2 hours before leaving.
- Do you take him out before leaving? perhaps a 10min brisk walk - allow for poo/pee

2. Usually crying should not last too long but considering his history it may take lots of patience.
- We keep him busy with 2 or 3 properly stuffed Kong toys. Kong toys help us a lot.
- Fist leave him for 5 min then increase to 10...20...30. should help.

Best of luck and allow time to heal his emotional wounds.
Oh, do not worry about purebred or not, it is a wonderful thing you are doing.
PS What is now considered purebred V is a far cry from what it was 400 years ago not to mention 600 years ago.

If you want the best seat in the house ... move the dog
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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-25-2011, 03:10 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Severe Separation Anxiety

Thanks for all the tips so far. I ordered the book Laurita mentioned and did a bunch more research tonight.

Just to clarify, giving Axel up has NEVER been an option for my husband and I. We know that puppies can come with lots of energy and challenges but he is a part of our family and we could never pass him on like his previous owners. He is such a good dog in every other aspect. He is house trained, obedient, loving and eager to please us. This is a frustrating problem, but we will work it out somehow and we love him dearly.

As far as some of datacan's questions go:
Yes, we always walk him in the morning after he eats and usually again in the afternoon. We do a pretty good job of wearing him out with walks and fetch so he usually sleeps when we are in the house... unless he is left alone. I will try not feeding/letting him drink too much before kenneling him. We do always take him out first though.

We do leave him with toys and puzzles but he seems too distressed to play with them. The kongs end up untouched. I'm going to try the suggestion of varying the amount of time gone. I also read an article about changing your habits, schedules and coming and going more randomly as practice to ease the anxiety.

Thanks for everyone's willingness to accept my little Vizsla mix, I was afraid people would take issue with that. : )
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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-25-2011, 07:07 AM
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Re: Severe Separation Anxiety

Oh, gosh, Axel is a beautiful little guy! You should post more photos if you get a chance. He reminds me a little of my previous dog before Willie. Her name was Aini (a Finnish name, pronounced "eye-knee"). She had a dark nose, too, but if you looked closely, it was actually brown.

Wish I could help with the separation anxiety... The book you have ordered will probably be a big help! Axel needs to learn to trust that his people won't abandon him, but I'm sure that he will, in time. Good luck!

"Money can buy you a fine dog, but only love
can make him wag his tail." -- Kinky Friedman
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-25-2011, 01:05 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Severe Separation Anxiety

Thanks for all the love! We think he is a gorgeous dog, but we might be biased! I actually wrote a post all about him on our blog with lots of photos and a video if you are interested.

http://jakeandtobi.blogspot.com/2011/06/puppy-love.html
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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-25-2011, 06:33 PM
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Re: Severe Separation Anxiety

He is quite the charmer! I've never personally dealt with separation anxiety, but I have heard two opposite ideas:

One is the idea you mentioned--change your schedule, your routine, etc., so that the dog can't start anticipating when you'll be gone, although I'm not sure if that is for severe separation anxiety or just a dog that gets a little sad when you leave (and they all get a little sad when you leave!).

I've also heard that you should try doing things exactly the same, so that in the long run, Axel will know you're leaving, but will equate your leaving with you always coming back. So, for example, at first you would put him in his crate, grab your purse and your keys and head towards the door, but don't touch it or go out. Then come back and put your things away, let him out, ignore for just a little bit (it helps him understand that leaving and coming home are not big. exciting. events.). Once he's calmly just sort of standing there, you can pet and love and play, etc. He will hopefully begin understanding that you're not leaving forever. Since you say he only gets upset when you walk out the door, this step should be smooth. Then you can start upping the ante by touching the doorknob, then opening the door but not walking out, then walking out the door and coming right back in, and then start being "gone" for longer and longer amounts of time (starting with very short amounts of time like 1 minute). But make sure to keep the leaving process the same. Some dogs really really like to have schedule or order to this kind of thing--to the dog, if the way you leave is always the same, then it follows that everything will always be the same in this situation, and you ALWAYS come back, so....

From what I understand (this is from a colleague whose dog had separation anxiety), this is a very long process for a dog that's already developed the anxiety, but it's not totally impossible. Try not to move through the steps too quickly, but if you find that he's not taking to one step very well, back up and build up to it again. Apparently the first time she stepped outside the door, he pretty much had a panic attack. So she backed up and worked on just opening and closing the door for a few more days. She wouldn't come back inside until he had stopped barking/crying--sometimes this was literally just as the dog was catching its breath to start again, but she held her ground.

Axel still seems young, so hopefully it will go better for him that my colleague's fully grown dog (adopted from the shelter)--it took her 2-3 months to build up to being gone for a workday. This is somewhat similar to the way that I desensitized my boy to being alone for the day, so I think it's probably like starting all over from the beginning, only it takes longer because of the instilled anxiety. Perhaps his original owners never took the time to desensitize their pup to being alone--I took a week off work to make sure Jasper wouldn't develop anxiety, and it's paid off immensely. But I know some people who can't/won't take the time to do so, unfortunately.

Sorry for the long post! I hope this or another post helps just a little bit, and let us know how it's going!

Forgot to mention: My friend was a teacher for a while, and they adopted their dog during the summer when she knew she'd have time to work on this. She did this every day, even though she didn't need to leave. Since Axel is lucky enough to have you home with him a lot, you'll probably have to purposefully practice this throughout the day. But like I said, what a lucky dog to have his people home with him so much!
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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-25-2011, 07:51 PM
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Re: Severe Separation Anxiety

Good information in the above posts. It also sounds like Axel is only left alone once or twice a week. That isn't a lot of practice to master a difficult skill.

Savannah does not have anything like the separation anxiety you mention, but she does better if I make sure to leave her alone for some amount of time every day. If I miss a day, she has a harder time the next.

Good luck!
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-25-2011, 08:49 PM
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Re: Severe Separation Anxiety

I enjoyed reading your blog, axelsmom, and the videos were really fun, too!

It seems to me that you've gotten some excellent advice here about Axel's problem. I can't add a thing. I've been really lucky with Willie. He just sleeps when I'm gone. I think he was crate trained by his first owners. I don't use a crate, but when I go out, he gets into his chair and doesn't move (as far as I know) until I return. What a good boy!

Thanks for providing that link to your blog!

"Money can buy you a fine dog, but only love
can make him wag his tail." -- Kinky Friedman
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