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Hello everyone - long post ahead! I adopted my Vizsla, Lida, from our local dog shelter in March when she was 2-3 months old. She's now roughly one year old and she's been mostly an amazing dog. She learns quickly, follows me around our farm and state parks off leash, comes when I call her, gets lots of exercise, and is friendly to strangers (after putting up a fierce protective bark). She knows the following commands: "go to bed" for her crate, place, sit, stay, down, stand, roll over, play dead, say your prayers, shake, take it...And she's been pretty well socialized.

However, her two main issues are separation anxiety and resource guarding. She's gotten out of her crate multiple times when I've left her alone, even though she willingly runs in there when I give her a frozen peanut butter kong. A few times she tore up the linoleum floor near the exit, bit the handle, and scratched up the door pretty badly. I have had to put a cinder block in her crate so that she doesn't flip it on its side and crawl out the bottom where the openings are bigger. I've videoed her while I'm gone and she settles down eventually and stays calm for the majority of the time. But it's like 60% calm and 40% barking, biting the crate, etc. I'm home most of the time due to covid, so I don't want her to get used to my presence. I've tried CBD treats and a pheromone collar to little effect. Any advice on training for separation anxiety? Or things that have helped?

More concerning - she's started getting into fights with two other female dogs. One is my boyfriend's Australian Shepherd and the other is my downstairs neighbor's puggle. This aggression also seems rooted in anxiety as she only lashes out around her resources - during feeding times, when she's found a deer bone, or around the car. She and the Australian Shepherd have gotten better as we've gotten better at understanding the triggers and managing the environment (putting up toys, feeding separately, using crates, etc). They've only drawn a little blood once, but most of the time they play and run together and even gnaw on the same bone at the same time. But I don't want it to get worse and I know it's tough because my boyfriend and his dog come only for the weekends and then leave for the week.

What is worse, though, are the two fights that have required vet attention with my neighbor's puggle. First time was around the car when my V gets anxious that I'll leave her. And last night was seemingly random, but I think related to a deer bone that was out in the yard. The puggle shows all the right submissive signs and cannot do anything to protect herself once my V starts attacking, since she's so small. The two are never inside together and usually play well together outside. But I cannot have any more occasional fights where my neighbor's dog gets bite wounds and needs to go to the vet.

I am taking Lida to a professional trainer soon. But I'm reaching out to folks on this forum to see if any of your Vizslas have similar issues. Just looking to hear your experiences, as they saying goes "misery loves company." Can this resource aggression be trained out of her? Or will I live with this her whole life? Could her separation anxiety and aggression be somewhat of an adolescent phase that she'll grow out of (with training help)? Just hoping there's a light at the end of the tunnel...
 

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Before giving any advice I wonder how you have tried to crate train her so far? What was your method? I do have things to suggest but I don’t know what you’ve tried. It could be that this needs and has always needed professional attention and is not something you could have fixed by yourself. I don’t want to presume.
 

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Before giving any advice I wonder how you have tried to crate train her so far? What was your method? I do have things to suggest but I don’t know what you’ve tried. It could be that this needs and has always needed professional attention and is not something you could have fixed by yourself. I don’t want to presume.
Hi rubicon, thanks for reading and responding! Since I got her at 3 months old, she has been fed two meals a day in her crate and she sleeps there every night. She willingly runs in when I tell her to "go to bed" for both feeding and sleep. She'll also obey that command when I'm leaving the house, but only if I have a frozen p.b. kong for her. I've only used positive reinforcement to get her to go into her crate. She doesn't go in there on her own to nap or anything, but she typically responds to my commands. Since I'm working from home and don't have a reason to leave the house much, I try to put her in her crate during the day for at least an hour so she gets used to being separated from me a little. She gets upset for a little bit but eventually calms down, unless she hears me leave the house, in which case she starts freaking out. I've also tried desensitizing her to the sound of my boots and keys to reduce her anxiety. She pants, yawns, bites at the cage, ignores her bones and shows all the signs of separation anxiety. When she's gotten out of the crate, she's destroyed the exit areas, so I trust that she needs to be crated when I leave.
 

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So she’s not afraid of the crate. She just doesn’t want to be alone. I highly suspect the behavior you see in her trying to destroy the crate is not so much hating the crate as freaking out like a trapped animal. I might even say she’s terrified. My dog was like this when we first got him at 2 months, from the breeder even. He was full on Velcro and super needy. The first night home we put him in a dark room so he can fall asleep (didn’t even have a crate then). He would fall asleep but the MOMENT we even stepped out of the ROOM, he would wake up and start crying and even freaking.

My dog trainer is our downstairs neighbor and once my husband decided to train him by confining him to the crate in the next room (while he worked from home) and he was howling for the entire hour. And he was just like “let him howl. He needs to calm down”. She heard the howling and was like “what’s happening? It sounds so sad!” And that’s basically how our training relationship began 😅 Vizslas can be like that, and I can see that if she was neglected at the same age he was, it might have had a lasting impact.

What you see may not be any problem with the crate rather than you being gone. The way we trained my dog to be alone, we would make him go into his crate and literally leave the building. We leave the building because he can hear us if we’re still near. We have a routine word before we leave. We say “hold the fort”. At first we would leave for 10 seconds (or the smallest unit of time he can be calm for) and come back, then we would build it up to minutes, half an hour, etc. when the time is short you can do it several times a day. My trainer said it was important to come back before he freaks because the more he freaks out in the crate the more he will associate being alone in a crate as the freak out place.

In other words he will literally TRAIN himself to freak out in the crate when you leave and that habit will become ingrained. In general, make the training task SO easy he can’t possibly fail. Or he will learn failure is an option and get used to it. Once he masters the easy version make it harder until he starts failing again. Dial back the difficulty until he succeeds consistently then keep going.

Then we come back, let’s him out, praise him for being calm or nappy or chewing his stuff (watching the entire time on an iPad or CCTV), say hi, but never be overly happy to see him. We don’t want him to think our leaving or coming back is a momentous event. It should be blasé.

These days we don’t bother confining him anywhere anymore. We just make sure he has something to chew and drink and rest, say “hold the fort” and step out. He’s not destroying anything because he’s not freaking out.

I’m ever so slightly worried that Lisa’s association with you leaving is just getting worse and worse especially if you’re using cinder blocks to confine her to the crate. When you leave she gets no freedom, no view and feels more trapped and not to mention anxious.

I’m not saying you have to let her roam the house like my dog, but it seems like she can’t tolerate alone time right now. If we crate him, he will still be calm and not try to get out. It’s really not about whether he has freedom or not. It’s about freaking out or not.
 

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Thank you for this. Yes, it's absolutely about being separated from me and not about the crate. She loves running into the crate when I feed her and give her treats in there. And she sleeps in there happily every night. Just like with your dog when he was a puppy, it's only a problem when I leave the building.

I like your training suggestion about incrementally leaving the house and coming back before she freaks out. I do worry about her solidifying her association with me leaving and her stressing out. How long did it take for your dog to start being calm when left alone for longer periods of time? Was it really incremental by minute? Or at some point were you able to leave him for 30 minutes and then jump to 3 hours? Right now I can leave her in the house at large to take the garbage out and she intently watches me through the window. But anything longer than 5 minutes makes her upset, especially if she's in the crate. How old was your dog when he could stay calm at home?

It gives me hope that your puppy had similar reactions to being left and you were able to train him successfully! Thanks for sharing that. I think Lida's Velcro behavior also causes her to be aggressive when she falsely perceives a threat. She's normally a friendly dog, but on a few occasions with other dogs or cats, it was when I approached that fighting broke out. The more I can grow her independence from me, the calmer and less aggressive I hope she'll become.
 
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