Are 2 Better Than 1?

You may have seen a few of my previous postings regarding our 15 month old basenji and I think it's safe to say that he has a case of separation anxiety. He was relatively housebroken when we got him (about 6 months ago), but over the last few months, no matter how long we leave him - for an hour or 4 hours - there is an accident when we come home. If we are home with him - he can go 4, 5 or even 6 hours without any accidents. As I mentioned in previous posts, we've tried everything from crate training, pheromones, training pads, housebreaking 101, vet visits to rule out anything medical related and even diapers! At this point, I'm trying to give him tough love by not giving him affection unless he goes outside.

A few people have suggested that getting a second basenji may help him with the separation anxiety while we go to work. My question to everyone out there is this… is getting a second dog a practical solution? Or would we be getting ourselves into even more problems? We just recently began talking about this and I figured I'd check in with other basenji owners with multiple dogs to see what is really involved - please share the good, the bad and the ugly stories and advice with this post. Any and all input is welcomed!

Honestly, I think it would be 50/50 that a 2nd Basenji will help your boy with his anxiety… he could "attach" to the 2nd Basenji or he could still be so totally focused on the human (since you are the pack leader) that he still has problems. As for tough love... I doubt that will help, by the time you get him and he has had an accident in the house, he will not know why he is being given tough love....
Have you tried medication for the anxiety? Since he was really past puppy stage when you got him, do you know his past history?

We got him from BRAT in October 2006. Apparently he was living in a trailer with a couple. When the couple's daughter, her husband and 2 young children moved in, they put Griffin and their other dog in a back room and locked the door. They were afraid the dogs would bother the children. However - Griffin is an angel with kids!

@tanza:

Honestly, I think it would be 50/50 that a 2nd Basenji will help your boy with his anxiety… he could "attach" to the 2nd Basenji or he could still be so totally focused on the human (since you are the pack leader) that he still has problems. As for tough love... I doubt that will help, by the time you get him and he has had an accident in the house, he will not know why he is being given tough love....
Have you tried medication for the anxiety? Since he was really past puppy stage when you got him, do you know his past history?

Ditto…I am not a big fan of getting another dog to fix a problem with a current dog.....often you end with two dogs with more problems. I would try the meds first....

I think a second Basenji adds a companion and playmate which I think is good and it wears them down.

I don't think another dog will change behavior issues.

Even if we left our Max in the car with all of our B's, he'd still go absolutely nuts as soon as we walked away from the car.

@Quercus:

Ditto…I am not a big fan of getting another dog to fix a problem with a current dog.....often you end with two dogs with more problems. I would try the meds first....

(I'll apologize in advance, this is gonna be long!)

Ditto here, too. I feel your pain, GriffinsMom, having been in the same situation with my Magnum (although I don't think Magnum's SA was quite as bad as Griffin's).

I'm presuming you've tried distractions (i.e., filled kongs, hiding tiny treats in the area he's confined to so he has to search them out, treat balls, etc.)?

Have you tried leaving for a minute, then coming back and working your way up in time? If you haven't, you should consider it, but it's not something that can be done in a day.

A couple of things I thought of:

Was Griffin paper-trained as a wee pup? I found with Magnum that although he was house-broken when we were home, he would mess when we were gone. Luckily, I accidentally found out that he remembered his paper-training, so I'd lay out thicknesses of newspaper on a plastic tarp in the area he was confined to, and he'd use them (and not rip them up, surprisingly).

I also used to put shredded clean paper (long shreds, not cross-cut) in his open crate and hide goodies in there for him to search out. (In fact, that's how I found out he remembered his paper training, lol!)

At the height of his SA, here's what I did even when he was only going to be left alone for a short time:

Confined him to my [safe] bedroom (where he also slept–so lots of stuff with our/his smell on it) with thicknesses of newspaper on a plastic tarp. Lots of windows were available for him to look out of. Hid tiny treats all around the room for him to discover. Left him two frozen, filled kongs. DAP diffuser plugged in. TV on low tuned to Animal Planet. Hid tiny treats in shredded paper in his open crate. Left several tiny treats immediately obvious to distract him right away and spur him to search for more. Made him a bed on the bed with lots of pillows. Left him water (I know, might sound a little bit crazy, but Magnum's SA came with a lot of panting--that'll make a dog thirsty).

I kept my leavings and coming-backs low-key. I tried to switch up my routines so he wouldn't start getting anxious before I left. I pulled my car out of the garage and left it running, closing the garage door, so those sounds wouldn't perhaps pull an anxiety trigger. I'd let him see all the goodies I was leaving for him before I "treated" the bedroom, then I'd go into the bedroom without him, close the door, treat the room, then exit and close the door--I wanted him to WANT to get into that room (and he always did). When the time came to go, if he wasn't already waiting at the bedroom door, I'd call him over, pat him on the head once, say "Be a good boy. You wait." Then I'd let him into the room.

Once I got into my car, I'd be careful not to close the door completely until I felt I was out of earshot, hoping, once again, not to pull an anxiety trigger.

Although we've since built an indoor/outdoor kennel, so he's no longer in our bedroom, he's come a long way. Now I leave him with one filled, frozen kong. If he has to potty, he's got a doggie door into the outdoor kennel. I call to him "Kennel, Magnum!" and he shoots right down there, waiting for his kong. I still pat his head once we're in the kennel and say "Be a good boy. You wait." He starts gnawing on his kong as I'm leaving the kennel and closing the door.

Two things that were suggested to me, but I never tried:

  1. If Griffin is confined somewhere that has a window view, put a bird feeder out there where he can see it. It'd be a good distraction!
  2. Tape record yourself reading a book or a magazine out loud. Set the playback to loop continuously, then set the player somewhere he can't see it. (It was also suggested to videotape yourself and run it while you're away, but I don't think videos can be endlessly looped, so once the movie's over, any benefit from it might be over, too.)

SA is a tough row to hoe, and, unfortunately, there's generally no quick fix, no magic bullet, GriffinsMom. It takes a lot of patience and a lot of time to overcome or at least manage, but keep trying, eventually, he'll at least get to a manageable point.

I'm sorry this is sooooooo long!

When we first got Griffin, he was about 75% housebroken. He caught onto housebreaking really fast and was about 98% housebroken within a a few months. Then, he got a UTI and at the same my husband had surgery and was home from work for three weeks. From here on out, we had accidents. I think griffin got too comfortable with my husband home every day.

A lot of what you are suggesting, we've tried and sometimes it works (i.e. not closing the car door loudly, TV on, etc.). I really like the idea of a frozen kong (especially with the summer coming up). What do you stuff it with? Peanut Butter?

My only concern with giving him too many treats is that it gives him more to have accidents with (if you catch my drift). So, we leave him with one biscuit when we leave and give him pieces of kibble as rewards when we go for walks. Maybe we can start leaving more kibble in his area during the day to keep him busy.

Thanks for your thoughtful reply - I really appreciate it and I'm glad to know I'm not alone out here. 🙂

You're welcome!

I understand what you're saying, and my boy had the same type of accidents you speak of with his SA, but you may have to think about the accidents from a different perspective, GriffinsMom. If he has SA and he's reliably housebroken when you're home, he's having the accidents because he's anxious. If you can diffuse the anxiety by distracting him with tidbits, you'll also diffuse the need to eliminate, thereby making the accident situation better. If you feed him before you leave, stop that and feed him from a kong instead, while you're gone. IMO, once you deal with the anxiety, the results of the anxiety (the accidents) will disappear once the anxiety does.

Also, I'm talking about tiny treats. For instance, I cut one chicken hotdog into 64 pieces, microwave it for a few minutes and I've got a coupla days' worth of tiny treats. Or, I take one Canine Cut treat and cut it into 12 pieces. I'm talkin' treats that are about the size of a pencil eraser or a pea.

Based on my SA experience with Magnum, distraction is the key, and for most Basenjis, food is the best distraction. Keep him busy constructively, especially with search games, treatballs and filled kongs.

Kong stuffing recipes:

http://dogs.thefuntimesguide.com/2006/02/dog_recipes_for_kong_chew_toys.php

http://www.kongcompany.com/worlds_best.html

http://www.labmed.org/catalog/kong2.html

I give Magnum his morning meal in a kong. Top it off with squirty cheese or peanut butter and freeze it overnight.

And if the SA is way too much…. think about medication for the short term while you work on other things....
And I totally agree, the amount of treats you leave is not going to make him have more accidents.... I agree that the reason he is having the accidents is the SA, he most likely doesn't even know that he is doing it...

@tanza:

And if the SA is way too much…. think about medication for the short term while you work on other things....
And I totally agree, the amount of treats you leave is not going to make him have more accidents.... I agree that the reason he is having the accidents is the SA, he most likely doesn't even know that he is doing it...

I also agree….sometimes you need to use the medication so you can break the vicious cycle...so nervous they can't eat, can't eat so they can't make positive associations with you leaving. It sounds like GBroxon was able to do the behavior mod without needing to use meds..but sometimes just taking that edge off makes all the difference in your behavior mod program.

I did try Clomicalm for awhile, and although we had to stop because it turned out he was allergic to it, I really didn't like the detrimental way it appeared to affect his personality (which may have been part of the allergy, too.) It was like he was on downers or something like that. No energy, completely lethargic, not interested in anything.

I did, for several months, give him Benadryl on his alone days (forgot to include that in my looooooong post).

@gbroxon:

I did try Clomicalm for awhile, and although we had to stop because it turned out he was allergic to it, I really didn't like the detrimental way it appeared to affect his personality (which may have been part of the allergy, too.) It was like he was on downers or something like that. No energy, completely lethargic, not interested in anything.

I did, for several months, give him Benadryl on his alone days (forgot to include that in my looooooong post).

Interesting, and good to know. Did the Benadryl just make him sleepy?

I agree with the others, I don't think getting a second is a good idea to fix the problem because it may not. HOWEVER on the topic of multiples, my experience is pairs are usually a good thing. We had 1 and she had way more energy that us. She also had major SA. When she was 2 we got a second, a male. They were buds. She'd play and run with him, but at time be a bit snippy with him. He however loved her. That was 12 years ago. When we lost her last year her mate seemed to miss her. We got puppy soon after, but again the puppy had WAY more energy than us or our old male. 6 months later with much discussion, and the help from this forum, we got her a playmate. My advice, is (and aside from your issues) IF you think you'll want a second some day soon, its best to do it sooner than later. I just feel Basenjis need another dog to hang out with. You should see our 2 play chase in the yard – you'd think they were litter mates. And now our 12 yr old has more couch time.

GBROXON- It sounds like you have spent quite a bit of time and energy and you MUST have the patience of a saint 😃 You must be commended for that. I don't know that would have thought to go to such lengths to help out the little guy. SO glad that Magnum has done great…it just goes to show you that with patience and perserverence our dog issues CAN GET RESOLVED 😃 😃

Thanks for inspiring myself & maybe others. You've managed to keep me motivated to keep at it with my little ones 🙂

@Quercus:

Interesting, and good to know. Did the Benadryl just make him sleepy?

Nope, but it did seem to have a calming effect. When I added the Benadryl, I was still webcamming him, and I noticed that with its addition, he was not so restless. He was able to lay down for up to a 1/2-hour or so at a time. This was before adding a lot of the "distraction" stuff to the mix. Once I saw that the distractions were, indeed, keeping him distracted, I stopped the Benadryl.

@jys1011:

…it just goes to show you that with patience and perserverence our dog issues CAN GET RESOLVED...Thanks for inspiring myself & maybe others. You've managed to keep me motivated to keep at it with my little ones 🙂

To be completely honest, Magnum is MUCH better than he was at first (over two years ago), but I can't say that he's completely SA-free; he still doesn't really like to be alone. He IS, however, much more comfortable in being alone. So I consider his SA to be "managed" rather than "resolved."

I'm glad I could help a little. 🙂

@gbroxon:

I did try Clomicalm for awhile, and although we had to stop because it turned out he was allergic to it, I really didn't like the detrimental way it appeared to affect his personality (which may have been part of the allergy, too.) It was like he was on downers or something like that. No energy, completely lethargic, not interested in anything.

Besides the fact that he was allergic to it… the dose could have been too much?.....

@tanza:

@gbroxon:

I did try Clomicalm for awhile, and although we had to stop because it turned out he was allergic to it, I really didn't like the detrimental way it appeared to affect his personality (which may have been part of the allergy, too.) It was like he was on downers or something like that. No energy, completely lethargic, not interested in anything.

Besides the fact that he was allergic to it… the dose could have been too much?.....

Well, we started at the max dose, then dwindled it over a period of time to almost a 1/4 of the max dose, with hardly any allergy symptom alleviation and no better personality. At that point, the vet decided it just wasn't gonna work for Magnum and we stopped it.

An important point that I believe others have mentioned but that is worth repeating is to keep in mind that if you're gonna use meds, the meds alone do not/cannot/will not solve the problem, you have to use behavior modification in conjunction with the meds. If you don't, as soon as the meds are stopped, the behavior will resurface, and I can't imagine that anyone wants their dog drugged for the rest of its life…

Well, that happens, but for GriffensMom… I think that I would give it a try... and see if it helps... also, I am pretty sure that there are other meds that could be tried?...

@tanza:

Well, that happens, but for GriffensMom… I think that I would give it a try... and see if it helps... also, I am pretty sure that there are other meds that could be tried?...

That's probably true, although my vet didn't suggest any (even after the Clomicalm allergy surfaced), and, also, my vet was very leery about prescribing it in the first place…there were lots of questions about Magnum's SA behavior to answer and what I had done to try to alleviate the behavior, before he felt comfortable prescribing it. And, truthfully, after Magnum's reaction to it, I wasn't real hep on trying any others.

Has anyone had any luck with natural/herbal remedies? I was at Pet Smart today and saw some natural pills to give dogs for anxiety. The technician at the in-house veterinary clinic wasn't much help - figured I might as well ask all of you instead. 😃 The bottle I was looking at was NaturVet® Quiet Moments™. Anyone ever hear anything about it?

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