Separation Anxiety and Re-Crate Training

Greetings! It's been a long while since I've been on this forum. I'm remembering how much I loved the conversations here and am glad to be back.

What's brought me back is that I would love some advice with a tough situation. My husband and I have a 5 year old Basenji, Lola. We've had her since she was one. She's always had separation anxiety, but in the past we've been able to slowly train her to be used to our absence for short periods of time. Over the last couple years, we've been lucky because we lived with my parents in Seattle who have a yard. That was a dream. We recently moved to at apartment in the Bay Area and our daily lives have changed a lot. Lola's SA symptoms have been worse ever since. When left alone, she chews and cries much worse than ever before. She has chewed window blinds, carpet, door trim, etc. It's getting expensive and frustrating..not to mention heartbreaking to watch her get so unhappy.

We hadn't used her crate in a few years, but now we're pulling it out again and working on crate training. She had been doing well over the last week. She could happily chew on a kong treat with the crate door closed while we were home and would occasionally hang out in the crate. Now that the holidays are over my husband and I are starting work and school again, so we have to leave her alone for 4-5 hours a day.

The problem - this is where I could use some help😕 - is that she's not ready to be left alone in the crate. We crated her yesterday and she cried, peed, chewed her water dish and just generally freaked out. This causes her to backslide, understandably, in her crate comfort level. We even exercised her for two hours (1 hour walk and 1 hour at the dog park) in the morning. I left her with her kong, which she only gets int he crate, and she ignored it. That's SA sympton, I believe. Has anyone out there found way to crate train, while still leaving their dog alone? Today I'm trying a "Happy Traveler" capsule. It's an herbal calming remedy and might help.

Any advice or thoughts are welcome! Thanks in advance.

Could you set up an ex-pen and then put her crate in the ex-pen - that way she can choose to go into her crate. I'm just thinking the larger space might work better for her. Also, maybe try leaving something really high value like a frozen marrow bone for her to work on. Those 2 things worked well for my girl who has mild separation anxiety.

Welcome back, Loving Lola! Can you get another Basenji? 🙂 I know, that may seem like adding fodder to the fire, but the reason I have MY Lola is because my Joker has horrible separation anxiety. As long as he has a partner in crime, then he's much better. 😃

Just wondered if that's a consideration…. 🙂

@Patty:

Welcome back, Loving Lola! Can you get another Basenji? 🙂 I know, that may seem like adding fodder to the fire, but the reason I have MY Lola is because my Joker has horrible separation anxiety. As long as he has a partner in crime, then he's much better. 😃

Just wondered if that's a consideration…. 🙂

LOL, ok, since you went there…ultimately that was what really helped my girl who has separation anxiety. I added a boy and then things were much much better with her when I had to leave.

Okay, ahem… it does often help. But not always. In fact many multi-dog owners have one with severe separation anxiety.

Other options include..
1. BORROW or foster a dog to see if that helps.
2. put her on medications that are stronger, such as prozac, then slowly wean off as she adjusts
3. get a pet sitter to come in every 2 hours
4. remove everything she can hurt herself on or damage from the crate. There are some that are expensive as heck but indestructible. At some point she will adjust and sleep if there is nothing she can continue to vent against.
5 🙂 Take her to work with you? (JK, I think really dogs do have to learn to be alone in most family situations.)

@DebraDownSouth:

5 🙂 Take her to work with you? (JK, I think really dogs do have to learn to be alone in most family situations.)

I fantasize about taking Paco to work all the time…

as if he'd be well-behaved enough for that. Hah.

both our boys H A T E the crate. any time any where. soooo we got a chain link kennel that is about 4' tall and about 5x5. it has a gate and we put chicken wire on the top so they dont jump out because we know they can. they also figured out how to open the gate so we got a carbinare (sp) lock and about a foot of chain and latch it around the gate. i put a bowl(that is not chewable) and a dog bed in with them. and kongs. both dogs go right in and are very quiet and calm when they are in it. i know because my husband has cancer and is home in bed sleeping during the day when i am gone and they are quiet and calm. he can hear them (or not as they are pretty happy). i come home every day at lunch and walk them to relieve them and they both march right back in for the after noon while i am at work. it works for us. crates do NOT. we liked it so much we built a larger one for outside when the weather permits. my neighbor watches them and says they are very happy and calm and he enjoys seeing them out. they have room to move and enjoy watching the world go buy. but they sure get excited when the get to go walk when i get home. they are not ever kenneled when we are home to be with them in the house. they both seem very happy.

Sorry I haven't responded sooner. Thanks for all the thoughts!

Today we're trying an ex-pen around her crate, Renaultf1, to see how that goes. She does love marrow bones, but, believe it or not, has historically still ignored those when we're away. She goes straight into panic mode and sees nothings else! She has to be alone today for 5 hours, which is longer than she's been alone the other days. I'm worried she'll bust out of the pen, but I can't bear to think of her going nuts in her crate for 5 hours. I could probably take her too school but it seems like it would be so distracting and I feel like it may look unprofessional.

We have thought about getting a second basenji. I'm concerned her SA anxiety will continue and then we'll just have two dogs to contend with! So, DebraDownSouth thanks for the suggestion about borrowing a foster dog. That's a good idea and we may try it down the road a little.

I have decided to visit a vet to see if we can get her on meds. I'll keep you posted.

When I put Kipawa in his crate, there is some whining. But once he hears there is no noise in the house, he settles down. I put in some of his favourite toys that I keep specifically for the crate. Right now, the longest I have left him in the crate is 2 hours on Wednesday and 1.5 hours yesterday while visiting Darrel in the hospital. We are fortunate that both Darrel and I don't work, so I think Kipawa knows he will not be in there for huge amounts of time.

@LovingLola:

Today we're trying an ex-pen around her crate, Renaultf1, to see how that goes. She does love marrow bones, but, believe it or not, has historically still ignored those when we're away. She goes straight into panic mode and sees nothings else! She has to be alone today for 5 hours, which is longer than she's been alone the other days. I'm worried she'll bust out of the pen, but I can't bear to think of her going nuts in her crate for 5 hours. I could probably take her too school but it seems like it would be so distracting and I feel like it may look unprofessional.

We have thought about getting a second basenji. I'm concerned her SA anxiety will continue and then we'll just have two dogs to contend with! So, DebraDownSouth thanks for the suggestion about borrowing a foster dog. That's a good idea and we may try it down the road a little.

I have decided to visit a vet to see if we can get her on meds. I'll keep you posted.

LovingLola…Here's hoping it went a little better for her today. I do believe your girl wouldn't touch the bones when she is so upset as that is a classic example of separation anxiety. I know when Ruby was crated, she wouldn't touch any treats or marrow bones. Once she was switched to the expen though, she would actually enjoy the bones or kongs left for her. Some days her bedding would be dragged out of her crate into the open space of the expen and some days I could see that she actually slept in her crate. So I hope you have at least some success with it.

Please report back and let us know how it went.

My girl, Callie, can only be crated with my Lola in the crate with her. She doesn't have separation anxiety; she's just being a stubborn b****. So having two definitely helps in my case, but if I ever want to go somewhere with just Lola, that doesn't help.
I highly recommend the Crate Games videos on youtube. There are a ton of training videos free on youtube that give you instruction on how to play games with Lola & her crate & very high value treats (special ones she doesn't get at any other time, like cooked chicken or something). It may take a looooong time and a ton of patience, but I would definitely check those out.

Andrew I have never put 2 dogs in a crate (other than a mom with pup). In case of a fight, it is a real dangerous situation. In fact, I can't think of anyone I know who crates 2 together. I am sure there are… curious to here who else here puts 2 dogs of any breed in a crate.

when suki had to stay with a pet-sitter for a weekend and she was only 13-14 weeks, the sitter put her with in a crate with an older dog so she would quit crying. it worked out well, so she did it the whole weekend, but suki was a puppy, then. i guess if it's normal for them, then there shouldn't be any problems. i kind of worried when the sitter told me, though, but i guess it worked out well for them.

Report: Lola did get out of her ex-pen set up. The pen itself had not been opened, so my theory is that she climbed on top of her crate and jumped over. She peed on the carpet in three places (Thankfully, no poop!), shredded all the toilet paper and cardboard in the apartment, and chewed on the window blinds in every room. The worst part is that she cut herself, maybe on her gums from chewing, and got little smudges of blood everywhere.

This is clearly not sustainable and just painful to watch. She's just miserable. So I'm taking her to the vet to see if putting her on meds is a possibility. I've thought of seeking the help of a dog behaviorist (there's a highly recommended women nearby in San Francisco), but they're sooooo expensive. The second B is a possibility, but it's a risky move - could help or could not help.

I should also mention that she's long had a problem with chewing on her tail, which I suspect is an outlet for her anxiety.

I just read this thread and wanted to say we had a bitch that had severe seperation anxiety. I read this book and it helped us. Her explanation of what seperation anxiety fit our girl to a tee.

We followed her example of the case study in the book and it worked. We never could break her of peeing in her crate, but we lost her last August at 15 years and she was fine in her crate til the very end.

Here is the link for the book, hope it helps;
http://www.amazon.com/Dog-Listener-Communicate-Willing-Cooperation/dp/0060089466/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1294503882&sr=1-1
Therese

I forgot to mention, the crate games is a great tool. But all crate training with our girl was a failure, even adding a second basenji failed. In fact I think she made him a bit crazy.

I think crate training is very different from seperation anxiety. That's why we got so much out of this book. I feel your frustration and we felt the same, we got tons of advice from wonderful sources nothing ever seemed to help.

I hope you don't have to medicate her, but we also consulted a behaviorist at $300 an hour who was very nice. I still have to say I got more out of the book and I think I paid $25 for it back then in hard back at a book store.
Therese

Thanks, Therese. I just found a local training/boarding place that will do private consults for $150…that's a little more reasonable. As far as the book is concerned, could you give me a little idea about how this book was so helpful? I'll buy it and read it myself, but I'm curious what you think was special about her advice.

Debradownsouth - I am one who puts two and even three dogs in one crate. My dogs aren't crated at home but when I go to shows they travel together in one crate and if I can get away with it (against rules) they stay together at the shows because they are happier like that. Obviously I would never put two dogs who don't get on in one crate.

Therese - I have great faith in Jan Fennell's methods and find her books illuminating.

The best description is that the dog that suffers from seperation anxiety isn't anxious about being left alone because it feels abandoned but is instead worried about his/her owners needing them.
The author explains a dog with seperation anxiety may in fact be like a parent of a three year old child that has just locked mom up in a pen and walked out into traffic and locked the front door behind them. As a parent you would chew through your own leg and then through the front door to save your child and if you couldn't get beyond the door you would lose it, trashing the house in the process.
The exercises she uses are about teaching the dog you have all under control and they don't need to worry about you. It was interesting for us because it was less about the actual crate and more about us leaving. The entire book gives great advice on how to make your dogs feel you have things under control and they don't need to be on high alert on your behalf. Her overall approach will help give your dog a better life all the way around, it put our girl at peace.
I'm not doing the author justice but it was a totally different thought process, we had previously been so focused on convincing her she was okay when all along it seemed she was more worried that we were okay. The change in our approach worked great.
It's a great read either way. Hope you get the chance to enjoy it.
Therese

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