We had a trainer over yesterday to help us work through this separation anxiety. It was a good visit, reassuring and informative. The bottom line: there's no magic cure. Helping Lola overcome her anxiety will take time and patience.
Our plan is to essentially desensitize her to the cues that we are leaving and gradually get her comfortable with being left alone. This means that in the meantime we cannot leave her alone, because each time she goes into panic mode that causes us to go backwards in progress. So, we're working on finding a place where she can be happy and calm while we're away. That's the difficult first step, but we have some ideas and leads. Hopefully one will pan out.
We are also taking her in to the vet to get a prescription for doggy prozac. Her case is bad enough - she cannot be left alone for any amount of time - that medication may be helpful. It was recommended that we give her about four weeks for the meds to build up and start having an effect before we start the training. Yes, this will be a long process.
We also decided that there's not much point to using the crate. That causes her to panic more and she breaks out anyway.
We discussed getting a second dog. Our trainer basically said it's a gamble, which is what I was thinking. A buddy could help with Lola's anxiety. On the other hand, a new dog could actually develop anxiety from being with Lola. That would not be a good development! So it seems the best idea is to get Lola to a better place before adding a new dog. That makes me a little sad, because I was getting excited about that possibility, but we have to accept the reality of our situation.
That's the basic summary. Obviously, we discussed it all in far more detail. We worked on some other things too, like loose-leash training. She did well and I can see us making good improvements there. Overall, I fell clearer about how to approach this problem. I'm happy to share more if anyone's curious.
Here's an update: We've ditched the strict method from the Dog Listener book, but are still utilizing some of the tactics. I would say that Lola is doing better. We've ditched the crate when leaving her alone, because she has now figured out how to undue the latch on the door.
We have a trainer coming to visit our home tomorrow, which we're looking forward to. One of the hardest parts has been deciding on a plan to stick with, so we're optimistic that we're heading in a good direction.
Also, we're finally seriously considering adopting a second dog, so that Lola has a buddy. We've found a possible match and hope top meet him this week.
Well, I real the book, The Dog Listener. Now my husband is reading it. From the way the conversation has progressed I can see people have a variety of opinions on her method I don't have a particularly strong view either way. I'm sure her method has strength and weaknesses. My husband noticed in the first chapter that she says Homo sapiens emerged from Neanderthals, which we no longer believe to be the case. I believe that doesn't, however, mean her method is totally useless.
I'm ready to choose a method and stick to it until it works. Jan Fennel's is appealing to me in some keys ways, so I'm going with it. Today is day one, over the next 48 hours I will be taking control of the pack through simple and subtle messages. I'm optimistic and have seen some results already.
It's pretty interesting, actually. The first step is sending signals that I am the leader whenever we are reunited. This involves intentionally and consistently ignoring the dog as they go through their "repertoire". For Lola this means whining, starting at me, pawing at me, standing between my legs, etc. I have been ignoring her, which can be a challenge. For example, she has tried to get up on my lap, but I preempt that by standing up and turning my back to her. When she has clearly finished her "repertoire" and is calm and disengaged for at least 5 minutes, I call her to "come" and give a treat and some affection. So far, I think this whole process is working. Right now she's curled up in the back of her crate! I'll keep you all updated.
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.
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.
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.
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.