severe separation anxiety

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severe separation anxiety

Postby jmaguire » Fri Mar 03, 2017 7:39 pm

Does anyone have experience with an older dog with severe separation anxiety? I have a 7-ish year old Brit we adopted through ABR. My son has a 10 year old Brit, Marley, that he's had since a puppy. That older dog may need to come live with us (my husband and I and OUR dog). My son, his wife, and 2 yr. old child + dog recently moved (about 6 weeks ago), after 7 years in the same house. Marley has never been able to be successfully crated (chews/digs his way out, cutting up his mouth and paws in the process), but was successfully confined to one room in the old house while they were gone. Since moving, he is destroying the woodwork of his new area, has been toileting in the house (wet on my daughter-in-law's clothing this morning), and if left in the yard alone (even briefly), barks frantically. He also is unable to settle...runs from room to room, follows the family frantically. They've been hoping that he will adapt, but now Marley is on anti-anxiety medication, and my son called today to say that he's afraid he's headed for a divorce if he doesn't find Marley a new home (or things don't improve rapidly). I have specified that he needs to get Marley thoroughly vetted, to be sure there isn't some underlying physical cause, before I take this on. Obviously, I have some concerns.

Marley would probably be fine if someone were able to stay home with him...I visited them last weekend, and he spent most of the visit lying at my feet, calmly (yes, medicated, but still, calm!). My work schedule is less erratic than theirs, so that might help, but my husband and I do still work. I know that a tired dog is a good dog, so would have to plan for Marley to get more exercise than he does currently. My other hope is that, with MY dog present, Marley would be less anxious. I'm trying to work out a good containment plan, while the two dogs adapt to living together, esp. since Marley can't be crated without damaging himself and the crate. Marley and George (my dog) have met on several occasions, but those have been of limited duration and there was a bit of posturing (mostly Marley harassed George until I brought one or the other into the house); I'm hoping that they would sort it out, given some supervision. I spoke to my vet this week, when my dog went in for his annual checkup, and he made some suggestions for the initial entry into the new home. I'm aware of the desensitization practices for separation anxiety, but may need something beyond that.

So, anyone? I'm trying to have a plan in place so that if things don't improve within the week, I can go forward with bringing Marley home with me. Marley lived with me for a summer as a young dog and I'm really hoping he would be calmer here. I would hate for Marley to have to be re-homed to someone besides me...I love him and really want this to work, but can't have George made miserable (or my husband!) or OUR house wrecked in the process (I got new carpeting within the last year...supposedly pet stain proof, but I'd rather not find out the hard way). I appreciate any help you all can give me!
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Re: severe separation anxiety

Postby Barb Wright » Sat Mar 04, 2017 9:11 pm

jmaguire wrote:... Marley lived with me for a summer as a young dog and I'm really hoping he would be calmer here.


This might just be what will happen. From what you have related it sounds like there is a great amount of tension in his present circumstances and he is really feeling the stress, thus some of the "acting out" that he has displayed. Since he knows you and George that is a plus, though it does sound like they (Marley and George) have a few of status issues to work out. Perhaps just calmly welcoming him into the home, being there in the beginning for a constant, and trying to not stress out about the "possibilities" Marley is capable of might just give him a chance to settle in without too much upset for anyone. I think once he is dropped off that all previous connections with his previous family should remain completely stopped so he has a chance to settle in to his new "world". Get him involved in your routines, do not try to implement any new things that you do not intend to continue. I would give Marley and George a couple weeks to see if they are going to get their positions with one another established....it will be a rather big change for both of them being in a constant living together situation so it might not cohere right away...be prepared for that eventuality. Otherwise, since you are aware of some of the foibles and issues with Marley, just sort of play it by ear in the early days....see what plays out.

If you wish to do some research and perhaps be prepared a bit better use the Search function in the upper right hand corner of the Message Board page. Type in "separation anxiety" and it will bring up all the discussions we have had in the past about this rather difficult behavioral problem and what other did to handle the different manifestations displayed by different dogs in similar and also different circumstances. There perhaps will be some good suggestions for you, hopefully so.

Quite often, changes in circumstances of the new world for the dog will elicit some welcome behavioral presentations....so most Important is entering the situation calmly and not expecting it to all be bad.

Just some thoughts....I'm hoping others will give you their impressions as well, and that somewhere in there will be the "just right" suggestions.
RIP Sweet Cassie 4/98 - 3/13
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Re: severe separation anxiety

Postby gagesbarb » Sun Mar 05, 2017 9:25 am

I commend your commitment and idea to try to plan before Marley comes...and Barb has some great ideas, I think...a calmer environment has to help...interesting that when he lived with you before, he apparently did not have problems...our JJ was not all that difficult, but looking back after a year, some things he used to do (eating sticks, leaves, etc.) have gone away...in retrospect, I wonder if some of that that was "I'm anxious and don't know what to do, so I'll eat this..."
Patricia McConnell has a very short book/pamphlet on separation anxiety (I'll be Home Soon) and I find her suggestions make sense...easy to read
You may want to search out a trainer in your area who has had some experience in this area and try to develop a plan...having someone else right there also can be a support for you...I find that while I may know how to work with my dogs in theory about some issue, having someone say--yup, that's right or well, maybe try this-- makes me feel better and more confident...make sure the trainer uses only positive approaches...
I have had friends who have used doggie day care for dogs who have separation anxiety, as they work through the desensitization program...can be expensive, but maybe your son would be willing to chip in...I also agree with Barb that having calm consistent routines and predictability is very helpful

Thank you for trying to help...please let us know how things go...I hope others who have had direct experience will chime in...
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Re: severe separation anxiety

Postby jmaguire » Sun Mar 05, 2017 2:33 pm

Thanks for the words of encouragement. I'm a librarian and have done some literature searches; interlibrary loan materials are on the way! We also live near a university with a veterinary medicine school, and my vet will refer me to the behaviorist, if necessary. I really hope to be able to manage this without the added expense...not to sound cheap, but I'm in the midst of deciding if I can afford to leave my job this year (great for the dogs, not so great for my pocket!). Send good thoughts our way!
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Re: severe separation anxiety

Postby Cindy » Sun Mar 05, 2017 4:04 pm

That's one thing I can offer ... good thoughts so you can leave your job!! And, perhaps, being home with the dogs will assist in make the transition an easier one. Keep us posted.
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Re: severe separation anxiety

Postby DeeDee » Sat Mar 11, 2017 9:56 pm

You sound like a caring pet lover. All the best to you and keep us posted!
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Re: severe separation anxiety

Postby jmaguire » Tue Apr 04, 2017 8:22 pm

Hi everyone,
Thanks for all the positive thoughts! At this point, Marley is still with my son and his family. After I pointed out that they would not like to be confined to one room, with nothing to do/watch/listen to (and no bathroom facilities!) for 8+ hours, so they should not be upset with the dog, who's whole routine had been upset for reasons beyond his comprehension, they have been giving him the run of the lower level, with (so far) no unfortunate results. They also tell me that Marley is calmer while they are at home, although he still barks frantically if left in the back yard alone (my "well, DUH!" response is, Don't leave him out there alone!) I'm hoping the situation will continue to improve. I love Marley and am willing to take him, but MY dog is pretty happy as an "only child", and Marley loves my son so much that it would be a shame to separate them if this can be worked out. Keep your fingers crossed for us, and continue sending positive thoughts our way!
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Re: severe separation anxiety

Postby gagesbarb » Thu Apr 06, 2017 8:18 am

Thank you so much for taking time to let us know how things are going...and "whew!" also so glad that things have settled down for everyone...
You are to be commended for helping your son and family look at this situation from the dog's point of view :D :D :D
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Re: severe separation anxiety

Postby Cindy » Thu Apr 06, 2017 4:14 pm

Paws and fingers crossed for you at my house!
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