9-year old Max is developing MAJOR separation anxiety

Hi Everyone from Denver!

Our OES, Max, is a wonderful, loving dog. However, he becomes a crybaby when we leave for work. For the past year, we used a spray (citronella) collar when we departed. Usually, he stays outside on the patio of our townhome. Once in a while, he'll whimper for a few minutes then shut up and be fine the rest of the day until we arrive home.
In the past few weeks, however, he has started howling after we pull away. He sets of the spray collar - and even empties the chamber of the spray - without regard to the smell.
Of course, his behavior is becoming upsetting to our neighbors, who are patient people and fond of Max. However, their patience is wearing thin.
I was wondering if any of you have had the same problem with your OES, how you remedied the situation...and do any of you have any experience with the shock-type collar to perhaps control the problem?
Taking him to a daycare center probably wouldn't work, either, because he freaks out when we leave him at the vet's or the groomers for a little while, but calms quickly as long as there are people there to talk to him.
Again, he's a great dog... but we're hoping some of you with OES experience can offer some advice!
Thanks!!!!! 8O
Respond to this topic here on forum.oes.org  
I think maybe what's happened is he relates your leaving to the unpleasant citronella, and possibly his anxiety increases in anticipation of that without realizing his barking/howling is setting it off.

Can you leave him in the house while you are away? With a kong maybe stuff with something yummy to keep him occupied for the first little while when you leave?

Also at 9 years old it is quite possible he has some medical issues, perhaps being left outside is causing arthritic pain?
I know many people are going to pipe up with advice but I think the running theme that you are going to see is to stop the use of the correction collars immediately. The collars are not addressing the actual problem, they're only probably adding to it. You've got a dog that is already upset and freaking out, he gets upset, barks gets sprayed with citronella and gets more upset. It's a vicious cycle. Rather than treating the symptoms, you have to start with the problem.

If he's anxious when you leave, you'll need to find a way to make him happy and comfortable to be alone. Does he have a place if his own in the house that he could be confined to? A crate or a room? You can give him things to do to occupy himself, like a Kong stuffed with treats so he has something to take his mind off of your leaving. Does he only get upset when you leave for work or is it anytime? Think of when he's most calm and happy when he's in the house with you. How can you best emulate that situation without your actually being there? I leave the TV on for my guys and a light so other than us not really being there, the house feels just like it would if we were.
I definitely agree with everyone else to get rid of the correction collar as soon as possible.

The book "The Dog LIstener" by Jan Fenell ( http://www.amazon.com/dp/0060089466?tag ... 0060089466 ) has a great chapter on how to deal with separation anxiety.

What her book basically says to do is completely ignore your dog while you are leaving & going in & out of the house. ( I definitely think you should be keeping Max in the house vs the patio to help calm the neighbors until you get this under control. ) Ignoring means, no eye contact, talking, petting, touching, etc. Even if he tries to nudge you or jump on you, completely ignore him. Keep on ignoring him the whole time he is going berzerk. When he finally settles down - meaning laying down - count out 5 minutes. Once 5 minutes are over you can fuss over him all you want. You will really have to practice as much as you can. Do this in short increments like taking out the trash or running to a convenience store. It will take him a while to initially settle down, but over time that time period will lessen. I practice this whenever I leave them alone, even when I leave them in car, etc. Key thing is ignoring the behavior. If he knows he can howl & bark and you come back in to try & quiet him down he knows he can get your attention this way. Good luck.
Thanks for the responses so far....

Max never had a problem understanding the citronella collar in the past year or two.
We've also tried leaving him without using the collar... and the same thing happens... he starts crying/howling and won't stop.

Our daughter is a new veterinarian. He's gotten many checkups, etc and he's in really good health. His place on the back patio is quite comfortable... and, yes, we've left him in the house. His response to that also has been barking/howling (collar or not)... he also tends to feel more "penned in" inside, resulting in him going to the bathroom inside, which he never does inside when we're home and rarely does outside on the patio....
... any follow-up suggestions are GREATLY welcome! I just discovered this forum today, so I greatly appreciate all of you reading and/or responding!

Don (Max's dad)
I'm glad you are enjoying the forum. Welcome & I hope that you register as an actual member too and everyone always loves to see photos!

Dumbfounded in Denver wrote:
Max never had a problem understanding the citronella collar in the past year or two.
We've also tried leaving him without using the collar... and the same thing happens... he starts crying/howling and won't stop.

How old is Max? Usually bad behaviors really start to act up when they reach around age 2 when they fully mature. I'm sure Max also might think that he is going to get the citronella spray when he's put out on the patio, even without the collar.

Do you leave him out on the patio when you are right inside the door? If not, I definitely suggest trying to make him aware that you are not leaving all of the time. I really think you should check out Jan Fenell's technique. It really worked for us. :lol:
In reply to you nice folks:

Max is nearly 9 and never had this problem before, despite us using the citronella collar that contained the problem for years.
No, we never leave him outside when we are inside - he's almost "glued to our hips" when we're home and enjoy having him by our side.
We've tried not using the collar, keeping him inside with and without the collar... alas... the same result: in recent months: he's mournfully crying when we leave for work.

Again, thanks for an ideas/suggestions....

Don in Denver :)
I don't know what a kong is....
If it involves food, Max will only eat when a human being is present (usually my wife or I.... if we leave him with relatives when we go on a trip, he usually won't eat for them for at least the first half of a day).

Thanks again... I'll sit back and wish for some more guidance from you!

I just wanna hop in and say "Hi Don!" and "Sorry you're going through this."

Has anyone suggested Thyroid testing? Is separation anxiety a possible symptom? Is your vet familiar with OES?

Be sure to register with the forum for some super secret surprise benefits.

Well ok, the software will remember stuff for you., and then there's the chat thing. But it's still fun.

Good luck with your behavior issue.
Will your dog act the same if maybe you left him inside the home? It would at least save you from upsetting your neighbors? Plus, I believe there are more options to calming a dog if you can leave them inside. Like things that set off aromas that calm the dog, leaving the radio on, etc?? Or maybe talking to your vet to see if there is something that will calm your dog? I don't know, just things I have heard in the past.

As far as a shock collar... if you're not there, a shock collar should never be used. Whether people are for or against them, the instructions clearly state a dog should never have one left on him unless supervised.
Whining, crying and barking are all signs of stress. Your dog is displaying anxiety behaviors so you need to change his emotional state. Correcting this by collars, or verbal corrections or anything like that is only going to increase the stress.

You need to make it pleasant for him to be left alone. He doesn't know how to behave when you are not there, so is lost and looking for guidance. He lacks confidence, so you need to find a way to increase his feelings of security and comfort. The advice already given will help you do this.

Oh, yes, one more thing....

Get this book:

"I'll Be Home Soon!" by Patricia McConell.

It is quite inexpensive and will open your eyes to what is happening in Max's world.
A kong is a rubber cone shaped toy that can be stuffed with kibble, treats, topped off with peanut butter or cheez whiz...the goal is to give the dog something to distract him and enjoy, even look forward to getting...as it is a treat...a special occasion kinda thing.

My dog also loves to get a big knuckle bone, she could care less what's going on while she is knawing on...she too won't eat her kibble unless she has company...ie me standing in the kitchen. But she will chew a treat without me...and prefers to take it away to her secret place.

I've also hidden some treats on the patio or grass for her to find, she loves that game. Keeps her busy as she hunts for the treats with her nose.

The other suggestions of completely ignoring him as you get ready to leave...no good-bye, no petting, no eye contact...just simply leave...and then return...again ignore the dog for 5 min before saying hello.

Remy too gets anxious if I stay at the doggydaycare, she starts barking and won't engage in play. But if I leave, she is fine, and really loves to be there.
Hi Don,

Wishing you luck with the Separation Anxiety issue.
As you mention that your daughter is a Vet, you might
be interested in the articles by Karen Overall,DVM.
She has lots of articles and protocols for behavior
with animals in general.

She has also developed protocols for some of the behaviors.

Here is an interested article to help desensitize your
dog to your leaving the home.



Hope this is helpful.
Hi Don,

Just wanted to say welcome to yourself, wife and Max to the forum!

Sometimes you have to start right from scratch again and try to ease his anxiety by short times you leave and then return. Eventually increasing the time so he is comfortable once again.

With Panda one of my dogs whom was a rescue and suffered from seperation anxiety I had him in one room and would leave it for 1 min and return. Lots of praise and good dog!! Gradually I increased the time allowing him to see I always returned and would praise him for it.

I can now allow all three of my dogs to be in my home while I'm at work with nothing touched when I return. They spend the day sleeping (as I've had many opportunities to observe when I'm on school breaks). Another thought was although Max didn't mind being outdoors previously you may provide him with a nice comfy dog bed out there or perhaps sit with him on weekends outside in that same area so as he views it as not a bad thing. In doggie language banishment from the group/pack is seen as punishment and perhaps he now views that area as such perhaps?

I love Kongs as they have enticing smells like peanut butter or cream cheese stuffed inside..(whatever you choose) and with some kibbles stuffed in a well. Your boy may just be lonely and perhaps you may even think of hiring someone to come by to take him for walks occasionally. A tired dog is a good dog.

Good luck with Max!

Marianne and the boys
Bosley's mom wrote:
Get this book:

"I'll Be Home Soon!" by Patricia McConell.
Did you mean The Other End of the Leash (Paperback), by Patricia McConnell?
Ron wrote:
Bosley's mom wrote:
Get this book:

"I'll Be Home Soon!" by Patricia McConell.
Did you mean The Other End of the Leash (Paperback), by Patricia McConnell?

Patricia McConnell has both of these and several more books about canine behavior.

"I'll Be Home Soon!" deals specifically with separation anxiety.

"The Other End of the Leash" is more of a leisurely reading book, with stories and insite in different chapters of all kinds of doggie behavior. I LOVE this book...but lent mine out and can't recall to who.. :evil:
I can't find the others. Can you find the ISBN or check the title/author? :D
I don't know how to set up a link, but this is the book.

I'll be Home Soon (Paperback), by Patricia McConnell

Hi. I have recently worked through a major separation anxiety issue. As many here already know, I am caring for a 6 year old OES showdog that belonged to my brother who passed suddenly in June. Obviously, Denver had a lot of separation issues from finding his owner and alerting the neighbor, being moved from Kansas to Ohio, and thrown into a home with people he really didn't know with 2 small dogs and a parrot.

In this transition, I consulted various breeders and vets and through all of that, found that spray Pheromones were the answer. I was very skeptical at first, but being at my wits end, decided to give it a try. What a difference! I made the decision to crate Denver (and the other dogs in a separate crate beside him) when noone was home for his own safety. (He would run from window to window jumping on anything in order to see where I was). I added a blanket, a favorite toy and would give 9 short sprays of the Pheremones 3 or 4 minutes before I left the house. It only took a day or two and it was apparent he began to relax. Now, when I get my keys to leave, he and the other dogs automatically go to the crate for their treat before I leave. Denver even will take naps in his crate when we are at home. Again, I never would have thought this would have worked, but, I am a real believer now. I used it for about 6 weeks whenever we left the house and in the car. (That one still needs work, he gets so excited) There is no odor and humans smell nothing when it is used. Hope this helps.
I'm sorry Max is having issues. Have you recently changed your schedule? Like maybe being gone longer than usual, or more frequent? Or maybe someone had been on vacation and home a lot more and then now all of a sudden back to the regular routine?

That can cause dogs to get upset because they rely on schedules and structure and often don't like if it is messed with.
We adopted a rescue sheepie with big time separation anxiety and we've been able to work through most of it. We were her third home not including a month at a shelter in her first 10 months of life and she spent too much time in a crate.

Here is a link with info about SA in case it will help (our vet gave us the link)- http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Conten ... ourceID=42

After trying all the ideas listed, we had to go with medication because her case was so severe. No matter what approach you take, it will take time to work through this.
PS- I agree about the citronella collars... we used them on a few in our notorious barkers in the pack but they proved NOT to be the solution so have packed them all away. (We use a noisy pan to stop the barking now.)
Im in the same position as you are and I think it's only getting worse. I adopted my girl 4 months ago, she's about two years old and goes crazy when I leave. She's broken her way out of everything I attempted to confine her in and was finally doing well when given free roam of the appartment but now she going at the door that I leave out of. She's torn down 3 sets of curtains now, has scratched the paint off of half the door (pretty deep in one place) and paces howling and barking for I don't know how long. I don't know how to correct her since I am not home. HELP!!
that is pretty extreme! I would - personally no that it is for everyone - try an erbal or medical route. Doggie prozac is prescribed for seperation anxiety. it helps them calm down enough for you to train them through it.
I don't know how to correct her since I am not home.

That's the thing about separation anxiety... the dog just can't control their behavior. It's beyond their ability so no matter how frustrating this is, we just can't scold them. It may make them even more anxious about our return.

The SA was so bad for Panda we couldn't even have a closed door between us or she would get destructive or potty in the house. She too could not be confined to a crate or she would drool terribly, howl and soil her crate so we puppy-proofed a room. She chewed the top plate of the Dutch door (destroyed a yet to be installed car starter, turned the stove burner on, chewed things, etc.) . We weren't sure exactly WHAT she was doing when we left so we video taped her... for maybe 1 1/2 hours she paced and whined... the entire time :cry: The dog was suffering emotionally.

Have you spoken with your vet about a medication like Clomipramine or Clomicalm... possibly another... that might take the edge off? Panda was on meds for almost a year... it took this long for her to learn that we were of course coming back to her. But meds were only part of the equation... they recommend behavior modification too.

You might try taking her out for good round of play before leaving. Maybe have a safe food toy you can leave her with... give it to her as you go out the door. If you leave the TV or radio on, it might provide some comfort so she doesn't feel so alone.

Good luck to you.
Thanks for the advice and stories. Sometimes I just think she's so damaged from her past that I'm not qualified to fix her until I here other stories and realize that they are normal issues and can be corrected. I think I definately need to pay closer attention to suddle things that I am doing and try different ways to keep her occupied. Toys were difficult with her too. She only has a couple toys that she will play with and is scared of anything that squiks or wiggles. She loves treat toys, but tends to destroy, devower, or lick clean in seconds, and then comes looking for me of course. I also enrolled in basic training for her which Im really hoping helps but doesn't start for a few weeks. At this rate she just may successfully dig a whole through my front door soon. But I am mostly worried about her. Although I may be upset at damage I am never mad at her or try to punish her. I do know better then that and the look on her face not only shows how happy she is to see me but that she has no idea she did anything wrong. Any quick damage control suggestions in the meantime?
I posted recently about a similar problem, see "Incessent Barking". We have been able to curtail Winny's SA barking/whining when we leave. She too has had several homes and shelter/kennel stays. It's a constant struggle. I have to say that, though some may disagree with me here, that having another dog seems to help with this. I think they enjoy the companionship.

My last post under "incessent barking" lists the steps we took that are helping with Winny. You should give them a try.
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