The Dog Charmer: Adopted Girlie suffers from separation anxiety

The dog charmer

Adopted Girlie suffers from separation anxiety

little girl

Dear Tom,

I got my dog, Girlie, from the Susquehanna SPCA last December. He’s a Rottweiler/Australian Shepherd mix about 7 years old. She suffers from separation anxiety which has worsened over the past few months. Luckily she agrees to be in a crate when I’m gone. She is afraid of loud wind noises, gunshots, or any sudden loud noises, and tries to hide around my legs or under furniture.

When I walk her, still on a leash, and we see another dog, she growls, barks and throws herself at the dog. Does she want to play or fight?

Thanks Tom
Girlie’s Frustrated Companion

Dear Frustrated Girlie Mate (GFC),

First of all, thank you for being one of the good guys and for adopting the shelter. You are not alone with separation anxiety.

First, you need to get Girlie to love the comfort and security of the crate. It’s the only place she feeds people. Several times throughout the day, throw small pieces of chicken or ham or whatever into the crate while telling her to go home. The crate door is left open.

Give him one of his two meals a day in the crate with the door open. Next, I want you to seriously demotivate leaving and returning home. No painful goodbyes. Just “See you later Girlie” while you toss some of the treats into the crate, in addition to some hollow marrowbones.

When you get home it’s a laid back “Hi Girlie”. Then let her out of the crate, it doesn’t matter. Then remove the special marrow bones. She only receives them when there is no one at home! Period. Soft classical or believe it or not, country western music in your absence can help. The old adage, “A tired dog is a well-behaved dog” has some validity. A walk before leaving can’t hurt.

I have seen over-the-counter products help some dogs. You may want to ask your vet. You don’t want to reward the fear response by telling her “it’s okay” and giving her treats while she curls up.

Instead of medication, if you really want to desensitize Girlie to loud noises, go online and get a recording of the sounds that dogs often startle such as thunder, sirens, gunshots, etc. Then have her lie down on one of her favorite comfort spots and play the recording soft enough that she tolerates it while you feed her tiny morsels of food.

With patience and repetition, slowly increase the volume, increasing his tolerance and desensitization.

In the vast majority of cases, dogs are more aggressive on a leash than off a leash. Although you may think they are protecting you, in reality they feel more secure being attached to you with the leash. The first mistake most people make is reacting negatively when they see another dog. You actually made the problem worse.

So when you approach another dog on your walks, give them treats and try to keep their attention on you. Girlie must also learn the “Leave It” command, to ignore whatever she focuses on.

There are plenty of dogs that have a great life without being social butterflies when it comes to being around other dogs.

Good luck
Tom Dog Charmer