August 06, 2006

Howler

So our new apartment is fantastic. It has everything we want... lots more space... great location... amazing view. Fergus on the other hand is having a problem - He doesn't like it when we leave.

We've never had this problem before... maybe this place is too big or the ceilings are too high... but he barks when we leave. Classic separation anxiety.

At our last 3 places we've lived at with Fergus our living room window looked out onto the street and he could watch us walk away. Over the years I've video taped him to see what he does when we leave... he would whine a little or bark at the occasional passer-by but never for very long. Mostly he just watched out the window or slept.

He's not a player of toys while we're not home. Even if we leave him a Kong with treats inside... he'll just wait till we get home and then attack it.

So when we first moved in we had a note tacked to our door telling us that Fergus had barked for most of the day while we were at work. YIKES! So we've been taking him to doggie daycare ever since. He loves it there... gets to hang out with other dogs and is so wiped out from playing that when we get home we don't have to run him very hard before we settle in for the night. But the downside is that it's very expensive and they're not open weekends (when I sometimes have to work)...

I ended up having to work this Sat, so we decided to try him at home alone. I set up the video camera by the door and left. I sat down in the lobby for 30 minutes listening to see if he'd bark and he didn't. We figured that he's settled into the new house now... he'll be cool.

I left a note on my door saying we were trying Fergus at home today and if he barked to please let us know (and I taped a pen to the paper).

We came home to silence (YAY) and a new note on the door (OH NO). It was from our very kind neighbor's (who also have a dog and a great sense of humour). The note was from their dog (hee hee) who told us Fergus barked intermittently during the day. They also left us a doggie cookie (cute).

We came home and watched the video and it wasn't good. Our neighbor's must have not been home all day because Fergus barked... a lot... There was barking, whining, pawing at the door (insert awwww sound here) and worst of all. Howling. Yes. I said howling. We've NEVER heard him howl EVER but at least 3 times during the day he tipped his head back, pursed his lips and howled up at the moon (in this case a lighting fixture).

I almost started crying. I feel soooooo bad. Poor little buddy.

So I guess it's back to doggie daycare on the days I have to work at the shop... but here's the thing. We don't want Fergus to not be ok with being alone. I think it's important for a dog to be ok with being alone sometimes... What if we want to go to a movie? Ya dig?

So if any of you have any tips for doggie separation anxiety I would love to hear them.

Here's a bad quality video of him howling... as sad as it made me... it's also really cute when dogs howl. :)

17 comments:

Nighttime_stars said...

Dogs feel overwhelmed when they're left alone in a large area...They feel like it's too much for them to guard I guess. You could try putting him in a smaller area.

Sarah's Blog said...

Thank you Nighttime_stars
Yes. We've noticed that he spends a lot of time under things since we moved here. Under the couch. Under the blankets. Under the bed.

I've been looking at finding him a nice little doggie cave. I haven't found anything I like on-line ... so I am going to hit the petstore today.

Great advice. :)

Amberly said...

I read that seperation anxiety peaks at 30 minutes. Therefore it is recommended that you slowly build up to being away from home. first you leave for 5 minutes and come home. Then you leave for 10 min. and come back and so on. You gradually work up to 1.5 hours and then poor little Fergus should be fine to be left alone all day. It is worth a try! Also, it is important not topraise him before or after you return. The trips away form home are suppose to be stimulus free to ward off an anxiety attack. Good luck :) I have a problem chihuahua named Nacho. He has fear based aggression but that is a whole nother can of beans!

Sarah's Blog said...

Thanks Amberly
We never make a big deal when we leave or come home and he's really good. He's excited when we come home but there's just some wagging and a twirl. We don't say hello to him until he's calm. Doesn't take long... we've been doing that since he was a pup.

According the the video tape he was fine for the first 45 min. Then he started barking and howling. He'd do it for a while... then stop. Snooze. Wake up and start again.

I think we'll start doing smaller trips away (like you suggested) until things get better.

Thanks for your tips.
xoxo
SARAH

Karen said...

I'd suggest possibly taken him to work with you but there would likely be hygeine issues having him at the shop. Do you have friends with dogs that might be willing to have a "playdate" with Fergus on weekends when you have to work?

My cat did the same thing when I first moved into my apartment. We came from a house with 3 other cats and 2 other humans. He did so often and so loudly that he ended with laryngitis - it was horrific. Even the vet didn't know what was wrong with the little guy. In the end, I had to get another cat to keep him company while I was at work. Did it help? Sort of...now they both make noise while I'm gone!!!

Kramers said...

Welcome to life with a child:)
Not always easy. Not always fun. But you love them so damn much you'll do anything to make them feel good and happy!
You'll figure it out... parents most always do.

xox

KleoPatra said...

Some good advice above... The video is sad and cute at the same time. Poor little buddy! Hope it works out that he will feel all better soon. A new place must be strange for him for now...

Süßstoff said...

Hi Sarah!
I think that's all been usefull advice! Also, getting another dog might be a very good idea! Dogs need company if possible at all times (much more than cats) and Fergus seems to like other dogs a lot... Think about it! Plus you'd make a dog from the shelter really really happy. (Also: Fergus is so small you can hardly count him as a dog, so you'd still just have one!

Btw: Did I tell you before that I love your cookbooks, because I do!

jromer said...

all the advice everyone has left so far sounds good. is this too cheesey? leaving some clothing that you recently worn with him? i dunno. poor baby.

vegamy said...

Have you ever heard of "The Dog Whisperer?" He's a brilliant dog/people trainer from Mexico named Cesar Millan (http://www.dogpsychologycenter.com/). He has a show on the National Geographic channel in the States, but you might not get than in Canada - I dunno. Anyway, he sells books and videos - and his techniques work. Separation anxiety is a common problem that he covers. Best of luck with the little buddy!

jenny said...

Aww! Poor little guy! We have a Border Collie we rescued at age 3 and she was ridiculous when we'd leave (crying, destroying things, chewing her paws, barking, digging, hiding from us when we came home, etc) - we tried everything under the sun and finally got another dog to keep her company. Now she's perfectly fine when left alone, and doesn't exhibit any of her previously anxiety-driven behavior.

Not that that is necessarily an option for you!

Danielle said...

I agree that you should consider adopting another dog for Fergus. It might allay his anxiety.

Sarah's Blog said...

I would love to get another dog but we're renting and we're only allowed one 4 legged animal.

wendy said...

Dear Fergus -

You can come visit me anytime your mommy has to work! I'll hump your head - it'll be fun!

Love,
Suzy

kinziephoto said...

poooooor Fergus!!!! heheheheheh I'm sorry - but sad as he is you're right - THAT is cute!

Vivacious Vegan said...

Check out The Dog Listener by Jan Fennell. I swear, if you follow what she says, it'll change your life. I also agree with Vegamy - Cesar Milan has a good book out as well.

Regarding separation anxiety, she says that dogs who are uncertain about their position in the pack (i.e. who's alpha member) will have separation anxiety. This is because they feel they must take on the roll of the alpha because for one reason or another, you're not demonstrating to them that you are alpha (perhaps something related to your recent move has changed things for her). In dogs who are uncomfortable being alpha (for example - in a dog pack they would never be alpha) this can lead to fear, nervousness, anxiety, etc. When they take the roll as alpha, they are viewing you as the subordinate (similar to a child). Imagine if your child left and had no way of communicating with you where she was going or when (or if) she'd be back? You'd probably be frantic with worry and would show the same symptoms of separation anxiety. If your dog doesn't have to fill the roll of alpha, then they can rest easily knowing that their leader will return (because that's what leaders do).

Anonymous said...

Sara...I totally agree with what V Vegan said. I've read many books on dog behavior and my Favourite has to be Jan Fennell-The Dog Listener. She really understands dogs and her methods don't invovle 'working with' a dog for an hour every day and totally fit in with a working person's life like yourself. Her theory is that most of a dog's problems stem from the fact that it's totally responsible for its pack (you) caused by recieving signals from you via your body language (that's how dogs communicate). Your dog's howling is because that's what a dog does if it has lost a member of it's pack (who it's responsible for) and it's trying to check they are safe and where they are. The reson your dog won't play with the toys you have provided it in your absense is because it's so worried about it's missing family (how would you cope if your dog was out in the world and you had no way of making sure he was safe and getting him back)-(to your dog you are his child). Other symptoms of dogs who feel they are alphas is feet chewing (to cope with the stress) cryng if you dissapear to go to the bathroom, sticking to you as your second shadow, aggresion towards people entering their den (house) etc...so as you can see nearly every problem stems from the idea that the dog believes it's alpha. I strongly recomend that you buy the book or the DVD (Jan Fennell) and promise you that if you follow it strictly then your dog will be a much happier one. Good Luck x