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How to help a dog with Separation Anxiety.

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by sue&harvey, Jul 17, 2010.


  1. sue&harvey

    sue&harvey PetForums VIP

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    Separation Anxiety in Dogs

    There has been loads of people asking for advice about this recently, so I thought I would try and put some information all in one place. Please feel free to add any further advice :)

    Separation Anxiety Definition :- The term separation anxiety is not exclusive to dogs or even to veterinary medicine. It is a psychological term to describe the stress and anxiousness in an individual brought on by the leaving (perceived or imagined) of another individual. In the case of a pet, it is usually an anxiety brought on by separation from the primary pet caretaker. In the case of humans, anxiety in a child from being separated from a parent.

    What classifies as a "separation"? This varies greatly between animals: some must have "their person" within their line of sight, other pets are fine as long as the owner is within a comfortable distance (i.e. somewhere else in the house), and still others are fine until the owner leaves. Even finer distinctions would be animals that are fine for a certain period of time after their owner leaves, but then start to show signs of anxiousness some time later.

    Just like the variance in what stresses out each individual, the signs of separation anxiety vary greatly as well.

    Which Dogs can be effected by Separation Anxiety:- The answer to this is ANY! There are some breeds believed to be prone to SA. Some of these are German Shepherds, Airedales, Springer Spaniels, Australian Shepherds and Weimaraners, to name a few. This is not to say all of these dogs will not cope being left alone, as with all dogs it will vary greatly depending on the individual.

    Plus a higher number of dogs that come from a shelter or rescue home, seem to develop dog separation anxiety easily. These dogs might have gone through some severe trauma, or abandonment before ending up in the shelter and once they are placed in a home with an owner they can trust, they will start relying on that owner a lot faster than dogs that haven't experienced any trauma in their life already.
    Pups that leave their litter too early are also predisposed to SA.

    How to prevent your new puppy, or dog from being affected by Separation Anxiety :- Owners need to help their dog, or puppy to find a happy medium between companionship and becoming sufficiently independent to tolerate being alone for periods of time. Dogs do not electively engage in anxious behaviours. They develop over a period of time, and becomes a panic response. People must condition their dogs to stay calm when left alone. To condition means to get the dog used to specific things, situations and events. That's why it's important to practice leaving and returning to the dog frequently, starting when you first bring the dog into your home and family.

    Teach your dog from the start that your leaving the house is an ordinary, regular event. Help your dog build tolerance for your departures and absences. Calm departures and homecomings will help the dog to relax. When leaving do not have emotional goodbyes, this will not help the dog .

    Mummy “ ahh poor baby, will you miss mummy?” Kiss Kiss Kiss “Don’t worry mummy be back soon”

    Puppy Where’s she going, why all this fuss, that thing they call a coat, she only puts that on when she goes outside… I wanna go! Don’t want to stay on my own!!! Panic Response Alert !!!

    The same applies for your return. Take your coat off unpack the shopping, open your mail, then when the dog is calm let them outside to toilet. (Still not spoken to him) When he had been to the loo, then you can give him praise and a little play session.

    When you first bring home your bundle of fluff and needle sharp teeth, let them explore the outside area first ( get them used to going outside, it will help when toilet training, and big fuss for toileting outside.) Then take them inside letting them explore their new kingdom in stages.

    Have the dog's bed and bowl of water ready in a safe, well-lighted, comfortable confined area with "family smells", such as a gated-off kitchen, family room or crate placed in a family area. (Do not confine in basements, garages, storage rooms, or other non-family areas). This nice "den" will be the place in which she will stay when you are not home to supervise. Take her to that place, tell her lie down (guide her if she has not yet learned that command). Then give her one or two safe chew toys and praise her. Couple a food treat with the verbal praise. In fact, it's helpful to keep a small bag of tiny tipbit treats on you at all times during the acclimation and training phases.

    Next, close the door or gate to the room or crate, and step back. See if she is staying calm. Resist the urge to talk to the dog, since that will distract her from this desired, calm, relaxed behaviour. ( He should be shattered from his trip to his new home, and all that exploring)

    If she stays reasonably calm when separated from you for a minute or two, let her stay there as long as she seems comfortable. (See thread “Cages” in Dog Chat) If the dog is good in her confined area, this is a very good sign. You can begin to add calm, quiet verbal praise and an occasional food treat to this acclimation routine as a reward for being good and calm in her confined area.

    Over the next few days and weeks encourage your new pup or dog to sleep in his safe area. Slowly increase the amount of time they are left. A dog that is left regularly will become well adapted and sufficiently independent to cope with being alone.

    Also install baby gates so you dog learns to accept he cannot access you when ever he wants. He can see you, but cannot always get to you.

    Spend time training your dog to happily accept alone time will save you, your dog and you neighbours a lot of stress in the long run!
     
    #1 sue&harvey, Jul 17, 2010
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2010
  2. sue&harvey

    sue&harvey PetForums VIP

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    Punishment and adversaries will not work:- Punishing, aversive training methods and coercion will not work! Please, Please, Please, do not employ the use of shock, spray, noise or any other foul collar. Shock pads are even worse. They are ridiculously expensive and you will end up compounding the dogs issues.

    Ok so forget the dog for a second… Think of something that makes you panic. Your worst fear…. Got it ???


    Right mine is Spiders… I hate them, really give me the heebey geebies. I’m a complete wimp and run screaming from the room! No person with any compassion would attempt to treat my fear by punishing me! (I would get the kitchen knife first)

    But for the purpose of this let’s say that is exactly what someone comes and does.

    They lock me in a dark shed, fully of spiders webs, and loads of HUGE spiders. Then every time I screamed, tried to release my self, cried, killed one of the little blighters in an attempt to get them off me, my “healer” shocked me!!! This could go on for minutes’, hours or days, they didn’t tell me!!! I silently stand there, shaking and sobbing until I either faint, die of fright, go into clinical shock, or they let me out! :scared: :crying:

    Yeah right, I am really going to want to go NEAR a spider again.

    I think most would agree this would compound my fear, rather than heal it. Congratulations you have now taught me “learned helplessness”. And the next time you come near me, I will have that kitchen knife in my hand, another congratulations I am now aggressive.

    This is exactly what these sorts of aversive methods do!!! Please, Please do not put your dog through this!!!!
     
  3. sue&harvey

    sue&harvey PetForums VIP

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    Signs and symptoms of Separation Anxiety:-
    Before you go! Introducing Velcro dog!



    Your dog or puppy needs to be with you: If your dog has separation anxiety, you may find that they always need to be in the same room as you, or within eyesight. If you make a move to another room, they will immediately get up to follow you. They are calmest when they are right next to you, and you aren’t moving. Some people call this behaviour ‘Velcro-ing’ because the dog is ’stuck’ to you. Clinically this is called ‘hyper-attachment’ and is a major identifier of separation anxiety in dogs.

    Anxiety And Nervousness: when you are getting ready to leave: Dogs are smart animals – your dog has probably figured out that you are going to leave by how you act before leaving the house. These leaving signals can trigger anxiety in your dog before you have even gone. For example, Scout used to run to the door when I picked up my keys and jingled them. He also knew that when I put on shoes or sandals, that I was getting ready to go. He would stand at the door and block me, to make sure I wasn’t leaving without him. Dogs will also pace back in forth, nervous that you are about to leave.
    Chewing Items that smell like you: Dogs like to chew on your underwear and socks because they smell like you. Make sure you pick up, and give the dogs other items to chew on.

    While you are absent! Introducing the devil incarnate!
    Barking, Howling and Whining: Your dog barking when you leave is a very common symptom of dog separation anxiety. Typically, your dog will show signs of anxiety, and begin whining or pacing before you leave. As the anxiety level increases, this may change to whining, then barking. These are not normal barks – your dog is having an anxiety attack because they think that you are not coming back and need to be with you. This is a huge problem with Condo and apartment tenants. Many cases of dogs returning to shelters are because of Separation issues.

    Digging, Scratching, Chewing: The next level of separation anxiety is when a dog moves beyond barking and starts get physical. This type of scratching chewing and digging is an attempt to escape from the confines of the room, house, or yard so that they can find you. Some dogs will be in such a panic that they will rub their noses and paws completely raw, break through glass, tear down walls, and otherwise injure you or your property to get to you.


    Destroying the House! Your dog may also get downright destructive. I have seen many couches ruined, carpets pulled up, and cabinets destroyed. This is a symptom of separation anxiety when these behaviours happen only when you are not present. If you don’t curb this behaviour quickly, the costs can become enormous.
    If you have a puppy, they may be teething and need a better variety of safe treats to chew on. If your dog is also destructive while you are home, they probably need more exercise, and stronger training regime. You should also keep an eye on your dog so that you can correct the behaviour while it is happening.

    Peeing and Pooing around the House: Some dogs will go to the toilet around the house when you leave. This is caused because they are so scared and anxious, that they lose control of their bowels and bladder. They are truly in a panic. Healthy adult dogs should be able to hold their bladder for at least 5 hours. Puppies typically can hold their bladder 1 hour for every month of age. You probably know your dog’s routine, if this behaviour is outside of normal, they most likely have separation anxiety!


    When you return! Overjoyed dog in the middle of a war zone!

    Over Excitement: A common symptom of an anxious dog is that they when they see you again, they are excessively overjoyed. The greeting is not normal and calm, it is frantic and uncontrolled. Your dog thought you would never return, so they are not just saying ‘Hello’, they are expressing their relief at no longer being abandoned.
    Not all dogs display these behaviours, some display mild symptoms such as whining, others will destroy a room that they are left in until you return. Separation anxiety is a serious condition and robs both you and your dog of a healthy relationship

    Please, where possible ask a GOOD behaviourist to diagnose Separation Anxiety, and assist with a behaviour modification plan, as each dog is different!
     
  4. sue&harvey

    sue&harvey PetForums VIP

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    Ok, so we have Velcro-devil-destroyer dog, HELP!

    This next part takes time, commitment and consistency. Sorry no quick fix!


    When we found out from six out of eleven neighbours Harvey was howling the house down the entire time we were out, I turned to this forum and received some fantastic advice. Due to where I live, I was unable to seek advice from a behaviourist. (Language barrier and disagreement in techniques used! Those shock collars again)

    This next bit is bits of advice I received, and my own experience all compiled into one, hopefully helpful post!

    Calmatives

    Calmatives are not sedatives! Please don’t use sedatives even if they worked in the book “Marley and me”!

    Types of calmatives widely available either in the shops, on the net or from the vet are:-

    DAP- Dog appeasing Pheromone collars and diffusers are widely available.
    Taken from Nutrecare website

    DAP is a synthetic copy of a dog's naturally occurring appeasing pheromones from the lactating female. The DAP Diffuser works like a plug in air freshener, continuously releasing the odourless natural pheromone into the dogs environment, helping to make it feel safe and calm. The DAP Diffuser is a natural solution, there is no sedative effect and the dogs ability to interact and play is maintained.

    A lot of people have dogs who are frightened of fireworks, and it is very distressing for owners to see their beloved friends cowering or shivering in a corner during this season, which seems to get longer each year. The only solution for many is sedatives. This is only a short term solution and is not good long term for the dog.


    Plug DAP into an electric outlet in the room most frequented by the dog. The diffuser is reusable and vials may be replaced as needed. Each vial lasts approximately four weeks and covers up to 650-square-feet.


    DAP Dog Appeasing Pheromone diffuser releases a pacifying pheromone which has been successfully used to treat chronic problems such as destruction, barking, whining, house soiling or excessive licking in adult dogs.

    Overcome separation anxiety.
    One Dog Appeasing Pheromone diffuser will cover between 50 and 70 sqm; so please check the size of your house as you may need more than one diffuser.

    Bach Rescue Remedy. A few drops in their water


    Dr Edward Bach discovered 38 remedies which he split into seven different groups that can be combined to suit any individual. The flower remedies are made from wild plants, trees and bushes. They work by treating the individual rather than the disease or its symptoms and are a gentle way to manage your emotions and rediscover a positive side to yourself.
    Each of the 38 Bach™ Original Flower Remedies is unique and helps treat a different emotion. Most people find it reasonably easy to select their own remedies. All you need to do is find the remedy (or remedies) that seem to reflect your situation, mood or personality best. All the states described are everyday human emotions that we feel from time to time. Even the most negative state has a corresponding positive quality that shows us what we can be when we are completely ourselves.
    For more information about how to select your own Bach™ Original Flower Remedies and courses to learn more about the system of 38 remedies developed by Dr Bach visit our Bach™ Original Flower Remedies brand site.
    (Always read the label.)

    ZYLKENE

    Zylkene is not a drug as such, it is a food supplement made from a protein found in milk. The active ingredient is a peptide (a simple sort of protein molecule) which is able to bind temporarily to certain receptors in the brain. This has a calming influence which is similar in some ways to tranquilliser drugs such as diazepam (“Vallium”), but without the side effects. It has been clinically proven to be effective in dogs and cats (as well as rats and humans). It is supplied in 3 different sizes of capsule, chosen according to the size of the animal to be treated. The capsules are opened and sprinkled on food once daily. The contents seem to taste delicious to most dogs and cats and are easy to give. It is possible to provide treatment for just a few days if it is to cover a particular stressful event, such as travelling away for the weekend. However it is perfectly safe in most situations to give for long periods if needed. Usually a course is given for 2 – 4 weeks then re-assessed. If in doubt ask your vet, or email us at VioVet for more information. Zylkene is available without prescription and is a safe, natural treatment worth trying for most dogs or cats suffering from stress. It should be used with caution in animals known to be sensitive or allergic to milk, though in fact it is very unlikely to cause trouble even to these animals.


    With Harvey we chose Zylkene, as it was one of the few we could easily obtain. Personally I think it made a difference, but again each dog is different.
    There are plenty more calmatives, so have a good look and speak with your vet to find the best for your dog.
     
  5. sue&harvey

    sue&harvey PetForums VIP

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    Crate Training.

    I don’t want to go too much into crate training here, as there is a good sticky in “Dog Chat” about “Cages”. DO NOT USE A CRATE TO HELP EASE SEPARATION ANXIETY UNTIL THE DOG IS REALLY COMFORTABLE ABOUT BEINGIN THERE!

    Provided a crate is introduced in a positive manner, made a nice place to be, and NEVER used as a punishment, then it could (and did become mine) your biggest ally with combating Separation Anxiety.

    The dog has a safe place, or den where he can retreat to in stressful situations. Also you leave him in a safe environment where he cannot chew through your antique table or the live wire of your TV.

    A friend of mine has a staffie cross who was slicing her paws on the carpet grips at all the doors in their 3 story house. The behaviourist suggested the dog feels it has to protect her domain when her owners were out. With so many doors to protect she would dash between each door tearing carpets and paws as she went. They introduced the crate and voila one door, relaxed dog!

    To effectively manage the problem, you need to put the dog in a situation where he cannot make a mistake.

    Comforting sounds and smells.

    Leaving the TV or radio on can sooth the dog. Radio stations like BBC Radio 4 is great, lots of talking, or he may be partial to classic FM. Whatever works for him.

    Also a well worn but not washed top of yours near to him but out of chewing distance can help here too.

    Desensitization!

    Hutch6 gave this fantastic piece of advice for getting your dog happy for you to be out of sight, and teaching that you always come back

    http://www.petforums.co.uk/1666248-post8.html

    Once you get to a stage where they are happy for you to be out of sight and are happy in their crate (or whichever area you want to leave them) then move on to the next step. Please do not rush, it takes time but will be really worth it in the end! If you think the dog has “got it” stay on the same step for a further 3 days! Really ingrained then.

    The first step is to ensure the dog is sufficiently tired. Exercise, play, train…. Hard. You want him to be ready for long sleep. For this first step a good play and training session should do the trick. You must be calm and relaxed or the dog will pick up on it.

    1) Put the dog in his area, having made sure he is empty, and basic needs met. Then follow your normal leaving routine, grab your keys. Then sit down and read a magazine.

    Repeat 10 times a day, until the dog no longer even bothers to lift an eyelid.


    2) As above place the dog in his area, after meeting basic needs, introduce a stuffed Kong 10 minutes before you get ready. (something to keep him occupied) Go through your normal routine, go out the door, close it, then come straight back in.

    Again repeat minimum 10 times a day, until he thinks you are simply mad, and doesn’t bat an eye lid.

    If you have a car, this could also be a trigger, so step 3 may be to open and close the car door, and go straight back. Then turn the engine on etc.

    3) This is where you need to up the exercise, and stimulation to tire. Do all of stage 2, give the Kong etc. Very slowly begin to increase the time, 30 seconds, 1 minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 5 minutes and so on. REMEMBER you are setting the dog up to succeed.

    4) Once you can leave for 30 minutes, you can then build this into hours, again 1 hour, 1 hour 30 mins, 2 hours etc.

    CONGRATULATIONS WITH HARD WORK, UNDERSTANDING, AND CONSISTANT TRAINING YOU HAVE A DOG THAT NO LONGER HOWLS, CHEWS AND SPENDS ALL HIS TIME WAITING DESPERATLY FOR YOU TO COME BACK.

    If you haven’t then you really need to employ a behaviourist to assist you, if you haven’t already.

    Once you successfully get to this stage, after about 6 months of happily being left alone, you can take steps to withdraw calmatives very slowly, and shorten the length of extra exercise. Don’t do it too quickly and undo the hard work.

    Harvey is getting there now. If I want to pop to the shops, I will give him a quick walk, and a Kong or chewy and he is happy. He now has no calmatives. It’s been really hard work but well worth it.

    If this helps only one person, then I will be pleased. I know how stressful SA is and the impact it can have :)
     
  6. sue&harvey

    sue&harvey PetForums VIP

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    Bump .... :)
     
  7. Bearpaw

    Bearpaw PetForums VIP

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    Wow Sue,thats a great thread,deserves to be a sticky!!! you worked really hard and hopefully itll help lots of people not to get in/or who are in that situation :)
     
  8. sue&harvey

    sue&harvey PetForums VIP

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    Cheers BP :) I know how horrible it is to deal with.
     
  9. Amy&Ted

    Amy&Ted PetForums VIP

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    This is a FANTASTIC thread! Ted is displaying signs of SA... he has the classic signs of being a "velcro dog" He follows me everywhere and whines if i even dare to so much as go to the toilet.

    I'm going to take my time and digest all you have written here and hopefully find a way to ease my little guy into a happy place when i'm out.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to write this!
    :thumbup:
     
  10. sue&harvey

    sue&harvey PetForums VIP

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    Glad you found it helpful :)

    Thanks Tashi :)

    I have probably missed loads out, so please feel free to add :)
     
  11. madonna

    madonna PetForums Member

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    :eek:hi mine barks and howls , when i pop ot , and yhats even if someone is with him. .. i will try this but hes a weimaraner so its in his breed. thanks for the post .
     
  12. WoodyGSP

    WoodyGSP PetForums Senior

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    Woody always scratches the books off the book shelf (in my hall, by the front door) when we go out.
    I usually leave the lounge door shut and he has the hall and kitchen. But today the door was open when we got back and guess what, the books were where we left them:thumbup:
    He had moved a few shoes, but no damage, so I'm going the leave the door open in future. I was always worried he'd chew the sofa or something, but I think he just feels better being able to look out the front window.
     
  13. cpatel

    cpatel PetForums Junior

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    Hi

    This is a great topic, very interesting. Some very good points!

    I wanted to say that we should not forget that separation related problems can have a number of different 'motivations' apart from anxiety and we generally tend to label most dogs who present with separation related problems with Sep Anx. forgetting to consider other possibilities such as frustration, conditioned (learn't) behaviours...


    Have seen clients who have seen trainer and behaviourists who have "diagnosed" Sep Anx. and "treated" accordingly but with little or no success, on evaluating some of these cases, I don't believe that a lot of these dogs have anxiety based problems when left.

    Chirag

    Chirag Patel BSc (Hons), DipCABT, CPDT
    San Francisco SPCA Certificates in Training & Behaviour and Dog Aggression
    Member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers #00923 (UK) #71093 (US)
    Pets as Therapy Assessor

    Dog Star Daily Blogger – Please check out Dog Star Daily for loads of free puppy & dog training articles, videos and blogs.

    Telephone: 077 2531 0204
    Email: cpatel@domesticatedmanners.com
    Website: www.domesticatedmanners.com

    (BSc (Hons) = Bachelor of Science in Veterinary Science from the Royal Veterinary College, London)
    (DipCABT = Advanced Diploma in Practical Aspects of Companion Animal Behaviour & Training from the Centre of Applied Pet Ethology)
    (CPDT = Certified Pet Dog Trainer with the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers)
     
  14. madonna

    madonna PetForums Member

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    hi i have a 5 monh old weimaraner boy , i can go out or as someone on here has said go o the loo or shut thre door on him, h wont wee in thr garden without a door open , i know this breed is known for it , does this mean i have a lifetiome of this or can it be a puppy thing , i see so many for homing and they all say cant be left, i have days out coming up and , feel i cant leave him , he barks so loud. im at home most days and hes only left for short times .i try leeving doors shut and stair gates to ty and get him usd to not being next to me ,my brother went to a doberman rescue show today and told someone i have a weim , and her reply was good luck! doesnt help. cant bear to think heed have to go as we love him and hes part of our family now , can this be conquered ,,,help ?
     
  15. sue&harvey

    sue&harvey PetForums VIP

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    The good news is that just because he is a Weimy does not mean he will, or indeed has SA. It's like saying all beagles will never be off lead, or all GSD will guard and become aggressive.

    Although the breed seems prone to it, you and your Weimy can lead a normal life.

    You need to be very consistant and strong. You need to leave them on a regular basis, so they learn being on their own is not a bad thing, and you alway come back. Not peeing in the garden without a door open, is not uncommon in dogs.

    If you have pet insurance it may cover behaviourist costs. If you can get help to nip this in the bud now, it will be easier to combat. The longer it goes on, the more practised and learned the behaviour will become.

    Have a chat with your vet, and ask for a behaviourist referal. PLEASE only use a behaviourist that uses NO ADVERSARIES!!!

    Hope this helps, and good luck, let us know how it goes :)
     
  16. madonna

    madonna PetForums Member

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    hi sue and harvey, thanks for that , at 5 months how long should i leave him for, and is it normal for him to b stressed if he can still see me but is behind a stairgate? he cries and pants even if other people are their . :confused:
     
  17. sue&harvey

    sue&harvey PetForums VIP

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    He should be learning to be happy on his own. Have a look in the link where Hutch6 gave some great desensitization techniques :)
     
  18. crosscairn

    crosscairn PetForums Junior

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    Thank you so much for this post Sue.

    The bit about the dog slicing itself on carpet rails just screamed out to me, I made another post just a few minutes ago on my dog doing this.

    I noted your point about crating, I had asked on my other post re crating during the day. It would be three hours, then out over lunch then back for four hours. While I can see how thats on the extreme side and maybe viewed by some as too long, I am worried about my dog doing himself a serious injury. What are your views?

    Thanks
     
  19. sue&harvey

    sue&harvey PetForums VIP

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    Hi I am no expert, and my first suggestion would be to involve a good behaviourist. But ad far as crating goes, as a short term measure, as long as you exercise him properly then it is safer than him causing himself an injury. If it becomes long term I would say try and get someone in for an hour to brake the day up a bit for him.

    Good luck, hope you manage to sort it soon :)
     
  20. crosscairn

    crosscairn PetForums Junior

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    It definitely would be short term, 2-3 weeks max. The crate has helped a lot with his night time behaviour, I'm hopeful that it will do the same for this daytime madness! I'd adjust his morning exercise accordingly. I sit in work worried in case he's done himself an injury. The carpet I can replace, the little 'un I can't.
     
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