Thursday, July 10, 2008

Separation Anxiety

I found this video of another Beagle who suffers from separation anxiety. Notice how the beagle leaves the food and water alone... he is too upset to think about eating. I'm sure if there were chew toys and other things they would be left alone too.

Duke, when we first adopted him, was far worse. He'd urinate within minutes of being left alone and howl non-stop, destroy rugs, chew his leash, and overturn everything in sight.

We've been working on this and he's getting better. We've left him alone for 1 hour and recorded him as well (audio only). He generally settles down after howling for a few minutes and in the span of an hour may howl 5-10 times in total. Patricia McConnell has a great booklet called "I'll Be Home Soon" which describes the program of desensitization we're following.

Some key takeaways:

1) Leave home and come home without fuss. We ignore Duke when we come home and when we leave we try to do it promptly and ignore him.

2) Associate positives with being home alone - We feed Duke his meals by the door and leave as soon as he gets his food.

3) Slowly turn up the length - We started by just sitting outside the door for 3 minutes.. then 4... then 5.... and now we're able to go to the gym and work out (1 hour)

4) Exercise helps - we make sure Duke has plenty of activity like fetch, tug, etc. to make sure his natural prey drive instinct is well satisfied.

What we've read is after you break the 2 hour window, your dog is pretty much cured!


Don said...

Our 13 month old beagle has similar issues. We've gotten her to stop crying as we're leaving, but while we're gone, her toys don't move an inch. I even fill them up with her favorite treats. They are in the exact same place when we return, about 90% of the time. What's funny is that as soon as we come home (and I stress AS SOON AS), she's all over those treat-filled toys. It bothers me that she's that upset that she won't touch her favorite toys.

Recently, we left her for the longest time yet - about 8 hours (we rarely leave her for more than 3-4, and my sister did come over to walk her mid-day), and she chewed open one of her pillows in her kennel. Stuffing everywhere! And yet - treat filled toys had not budged an millimeter. That baffles me!! I hope it gets better over time. I want to tape her, too, to see how she does.

Beaglor said...

Hi Don,

You might want to try crating your beagle instead. Even up till today we crate him if he's left alone for more than an hour. We've recorded him and he barely makes a peep in his crate. It can be a less stressful way to stay at home alone for your little girl.

That way you can slowly work up to being left home alone safely!

Anonymous said...

I crate my 12 month old beagle.
He chews the treats out of his Kong right away and then starts to whine and howl. He has howled for over an hour before i finally had to come in from outside and stop it.
I have tried not making a big deal about leaving, i have tried a ctronella collar as well as a shock collar and he can whine uner the frequency that it requires to shock him.
I am getting notices from the city and cant take him to work and the gym with me everyday. he's only left alone for maybe 4 hours at a time, but if this continues, the city is going to make me get rid of him or debark him.
both are not options i am willing to do.
please help!

Andre said...

Hi Nickname Unavailable,

In the short term can you consider a doggy daycare or boarding service. It is going to add up but consider it a short term reprieve while you deal with the issue.

Secondly for a quick short term fix you may want to consult your vet for anti anxiety meds. Again this is not a real solution but its a band aid to keep you out of trouble while you work on the underlying problem.

Thirdly, citron collars are garbage. The dogs get used to it. I tried. All I ended up with is a lemon smelling beagle. I have no experience with a shock collar and have heard conflicting things. Again it treats the symptom but not the cause. If you go that route, you can't use the garbage brands sold at major chains. You should use high end gear used by hunters (brands like Tri-tronics) which are carried by web sites like They work on vibration and sound so there aren't false shocks or frequencies.

Those are the 3 short term fixes you should consider. I am nervous about the shock collar anti bark approach, but it is worth considering. None of these 3 are cures but are just approaches to short term management.

Real actions for fixing your beagle's problem include:

1) Get professional help (ask vet, obedience school for a behaviorist that specializes in humane treatment). Don't rely on the Internet completely. Its like going to a medical site to do self diagnosis and not seeing a doctor

2) Planned Departure techniques as described by Patricia McConnell's booklet "I'll be home soon"

3) Increasing exercise (fetch, running, tug) and stimulation (obedience school, possibly agility, flyball, etc.)

Debarking is not humane and frankly I am surprised that you are legally allowed to do it where you live. (or that you would be required by law to do it)