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Old 09-10-2013, 08:09 AM
eDaniel eDaniel is offline
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Unhappy 'Taking responsibility': Separation anxiety, lack of time, unhappy canine.

Hello there!

First things first

I'm new to the forum, though I've been reading on it for a while. My name is Daniel and I'm a 26yo guy who simply loves dogs. I'm in need of advice / kind words / firm words, whichever you think are relevant to the matter. The title of this thread has the keywords of my problem, but I'll try to build up to it so the situation is clear - so bear with me. If you are wanting to help but lack information, after reading this text.. don't hesitate to ask.

My Background

I come from a family where dogs have always been an active part of the family and needless to say I grew up with one by my side. Our Goldens were typical role-model family Goldens: Friendly, gentle, obedient, active, happy, caring, intelligent and rather healthy. Personally, I've always been able to communicate well with dogs and I often earn (or, at least, receive) their trust fast by that. This especially came in handy when I moved in with my partner.. and her dog. Bringing us to the next chapter.

My Partner

Over the last 5 years I have been living together with my partner (now wife) and her dog. My wife's a great woman, let me point that out. Her family has always had dogs and animals as well. The slight difference between her and my background is, that her family generally didn't try to educate the dogs to a degree that they'd fit in with the family. Also, the place where she grew up has been very known for their old-school way of treating dogs. Her family's way of 'being somewhat easy going' like that, made my wife rather bitter to treating a dog that way. So, on top of the natural female urge to nurture something that's 'so adorable', she has developed a very very strong feeling of responsibility. I find this to be quite the quality, when reading/seeing how some people treat their pets. But you can maybe picture where such dedicated, overprotective, 'over-nurturing' kind of human/dog relationship leads.

The Four-Legged Friend in Question

This guy recently turned 7 years old, although you'd never say that from the way he bounces around. He is a Chinese Crested, a 'Powderpuff'. A well-bred, rather healthy little male, weighing just about 5 kg.

For the last five years we have been training this guy all the basics, after I urged my partner to participate. Unfortunately, when I first met him, his obedience was non-existing, his dog/human-aggression overwhelming, he was protective of food/pillow and even my partner.

In the first year, I got him to feel more safe. In areas where I was very unlikely to encounter anybody else, I managed to have him unleashed and heel - without him being scared of anyone attacking him. Quickly we could touch his food if we wanted to and others could approach his sleeping area / pillow, without being warned by him. Needless to say, there was rapid improvement once I got my partner to step up her game with me. He ended up figuring out most basics such as stay, sit, lay down, roll over and even obeys countless of different whistles at this point.

This little guy has insane amounts of energy and cannot control his impulses. We've focused on impulse control training, but it seems to be in vain. In the end we had to face that this breed is rather primitive and his instincts seem to take over whenever they get stimulated the slightest.

I must add, though, that he is very upbeat. When we go out with him or take him anywhere he is ecstatic and has the biggest smile on his face. He exclaims sounds of joy whenever he runs and is the most verbal Chinese Crested I have -ever- met

Thanks for bearing with me so far, now here's the turning-point.

Current Situation

Bringing me to the current state of affairs. Our little guy has severe separation anxiety (not 'separation fun' as described in the links in this thread), is often still dog/human aggressive (we at least cannot at all rely on his judgment and warn everyone calmly before they approach), and the worst of all things is that because of this he is very very unhappy.

We have tried countless of ways to deal with these issues. We have great local- and national dog communities that have helped us quite the bit, but this guys insecurities seem to really get the best of him, no matter what we show/teach him. When we leave he goes completely insane. When someone stands up he anticipates the departure and shows distress in advance. When we do leave, on return, we'll find him howling/barking/running in the windows, with all furniture moved, thrown over and/or damaged. I'm not a fan of keeping him in his bench, because a 2-hour video recording once showed how violent he gets inside his bench and I cannot risk him hurting or even killing himself. He tries to escape at all cost. Though having no bench costs us our furniture, not to mention expensive designer lamps we used to have etc. And he can actually still hurt himself very easily, with all the climbing and jumping that he does.

Right now, with me he seems to be calm - he's laying next to the desk right now, upside down and asleep. But when I leave he goes in distress. With my wife it goes far beyond that, she cannot go to the toilet or he will be in utmost distress. Anyway.. We really tried our best and are trying to make the best of it, for him and ourselves. I mean, leaving knowing that your dog is going insane because of your absence.. It just doesn't really feel right to go anywhere.

The Actual Problem

The first few years here, we have both been studying. We were often home and had a reasonable amount of time to spend on working on a happier dog. Now things have changed.. We both graduated and my wife find herself a job in the capital. We are soon buying ourselves a house/villa near her work and I will then also look for jobs in that area instead. We'll both be working from 07:00 to 17:00. Now 10 hours a day is already a very very VERY long time for any dog to be alone, but this dog will end up taking it's own life one way or another, I'm afraid. And let's face it, even if not, he will be one severely unhappy dog for the far most of the day, for the rest of his live.

As much as I've started to suppress the guilty feeling, I know this can't be right. I feel this is selfish towards the little guy. Especially considering that, in our spare time, we'll want to do some things where the dog unfortunately cannot join us. That, on top of our working hours, sounds like I'll be wasting years of this little fellas times. We simply cannot offer him what he needs, we are too active to babysit him every minute of the day.

Now here's where I'd very much appreciate your advice / kind words / firm words. My wife and I have had trouble discussing this matter. She knows she cannot offer the little guy what he needs, but her extreme responsibility feeling makes her reluctant to consider the option of finding a great 'foster home' for him. She basically says: "It's my dog, so it's my responsibility. I will not give up on him."

I honestly couldn't agree more, but to me the 'responsibility' she speaks of contradicts her actual actions. For months now she has been reluctant to think of solutions and is postponing any actions taken, at the expense of the little guy. I know it is hard to let go of a four-legged buddy. I know it feels/seems/is unfair. But is it fair to keep a dog in a depressed state, because one cannot put him/herself aside? I feel like this is some form of hypocrisy, to speak of 'responsibility' and yet take no actions. What am I to do?

I have not addressed this matter for a while. She blows up when her mother tries to talk to her about it and my earlier experience, regarding this matter, led to us even drifting apart to a marriage-threatening extend.

What do you think? Is it our responsibility to stick with the dog, even though we know we'll never be able to offer him what he needs? Or is it our responsibility to find him a person or a family that has the time and dedication to make this guy a happy guy? And, your opinion aside, how am I to bring this subject up to my wife? I don't want to upset her, I want to figure this out together.

Again, if you made it to the end of this text, thank you. I'd appreciate your opinion.
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Old 09-10-2013, 03:27 PM
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Romy Romy is offline
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Having fostered a dog with SA so severe that she would have explosive diarrhea if you left the room without her, I can understand a bit where you're coming from. In the end, I found her a home where the wife was disabled and home bound, and that solved her SA issues. I mean, she still had them, but it was managed.

She was a German shepherd though, and reduced a steel drop pin crate to shreds of wire within a single minute of being crated. It was VERY dangerous for her health and safety.

That said, there are a few things you can do.

Talk to the vet about medication. If we hadn't been able to place her where it wouldn't be triggered, that would have been the next step.

Medication works best with desensitization/behavioral conditioning.

Also, for his safety he should not be loose in the house while you are gone. I've seen dogs try to tunnel through concrete and linoleum floors to reach their owners. It's really awful!

Has he ever been crate trained? If not, you may want to start. It sounds like it may be a long dramatic process with him, but in the end he will be much safer left at home.

If crating is not an option can you make a safe, escape proof area for him? Like use one of those plastic baby play yards in a laundry room?

A dog walker would probably make things worse, because he'll freak out when the walker leaves and that will cause two freak outs a day. Have you checked into possibly boarding him at a dog day care when nobody is home? It may be an environment that really stresses him out, or it may be an environment that he really enjoys. Many places have separate areas for dogs that don't get along with other dogs.

Edit: As to whether it's fair to the dog, I don't think it is. Not really. I cried when we placed our foster as I had every intention of keeping her and it was that one issue that made it not the best choice for her well being.

I don't know exactly how you'd bring it up with your wife. Maybe she needs to see the responses in this thread. Maybe she feels she needs to exercise all the options before placing him. I do think that if you decide to keep him long term, he really, really needs someone to interact with him while you two are gone that won't trigger his SA. Either a dog daycare, or maybe you can find someone that works from home who would be willing to look after him during the day for some extra cash while you're at work.
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Old 09-10-2013, 03:53 PM
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Cardiparty Cardiparty is offline
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I had a foster dog that had separation anxiety; she would chew her mouth bloody on a crate and if left out in the house would distroy anything she possibly could.

I rehomed her to a retired couple and she's much happier. They don't have the problems with her that I had.

If the dog is purebred and you got him from a good breeder, just email the breeder and tell them you have to give the dog up and you wanted to give them the courtesy to let them know incase they wanted him back. Tell them you are thinking of rehoming him because your lifestyle is changing and the dog isn't adjusting well and you need some help.

I see no problem with rehoming dogs. All of the dogs I fostered found me and then I rehomed them because none were really a good fit for me at the time.

If you do rehome him, consider giving him to a rescue group. I know that my breed rescue group is AMAZING and they can place dogs with somthing akin to surgical precision and if they can't find the right home, they'll hang on to the dog.
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Old 09-10-2013, 03:55 PM
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Beanie Beanie is online now
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I agree with all that Romy says. As far as bringing it up with your wife, if you are being quite literal about it threatening your marriage, it's time to bring in professional outside help. And I don't just mean a dog trainer, though a good behaviourist can certainly be helpful - I mean a marriage counselor.

Is dog daycare an option? Even if he is questionable with other people, it's possible that he will be okay with a daycare provider. They are usually very dog savvy and can manage dogs. He might also feel better hearing/seeing other dogs in a daycare scenario.
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Old 09-10-2013, 09:59 PM
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I absolutely second Romy's advice about looking into medications.

Without it, my Great Dane Hannah could not be left alone without getting life threateningly ill, quickly. After two bouts of Stress Induced Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis, a near fatal bout of Bloat/Torsion (some believe it is also caused by stress/anxiety), and about $4,000 worth of medical treatment to save her life each time these things occurred, I gave in to the suggestion of medications and it was a LIFE SAVER for her.

In addition to the medication, I also used DAP's. These are "dog appeasing pheremones" which work to sooth the dog naturally. I had a diffuser (like a Glad Plug-In) in each room, and it seemed to also work wonders.

I could definitely notice a difference if I used one and not the other.

Best of luck to you and your wife.
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  #6  
Old 09-11-2013, 01:18 PM
eDaniel eDaniel is offline
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Thank you all so much for replying. It does me good to receive all this input.

@Romy: Thank you for replying! I will start doing some research on medication. My wife is somewhat against any form of medication, so it's never been really looked in to.

He's been crate trained, but the effect seems to have faded. I am not sure in what point in time it changed, but I assume he started building up resentment during the times where his SA got to him (while crated). Making a pen might be an idea. Though he really has this escape urge and I doubt he will want to play. Leaving him with any toys/food has never had any results. Even the best of treats he will let lay aside, when he knows you're leaving. Of course, when you come back, he will devour the treat and/or prance around with it as to celebrate your return. Adorable.. but it are the hours of despair that lead there that really worry me. I'm not sure if such a pen would make any difference. I will be looking into doggy daycare nearby. That could be a solution. I also fear that a dog walker might bring more complications with it. But we haven't tried it though.

@Cardiparty: Thank you for saying that. I feel that it is an option we are having to consider, along with all the other solutions. But I feel bad for even having to consider it a 'solution'. I'll look into rescue groups, thanks!

@Beanie: Thank you for sharing your opinion We've had our communication issues, but those are improving rapidly atm. We are actively working on that. I did get to learn how sensitive the 'dog subject' is however, and am still scared to bring it up. Perhaps daycare is an option, I'll have to look into it (and I will). I am just unsure as to how such daycare places deal with a 'sketchy' dog like this little guy. He's sometimes hard to read and can be aggressive out of nowhere.

@shadowfacedanes: Thank you for your advice! I'll be considering the medication and looking into that. Along with asking the veterinarian about it. I didn't know there were such plugs, such I might have to look those up to - it sounds great.
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Old 09-12-2013, 09:51 AM
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Yeah, regardless of which way you go, you need to be on the same page as your wife. The marriage must come first before anything else, IMHO.

I will say that emotions can run high when it comes to dogs, especially if you do not have children. Many people use the dog as a surrogate kid.

I don't know if you two want kids, but if you do, you may want to take that into consideration when deciding what to do about the dog.

You two seem overwhelmed now with just the dog is the only reason I'm saying that.

It's hard to make a logical choice when emotions are involved. You can make it work for the dog, but you may have to be willing to make some changes in how you do things: some mentioned a DAP (that didn't work on my foster with SA, but I've heard that it does help in some cases) or maybe medication.
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