A study came out recently in Applied Animal Behavior Science that suggests that Counter Conditioning (CC) is not an effective way to treat Separation Anxiety. Since I’ve been advising the use of this method for many years, my ears pricked up in hopes I’d learn something important about how better to treat this serious behavioral problem. The study, by Butler, Sargisson & Eliffe, concluded that Desensitizing (DS) was the successful element in the treatment of SA in the 8 dogs in the study, while CC and “behavioral advice” was not.
We got the article, and I read through it carefully. And then I read it again. And yup, one more time. And then I emailed some of my colleagues and asked “Am I crazy?” I thought I might be losing my mind because try as I might, I could not match the design or results of the study to match the conclusions.
Here’s what’s going on: The study found 8 dogs who were destructive or problem barkers when left alone, and only when left alone. They did a good job of singling out dogs who truly suffered from some form of what they call “Separation-related problem behaviors.” (I suspect they don’t use the term “anxiety” because they don’t want to presume what’s going on the the dog’s mind. I’ll save that for another discussion!) The authors then instructed the owners to use what they called DS and CC, but there’s the rub: Although they define DS correctly as the”gradual and progressive introduction of the stimulus eliciting the phobia,” they define CC as a situation in which a “behavior incompatible with anxiety is explicitly trained when the anxiety-provoking stimulus is introduced. “Whoa, that’s not even close to how CC is defined. CC isn’t about training anything, it’s about pairing a very low intensity of a stimulus that evokes fear with a high intensity stimulus that evokes a positive emotion. For example, a dog afraid of strangers would be CC’d by having a visitor stand outside the door (low intensity because they don’t enter the house) and toss pieces of chicken (high intensity). Over time, and lots of repetitions, the dog’s emotional response to the food becomes attached to the visitor as well.
In the study, the owners were asked to do both CC and DS at the same time, except their “DS” involved leaving the dog for a short period of time (beginning with 5 minutes) with food which makes it more like CC. At the same time, they were to pair behavior associated with leaving with food AND were told to give the dogs food when they returned, which has nothing to do with CC’g an owner’s absence. Say what? Argh, I am much happier being a cheer leader than a critic, but this methodology is so mixed up I can’t imagine what the results would tell us. Moreover, their conclusion that DS works and “CC” doesn’t is based on the fact that, even though all dogs improved, 2 of the owners didn’t do any CC, and their dogs didn’t do any worse than the others. They even added that 2 others of the group didn’t follow CC instructions, so 4 of the 8 owners didn’t actually do what they authors defined as CC, and that wasn’t even CC to begin with. But then, DS wasn’t really DS either. Oh my.
Here’s the good news: Nicole Wilde has a new book out on Separation Anxiety, Don’t Leave Me, and it’s a good one. It’s much longer than my booklet, the 38 page I’ll Be Home Soon, which was written primarily for trainers and behaviorists to give to clients to supplement their instructions. Don’t Leave Me is 150 pages long, and does a good job of defining the problem and suggesting a variety of treatment methods. I have some minor quibbles: I don’t agree that exercise is helpful for most cases of SA (even though it’s generally a wonderful thing) and I suggest spending more time CCing the first phases of leaving (ie, get keys, give chicken), but overall this is a great addition to either a trainer’s resources or a good book for people whose dogs suffer when they are left alone. I like her attention to a broad range of perspectives, from DS to CC to Dog Appeasing Pheromone, Body Wraps and music designed to calm a nervous dog.
Question for trainers and behaviorists: We are thinking of offering a package of one of Nicole’s books with 10 of my booklets, the idea being the book would be in the trainer’s library and the booklet go to clients. Think that’s a good idea? We’re all ears.
MEANWHILE, back on the farm: Well, it’s our turn now. We’re expecting 10-20 inches of snow in the next few days. It’s snowing like crazy right now, so it looks like the predictions are accurate. Darn, I had just gotten back to working sheep again, after a two week hiatus due to a bad cold and extra cold weather. Oh well, I’ll be in Texas this weekend anyway (if we can fly out of here, all paws crossed!) being forced to speak at the Lake Austin Spa Resort in between lying in lounge chairs and getting a massage. Poor Jim is forced to come too, poor baby.
So we’ll miss a weekend in the snow, but Willie loves it because it means he is allowed to jump for an aerial frisbee, the snow cushioning the impact on his shoulder when he lands. Here’s my absolute all-time favorite frisbee photo of Willie, taken NOT by me but by my great assistant, Katie Martz and then tinkered with by me with my new-found Aperature skills. (To the person who inquired, yes, I am loving Aperature, although I still am not close to an expert at using it yet.) This picture made it easy!
Stacey Shaw says
To answer your question about packaging Nicoles book with your booklets, I think that would be great. I’ve been trying to decide which book to buy or recommend to a couple of clients which to buy, so the package seems like a great solution to me.
Wow, that’s an exquisite photo. I can’t wait to see more of your splashy Aperture skill. I haven’t tackled it yet because none of my pictures are worth the effort.
Your post says something important about the role of science and media. Because you are a highly trained expert, you were able to review the research and analyze whether it actually supported the suggestion that CC is less effective than DS for treating separation anxiety.
Everyday, however, we see headlines in the media telling us about new discoveries by scientists. Of course most journalists don’t have the skills to analyze the methodology so everyone just takes the press release for the research at face value.
As a gullible amateur, I find this very frustrating. To the point that I’ve stopped believing anything I read about scientific research. And that’s not good either.
We really need more people who can bridge the divide between scientists and ordinary people interested in their research. I think that’s one of your best gifts. And I thank you for it.
Melanie S says
Well, you’re about to be snow dumped while over here (just south of Sydney, Australia) we’re having our hottest summer day of the season (and the week’s predicted to be the hottest week on record, or something like it).
I appreciate your critique of the study, even though you’d rather be cheer girl!
That is an incredible photo! Thanks for sharing it.
Around here I think the dogs have come up with their own solution for separation issues. They escape and come to Ranger’s house. Three of them yesterday all repeats. Sigh. At least we know where they belong and can return them home until the next time. I much prefer that to the ones I end up delivering to the Humane Society.
Thea Anderson says
That study doesn’t sound like it had a control group. Any improvements in the dogs’ behavior could just as well have been caused by the weather. And that got into a peer-reviewed scientific journal? Yikes. Somebody had better write to the editor. (I’d do it myself but I have no academic credentials, I’m just a girl with a dog.)
Louise Kerr says
Yes I also like the idea of your mini books with Nicole’s book but still want the option of getting yours alone as well.
Regards from a stinking hot and now cyclone affected Australia.
What a wonderful, wonderful picture!!!
So – with a tiny sample of 8 dogs, and a huge number of random variables introduced by how their owners interpreted already mixed messages, the authors are still able to draw conclusions and – the really scary bit for me – get them published in a reputable journal? Whatever happened to peer review?
A pity, as some really good research would be so useful. I noticed the other day that The Preparation Of The Kongs, for a long time inducive of sad tails and ears as a prelude to being left, was greeted with distinct enthusiasm. Time was they were still untouched when I came home – now Sophy is already happily stuck in when I come back for my keys (practising multiple exits happens automatically as you get older!). So somewhere along the line some of the things I have done worked – just wish I knew which, and whether others were making things worse instead of better.
Lovely photo – I still haven’t progressed past iPhoto, so I am filled with admiration!
Sounds like a silly study…
Actually, I think unwanted behaviour during your absence is usually simply an (inadvertently) trained behaviour. Animals do what works. If your dog happened to be howling the first time you walk back in after leaving him, chances are he’ll try howling more often the next time you’re gone. So again you walk in while he’s howling. Before you know it, he’s learned that howling (or barking, or disembowling the sofa) brings you back to the house. The fact that you’re yelling at him the moment you walk in doesn’t change the fact that at least you are back – but it will exacerbate anxious behaviour when you enter.
So I firmly believe the only way to avoid (or change) this, is to make sure you walk back in when – and only when – your dog is doing something desirable, such as laying down quietly.
How the hell you accomplish that in real life? I wish I knew :).
Tara will sit quietly when I’m preparing to leave the house, and stand calmly at the window watching my car drive off. And then she will start an extremely determined scavenger hunt, with the same admirable perseverance she shows when we do complicated “find the ball” exercises. The trouble is, that no matter how carefully I try to make sure there is nothing to be found, occasionally I overlook something. Like the time she found out that my breadbox opens when you knock it off it’s shelf onto the floor (and she ate half a lovely sourdough loaf). And the time she found out that by jumping on the counter, then jumping on the bar, then balancing on her hind legs made it possible to reach a spanish garlic sausage suspended from a high hook. Or the time my breadbaking supplies box wasn’t properly closed, and she managed to get her nose in. This can’t have been easy, but she did it and ate bags of sultana’s and pumpkin seeds. Or the time I left an Edam cheese on the kitchen counter.
I appear to have set up an exemplary variable reinforcement schedule. And boy, does that work!
Jenn J says
Great photo! Thanks for the review on the article. I saw the title of your blog and my ears pricked up as I am dealing with some SA in my almost 13 year old dal, Logan. I was hoping for some fresh insight to help her deal with my recent move. Though I guess we will just keep plugging along with the counter conditioning. Enjoy the warm weather in TX!
Copper has always shown what appears to me to be mild separation anxiety. I really appreciate your books, as I think that knowledge helped me recognize the signs and begin to work on SA prevention since Copper was a small puppy. I think he could have developed a full blown problem otherwise. He is still visibly anxious when I leave for work and work only, other departures are fine now. What has always been very challenging is that Copper is distressed solely when *I* leave; the fact that my husband, the cat, and our other dog were still home don’t make much difference to him. Fortunately with steady work & progress Copper is able to be loose in the house without mishap while I’m at work, now.
Please excuse my grammatical error – I didn’t see it before I hit submit.
That is an incredible photo of Willie!
Gretchen Dietz says
Wonderful photo and THANKS for the aperture advice. I may have to take the plunge and buy it.
And of course, thank you always for your thoughtful and insightful (and not didactic) blogs. I’m not a trainer, but I do work therapeutically with dogs (www.wellspringsk9.com) and I’m always looking for more resources for our clients. Your name and blog/books are always top of my list of recommendations.
Chris Shaughness says
I agree with Thea, that you should write to the editor. Their definition of CC is not accurate. I like your idea of packaging Nicole’s book with your booklet but I am seeing that many people are getting more informed and savvy about training and behavior (yay!). They want all of the details that are found in Nicole’s book.
Cindy McFadden says
Who’s sponsoring the Lake Austin Spa weekend talks, and where do we sign up? We in Central TX are getting frigid, cold windy weather (temps in the teens with wind chill of about Zero!) before this weekend, but they say the weekend should be better (60’s). Keep your fingers crossed!
As an owner of an SA afflicted dog, I will check out the new book. I love your pamphlet and recommended it to my own vet during our behavioral sessions. We are still working through our issues, mostly because with young kids its hard to counter condition all cues as 3 year olds don’t do well with oh put your shoes on, your jacket on and then sit down on the couch, repeat and wash 10 times. So, I’ve been able to CC most of my cues except now the one that means we REALLY are going which involves getting all the kids out the door. Then the dogs know its REALLY true, we really ARE going, and my SA dog gets very anxious.
My other dog I categorize as a dog who takes full advantage of an empty house to find trouble – but she’s not SA. I have to comment about J’s comments above – there is a BIG distinction between dogs who like to cause a bit of trouble when alone vs an SA dog – my 2 dogs illustrate both. My female will uproot our breadbox, shred tissues, stuffed animals, clear counters. My male (SA), will clear the areas around the doors by his constant jumping and pacing, he pants, he excessively drools, and at his worst, he wouldn’t eat or drink – kongs, chicken pieces, steak pieces, marrow bones all would be left alone while he frantically jumped at our window or pawed our doorframes. He will harm himself in a crate. Our female would just move the crate in an attempt to get out. Our male would bang his nose until bleeding and wear his teeth down – we no longer crate either as it was a point of stress (even tho we fed in a crate, treated in a crate, left door open etc). So just be careful not to consider a dog who behaves poorly when left alone the same as a SA dog who typically is a panic state. Luckily our days of coming home to a destroyed house, bleeding dog, windows and floors COATED with drool and a dog who would see us and lay down completely spent, sides heaving are lessened – with management (including prescription drugs) and a complete lifestyle change (our dogs are NEVER alone more than 3-4 hours EVER EVER) we have come along way. As much as my female’s exploits annoy me (and cause me to try and figure what doors to close, what things to put away, and other clever obstacles – dog gates are no obstacles for this athletic and smart girl!), I’d take her destruction any day over my SA dog!
thanks Patricia for giving some info surrounding the study. Its hard for us “laypeople” to analyze the studies and determine validity and we all just want to do well by our SA dogs!
Felicia Monteforte says
I think packaging Nicole’s book with your booklets is an excellent idea!!
I think the booklet idea is great. With every client I give them booklets Dr. McConnell’s and Mrs. Wilde’s are top on my giving list. This would limit my cost. Thank you for asking about the idea.
I have a question regarding SA…..Is there a behavior similar to SA, only it would be considered DA (Demanding Attention). If so, would it be treated the same?
Ariana Kincaid says
Thanks for sharing! I personally think any book of Nicole’s would be a worthwhile addition to one of your training packs. As a professional dog trainer I find pretty much anything written by either one of you to be extremely helpful, straight-forward and positive. Combining resources would be a great bonus!
Nannette Morgan says
I love this idea! I’ve often given I’ll Be Home Soon to my clients so I would definitely be interested in this pkg deal 😉 Thanks!
I have both books (e-book of Nicole’s) and would love to see them packaged this way. They’re both my go-to for problem solving, and I think it would be great to have the resources for my clients.
Oops, not an e-book, but my answer is the same. 😉
Bob Ryder says
Love the photo, and count me in for a 10 pack of your pamphlets with Nicole’s book. When we can place orders, let us know. THANKS!
Bob Ryder says
Great photo. Count me in for the package of pamphlets w/ Nocole’s book. Please let us know when we can order. Thanks!
Great idea to package the book and booklets!
Lacey H says
I really appreciate and agree with s’s comment on distinguishing separation anxiety from mischief when unsupervised. I think the two are quite distinct, though it is possible for both to coexist if the SA is mild enough to allow for some mischief to come up also.
This has nothing to do with the current post, but when I saw it I thought of Willie and his sheep….
I was very proud of myself for being able to CC my dog to the sound (and movement) of the teeter in agility to the point where we were able to successfully compete in trials. He didn’t have SA at home but had some SA at trials when he was in the crate and I would leave him. I thought I was doing the right thing by giving him a treat, and covering his crate when I got up to leave, and then uncovering the crate when I got back. However, I could hear him howling across the building while I was gone. Then I realized that I was broadcasting my returns by uncovering his crate when I got back (and for that matter, making a big deal of leaving by covering his crate when leaving). So instead of making my comings and goings a matter of fact, I was MAKING SURE HE KNEW THAT I WAS LEAVING, or BACK. I started covering his crate while I was there and he could hear that I was still there, and then sneaking off. So as far as he was concerned, when the crate was covered, I might be there or I might not. He didn’t need to keep track of whether I was right next to him or not, and is now a lot calmer. I’ve known the basics of SA for several years, but wasn’t applying it correctly in my situation.
Heidi N says
I am not a trainer, but a pet owner whose dog has severe separation anxiety. I am wondering if you could follow up this blog post with some tips about how to treat resistant separation anxiety? I was following your wisdom many years ago–before I even had a dog—on Calling all Pets WPR. When my first dog exhibited SA within four days of adopting her, I knew who to turn to!
I got your booklet immediately and my hubby and I have been methodical about the desensitization and counter conditioning steps outlined in your books. I WISH she would have been ‘cured’ at 8 weeks! We’re at, oh, geez, about month 6 or 7 in our program! We even consulted with a certified animal behaviorist. We have tried EVERYTHING (DAP, medication #1 and #2, toys, kongs galore, doggie music, leaving TV on, even beta-blockers) and our sweet 3-yr-old dog always pees in our master bedroom (no crate for her) when left alone.
We are–sigh—up to about 60 minutes leaving her alone, 6-7 months into this serious desensitization/CC program. And about 75% of the time she still pees at least once and about 90% of the time she is visibly nervous when we walk in the door.
What to do?
Love the picture of Willie!
Insightful comments on the study. Leaving food while gone IS a form of CC. SA is easier prevented than cured. When mine was a pup, we would leave him with a peanut butter or cream cheese-covered Kong and walk out the door. He was so occupied by the Kong he didn’t not even notice our departure. When we got home we totally ignored the pup for the first minute or two and then took him outside, and THEN greeted him. I think it also helped that the breeder seems to have started separating out pups in ones and twos to spend some time alone before we brought him home.
Now I have two dogs who will bark at us if we put our coats around and then stand around. (sigh). They can’t WAIT til we leave because they know they get a treat every time we walk out the door. I’m thrilled they don’t have SA, but it is a bit off-putting to have dogs that are thrilled to see you go….
Did Nicole mention safety signals in her book at all? I remember reading in Karen Overall’s book or perhaps it was one of her papers a reference to a study where a safety signal was used to tell a dog their owner was coming home any moment. Apparently the success rate was up around 80%, which as far as I know beats the pants off every other method. I’m very interested in safety signals. I taught my hare a safety signal that has been very helpful in training him. He will actually pause when I use it when he’s in a state provided he’s not running blindly, and if he’s indecisive and looks like he might move away from me, I can use it to turn the tide in my favour and he will usually stay put for long enough to calm down enough to change his mind about running away. I’ve been thinking about how it might be useful with my young Vallhund, who sometimes gets spooked by things like someone making a loud noise in another part of the house, or strange people that come around and bustle about in his house and don’t ever say a word to him. His response to being spooked is to bark a lot and get all tense ready to do something. I have been thinking, if I could just tell him at that point that he’s safe, maybe I can deal with these things well before I have to start counter-conditioning.
Nanci Byers says
What an amazing photo! Thanks so much for sharing it with us. Also thank you for deconstructing the research and giving your feedback. I also agree that you should write to the editor. It would also be interesting to hear from the authors of the study.
Bill Obermeyer says
It might be about time to find a different word to use for counterconditioning.
Though I agree that the authors’ conclusions do not seem to match their data, their definition of counterconditioning is defensible – if ill-chosen for their audience.
There seems to be thoroughgoing confusion about the meaning of counterconditioning both among researchers (judging from a search of “counterconditioning” on PubMed and Google Scholar) and in the wider group of interested people (see the four dictionary definitions below).
This may be because the academic folks who have been most vocal about conditioning tend to be people who focus on operant, rather than classical, conditioning and treat all behavior as “responses”.
Counterconditioning is a fine word as long as we all agree about what it means. I suppose we could always use Pavlovian counterconditioning … but that just sounds intimidating (and a little creepy).
Any of a group of conditioning techniques used to replace a negative conditioned response to a stimulus with a positive response.
The American Heritage
Uh oh! I am in Austin, Texas right now and it is COLD! 25 degrees! Eeek. You aren’t going to get a warm reprieve after all. 🙁
Bill O makes a good point that “counter conditioning” is used to mean several things. I myself used to always say or write “counter classical conditioning” (which is the method recommended for SA by almost all behaviorists and trainers, not counter operant conditioning) but have gotten lazy. I started abbreviating CCC to CC, and I appreciate the reminder to be more clear. But again, the ‘academic’ folks that I know use classical conditioning not operant when treating SA.
To Melissa: I’ll check Nicole’s book, I don’t remember if it mentions ‘safety’ signals or not. I will say that 80% success rate sounds about right for anyone using CCC correctly. I’ve had some success with them myself, but it hasn’t seemed to make a huge effect on the progress of any one dog. (But I’m not at all discouraging anyone from trying, and appreciate the addition. If anyone has seen a study, I’d love to see it.
And to Heidi: Oh, I’m so very very sorry to hear you’ve worked so hard with only some success. There’s just nothing I could say that would provide the magic formula for a case this difficult. (Just fyi, I’ve had 2 or 3 cases in 22 + years that were this difficult to treat. Poor babies.) The only quick thing I could suggest is checking for medical issues (not quick to do, quick to suggest!). I’ve had clients whose dogs were partially deaf, partially blind etc, but no one knew until we got suspicious and checked. That could explain her continual fear. (I also had a client whose dog was a mess, and nothing nothing helped until we figured out that the Nat’l Guard buzzed her house every afternoon; and another whose “SA” case was a dog living in a trailer close to a power plant, and was apparently, greatly affected by stray voltage. Just some thoughts about looking outside of the box.
And to Karen: I’ll be glad to get to Texas no matter how chilly it is there. Wish us luck, we have to get through Chicago tomorrow, after it’s been closed for 2 days AND will be full of crazed Green Bay Packer fans streaming to the Super Bowl. It’ll be a miracle if we really get there! (I did JUST get plowed out, snow is so high I couldn’t open the front door without going around the back and shoveling it down….).
The Learning Vet says
Thank you so much for sharing this! This is why I follow your blog (that and I just love your work)–you help bring to my attention bits of behavioral news that I’m glad to know about. I’m a veterinarian with a special interest in behavior, and I actually just wrote a post yesterday where I briefly vented about my frustrations in trying to help clients with dogs who have separation anxiety, among other behavior issues. Here’s a link if you want to check it out:
You do have company, if it’s any consolation. Not all dogs are easy to help (and trainers and behaviorists could be more upfront about that but that’s another topic entirely…. ;-)) My dog’s SA is somewhat milder than yours but he does still occasionally pee when left alone if I don’t follow the very specific routine he’s gotten used to, which includes time of day, treats, particular pattern of getting ready, even things I say to him. Gets kind of tedious but it does work – mostly. It took a looooooooong time though. When we moved into our current home almost 3 years ago, my dog was a mess. I finally had to pull up every rug. An animal “communicator” recommended by a friend told me I had to re-home him. Immediately. Felt my neighborhood was not suitable. Right. Won’t be calling her again. Anyway, an adjustment to his medication and sticking to a routine eventually turned the tide. Eventually being the key word. He had to settle into the new home/neighborhood and come to feel he belonged there. It took wellover a year to see progress. It’s hard but worth it. Today he’s perfect 99% of the time. There are still the occasional incidents – always when something is slightly off the routine. Giving him access to a place where peeing isn’t a huge problem helped too. If you can do that and maybe put down training pads or paper for a while, it might help. Not that I love cleaning up but I’d rather do it on tile than a floor that could be damaged by the moisture. I’ve come to the conclusion that carpets are over rated – and so are perfect dogs. How dull! My guy is not a perfect, easy dog by any measure but he’s funny, smart, devoted and for all his fears, braver than he knows. I love him dearly, faults and all and would do it all over again in a heartbeat. If you can keep what you love about your dog in mind, it is a lot easier to cope.
Thea Anderson says
To J, whose dog goes scavenger-hunting and makes mischief in his absence:
What if you put her foraging behavior to good use by giving her something to find, like a puzzle toy or a frozen kong or something like that? The foraging is an instinctive omnivore behavior so it probably can’t be trained away (especially when she’s intermittently reinforced).
I wish my dog did more exploring when I was gone. She used to leave kongs and hidden treats untouched, and not even move from the spot she was sitting when I left, even for the whole day when I was at work. Clicker training helped a lot with boosting her confidence and getting her to investigate her surroundings.
Dawn Pribble says
I like the idea of being able to order a package or your booklets along with Nicole’s new book. I’ve referred your booklet to a number of clients but have yet to read Nicole’s.
I’m so forgetful that I can rarely leave the house without running back inside to get something I’ve left behind–phone, travel mug, treat bag, etc. Sometimes I make multiple trips or even drive a block or two before I realize I’ve forgotten something. My faulty memory has been wonderful for preventing SA. Since my dogs get treats every time I leave the house my youngest really loves to see me reach for my keys. It’s her cue to run to the rug where her crate used to be and wait for a reward.
Nice picture! What kind of camera do you use, if you don’t mind me asking?
Heidi N says
Trish and Denise,
Thanks for the words of encouragement. I should say that my sweet Petunia (Tunie) was diagnosed with mile mega-esophagus a few weeks ago (finally) and I’ve wondered if that isn’t at least partially a cause for her anxiety. The neurologist might be able to shed like on behavioral effects of mega-e. But the poor girl has generalized anxiety in addition to separation anxiety, so it’s probably no surprise that it will take at least a year to get her “fine” with being alone. She was a backyard breeder’s dog, but I didn’t think she was abused — just not loved enough! Sweetest face in the world and I’ll do what it takes to help her feel good!
Christy Pritchard says
I think ordering Nicoles book along with your bookletes is a grand idea and I would deffinitly be one to order them.
I have your booklete on seperation anxiety and it helped me with my German Shepherd. We were his fourth home before he was a year old so needless to say he had some issues being left alone. He is excellent now does not even need to be crated when we leave but it was a long road to recovery (about a year).
I had to comment again on this older post…I came home from an unexpected short trip uptown this am – we were rushed getting out the door and I forgot one step of my pre leaving routine – garbage can in garage
oops hit enter by accident…to continue – as I was driving home, I remembered the garbage and as I drove up to the house, I didn’t see the dogs at the window and thought oh man, they got into it (usually if they aren’t at the window, they are into trouble!) One of the dogs normally paces from the door to the window based on the drool and such…
What a nice surprise to enter the house to both dogs on their respective couches (yes, they are spoiled and we allow them on the furniture – eeks!) looking completely relaxed. This made my day! Yes, I was only gone 20 mins or so, but to see them completely relaxed means we’ve progressed with our SA work more than I had imagined! yippee!!
Alessandro Rosa says
Hi Dr. McConnell,
I have commented before here, but it has been a while. My two year old beagle has difficulties being left alone. I was wondering if you might do a post on Dog Appeasing Pheromone one of these days as I saw the product advertised and I was wondering what you thought and what the efficacy was before I tried it out.
Also would you be able to comment on at what point you would generally recommend to a dog owner that they talk to their vet about putting their dog on clomipramine. Is it something you only suggest when your determination is that the dog is having a severe problem with anxiety (damage and self injury) or is it always a good idea as an adjunct to CC training for Anxiety Related disorders.
Alessandro: A quick response is that DAP can be very useful in mild to moderate cases, and might also be a help in severe ones, IF it is used with other treatments. And re using clomipramine for SA, I always tell clients that they are encouraged to talk to their vet about when it might be appropriate, and that my own person opinion about the use of any drug is that one must weigh costs and benefits. I, personally, tend to be conservative about using drugs on my own dogs if there are other means of treatment, so if the case is mild to moderate I personally wouldn’t use it myself. However, if the case is severe and the dog simply can’t be left without it suffering terribly, then I absolutely encourage the client to talk to their vet. I’ve often talked to the vet myself if the client prefers…..
Alessandro Rosa says
Thank you for the reply. I think I might try the DAP and see how it goes for the short term. It isn’t 100% of the time and he doesn’t injure himself or damage anything (except toilet paper, but I can live with and manage that), but being a hound he can be rather loud in his protests about being left behind, which doesn’t work so well in an apartment and he is visibly agitated (excited) when we come home to where we have to ignore him for a few minutes until he can calm somewhat.
Hope Willie feels better soon! He is looking really handsome in his photos. Our vet put Darwin on a prophylactic Glucosamine regimen when he had a hip injury. She said it is often done automatically for breeds like Labradors and GSD’s that are prone to joint problems.
I have a four month old smooth collie puppy and a forgetful husband. The husband leaves food out on the counter constantly as well as his medicine, etc. Having never had a counter surfer in forty years of dogs, I now find myself in trouble. The puppy has twice been successful in getting tasty food off the counter (the last episode cost him a trip to the emergency room) and now he is constantly putting his feet up there to see what he can fish off. Telling him off and crating him have not helped. I a concerned that he is going to poison himself someday when I am not home to monitor the situation. Any suggestions would be very appreciated?
Ach, poor thing! First and foremost: I wouldn’t leave a 4 month old dog loose in the house myself, but at minimum, put gates on the doors to the kitchen. I’m not sure her why you say crating him hasn’t helped…?
I alsohave a suggestion about your husband: You can influence his behavior by making a huge fuss the times he DOES remember not to leave food/medicine on the counter. Figure out what the best reinforcement is… fresh baked cookies? Extra good kiss….? Don’t nag him or complain when he forgets, do all you can to manage the problem by preventing, and reinforce the heck out of your husband for the times he does remember….
If all else fails, I would suggest you use some kind of remote punishment for your collie. I know some will be concerned about the use of positive punishment (in OC speak), but this could be life or death if there is medicine on the counter, and basically we need the dog to learn that if he sticks his hand in the fire it won’t feel good, all the better for teaching him not to burn off his hand (paw.) You might consider Snappy Traps (like mouse traps but more humane on a paw) or metal cookie trays with lots of empty pop cans on them set up with just an inch or two over the edge, so that paws cause them to come tumbling down. There are also some cloths you can buy that create the equivalent of static electricity shocks like you would get from a carpet. Most importantly, you need to balance: the sensitivity of the dog with the intensity of the consequence–just enough to stop the dog from trying again but not enough to traumatize him. Good luck!
ruth kling says
our rescue dog of about 2 1/2 months has SA…we did not know it until we voice recorded his vocalizations…he stars out whining/howls/pants/barks…we were gone for 6 hours and kept at it every 2 to 4 minutes…we left the tv on, walked him before, he was fed, has toys and have no history to know why…please help us…he follows us around the house and has recently gone under out bed which is ok with us for short periods of time…we have trained him to sit for his food and treats/we are walking him on a shorter leash and he is responding well even when he sees ducks, etc. so i know he is easily trained…he is great with us everywhere/in the car/restaurants/loves all people and dogs…is loveable…i also worried we are loving him to much which is the problem…help help help…thank you