Dog Barking & Separation Anxiety Issues
January 4, 2010 2:52 PM   Subscribe

How do I get my newly adopted 2 year old dog to stop whining & barking when I'm gone at work?

A month ago I adopted a 2 year old greyhound. He's a great dog & when we are together he is totally quiet & seemingly content. Oh but he is a clingy hound and does not like it when he is home alone while I am at work.

I've recorded (audio) him and he'll whimper & very occasionally bark for less than a minute every 30-40 minutes. I imagine this is pretty normal for a dog getting who has never been alone getting used to his new environment and that it'll just take time. The catch is that my condo association has sent me a warning & is threatening to take him away if it continues. We've tried a lot of different approaches to help with the transition:

- Crating/Kenneling him
- Leaving friendly warnings to my immediate neighbors with my #
- Leaving the TV/Radio on
- Kongs, Buster Cubes & other treats
- Toys
- Alone training ( increasing his alone time)
- Rescue Remedy
- Long walks & play sessions to tire him out.

Later this week we'll start obedience school which will hopefully help too. He is only alone from 9am to 1pm, then from 2pm to 6pm and while daily doggy day care would be great, it is not economically feasible and besides he should be able to go 4 hours on his own.

Any & all suggestions are very welcome on how to get our pup to be calm & quiet while he's alone. The quicker, the better! I hate being the annoying neighbor with the barking dog. Thanks!
posted by cuando to Pets & Animals (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This is going to sound a bit out there, but what about a second dog? We had a 2-year-old adopted greyhound who used to go batshit insane whenever we left her alone. Adding a second dog (a shih tzu) calmed her down tremendously. Crating also helped.
posted by jquinby at 2:54 PM on January 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am not advocating for or against the device I'm about to describe, but a former neighbour had this anti-barking collar for his dog that gave the dog a shot of air in the face (or something?) each time the dog barked. It was a non-harmful negative feedback conditioning thing I guess. His dog seemed to bark a lot less over time - we didn't talk about it a lot but he described it once and seemed satisfied with the results.

Probably someone out there thinks it's a horrible device, but whether it is or isn't, there it is.
posted by GuyZero at 3:00 PM on January 4, 2010

Is he a former racing dog? They spend their entire professional lives in the company of their kennel mates so they are quite prone to separation anxiety once they have to spend time alone in a home setting.

But I am afraid that simple barking sessions of less than a minute 30-40 minutes apart do not qualify as separation anxiety and sound like fairly normal dog behavior and difficult to completely train out of him. It looks like you've been doing all the right stuff, though. You may also try covering his crate.

You'll definitely want to bring this up with the people at your obedience school ASAP. The device GuyZero mentions above is probably a citronella collar. It may work, though it is not the ideal approach as it may increase frustration which will just come out in less appropriate ways than occasional barking. Couch chewing, rug peeing, etc.
posted by rocketpup at 3:07 PM on January 4, 2010

Seconding rocketpup, actually. When I say 'batshit insane', I mean that our grey tore up basically everything she could reach, which was just about everything. Crating gave her a space of her own. Second dog increased the pack size by one and they became best buds for life. We kept those 2 in several sets of apartments (and eventually our first house) w/o behavioral incidents.

In fact, the only other problem we had with her was a glass stomach. If we veered even a little off her regular diet the results were straight-up disgusting.
posted by jquinby at 3:16 PM on January 4, 2010

I went through something like this after a move, and one of my dogs started barking after I went to work. He was normally a very well-behaved dog and understood "no" quite well, but without someone there to tell him that, he would just bark until he tired himself out. I got him to stop by "leaving" for work. Instead of actually going, just sat in the car until he started barking, then opened the door and told him "no." A couple of sessions of fake leaving and startling him with my omnipresence solved the problem (I too recorded him to make sure).

I did try the citronella spray, it did nothing -- he barked right into the mist.
posted by sageleaf at 3:19 PM on January 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

Adding another dog to the mix may or may not work. Anecdotal data point: We added a second dog to try to help out our extremely anxious (when separated) lab. The lab's anxiety continued unabated and the second dog went along for the ride. Maybe we erred in picking up two pound puppies, but the Greater Pack Theory of anxiety treatment isn't a guarantee. If you're at risk of losing one already, I don't think doubling down is the best strategy unless you can "test drive" your pup's behavior with other pups when you're not around.

Though we didn't get to it before our lab passed, we were going to try something like sageleaf suggested.
posted by Fezboy! at 3:24 PM on January 4, 2010

crate training him. Get him use to being in the crate when you are at home, so it isn't so unnatural when he is left alone.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 3:45 PM on January 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

If your lunch break permits it, definitely stop back home and take him for a vigorous walk or jog. Young dogs (especially German Shepherds but I have no reason to believe it's different for other breeds) love being around their people. He may really just feel a bit alone without you. Plus he'll have been able to let out some energy and may nap/relax better. I guess that's a good general question; he getting enough exercise overall? I would assume Greyhounds need a lot of walking exercise. Consider putting him on a treadmill for 10-15 minutes every morning? Good luck!
posted by carlh at 4:30 PM on January 4, 2010

I've read that its best to adopt greyhounds in pairs as they often have a best buddy at the track.

We have a Maltese who is a huge barker and we bought cd's/music compiled by a pet therapist for separation anxiety. We put it on before we leave the house and it seems to help (the neighbors aren't complaining anymore.)

Looking back, I wish we had adopted our dog's sister who was also available.
posted by Tullyogallaghan at 4:31 PM on January 4, 2010

Have you tried throwing a blanket over the crate to make it dark? Worth a try.
posted by BoscosMom at 4:46 PM on January 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have two greyhounds. We had to work with the first one when he arrived. Some of the things that helped:

- get a wire crate, XXL (Great Dane size), big enough for him to stand up and turn around. Pad with soft bed. Drape light sheet or blanket over top.

- put the crate next to your bed. feed him all his meals in the crate. throw treats in there when he's not looking, so that he can discover the "jackpot" on his own. He loves loves loves the crate, and jumps in upon hearing "kennel up." he sleeps in the crate every night.

- once he loves the crate, do desensitization sessions. Put him in crate, then leave the house for 1 minute, then come back and say hi to him. Repeat many times for progressively longer periods, always returning before he starts getting anxious. Use high-value treats (filled kong, knuckle bone) to keep him occupied. Keep going until he finds your return rather boring.

- you go to obedience classes together. he learns new words and builds confidence. greyhounds are very visual - use body language along with spoken words.

- a tired dog is a good dog. do this kind of training after a nice long walk/run. do a long walk/run before leaving him alone.

- your greyhound adoption group is a great source of information and support. call them up!

- the greyhound mailing list is another great source of information and support.

- if you're short on time and patience, consider getting anti-depression or anti-anxiety pills to help with the learning process. (I didn't have to).

The second one didn't need as much work. The two are of course thick as thieves. We had third foster dogs on two occasions who both had separation anxiety despite being part of a 3-pack.

good luck!
posted by metaseeker at 4:50 PM on January 4, 2010 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: RocketPup: I agree that our dog isn't suffering from full on separation anxiety. I am so glad he isn't that bad off. Yes, he was a former racer that was retired for 2 months before we got him.

CarlH: He does get a walk around lunch time (I mentioned that in my long, long explanation). We exercise him quite a lot. 4 regularly scheduled breaks. 1 of which is an extra long walk, 1 of which involves us running around at the dog park for at least 20 minutes until he is pooped, and the rest are 15-20 minute walks around the neighborhood.

My girlfriend would love for me to adopt another dog, but that just isn't in the cards for now and the adoption agency said he should be fine as an only dog.

Thanks for the advice everyone! Please keep it coming I'd like to hear a lot of options.
posted by cuando at 4:51 PM on January 4, 2010

People get crazy about this notion, but we had a rescued dog who barked endlessly and after making many modifications to our home (including building new fences in order to set off a certain area of the yard where we hoped she couldn't see people passing on the street and get triggered to bark etc) we finally tried an anti-barking collar. They seem cruel when you hear about them, but in our experience they are so consistent that the dog only had to be shocked twice to quit barking. As she got used to it, you would sometimes hear her "testing" the collar--if the sensors weren't exactly where they were supposed to be, the collar wouldn't work, and she'd give one low deep bark to see if it zapped, and if it didn't she'd bark merrily away. To me that was evidence that it wasn't too entirely evil, as were the couple of times I was accidentally jolted.

In our dog's case, she seemed to bark from anxiety and the barking fueled her anxiety. She was visibly more relaxed and happy when prevented from barking by the collar.

Though, as someone else said, your dog's barking doesn't sound anything like that (our dog could literally bark for hours, unable to stop) and I'm sorry your condo assoc is giving you trouble. The trainer you take obedience with may have more ideas. Good luck.
posted by not that girl at 4:52 PM on January 4, 2010

We use several techniques besides the standard ones of AM walk or run and a beloved crate available at all times -- first among them a dog walker. She loves our dog, he loves her, and their walks break up his day. Also, we stuff a Kong with a few tasty treats and (meat) baby food, and freeze it: the puzzle of getting it all melted and eaten keeps him very occupied. And sometimes we leave him with a frozen raw bone from freezer section of our pet food store -- they keep his teeth beautiful and engage his mind but aren't high in calories.

I think often the enemy is boredom, and giving your dog some great things with which to engage will really address the problem.
posted by bearwife at 5:09 PM on January 4, 2010

Since you are lucky enough to only be away for 4 hours at a time could you see if there is another greyhound owner that leaves their dog alone during the day all day and would appreciate you having a playdate every day where both dogs are together and you take both for the lunchtime walk and in the evening the other owner picks up their dog?
posted by saucysault at 2:58 AM on January 5, 2010

If you've had this dog a month, I think it's likely the problem will get better and I hope this happens before the association has to get nasty.

You might also want to try and find out if he is barking at things. If he's barking at people in the hallway or trucks in the alley or something, you can train him to accept those things.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:14 PM on January 5, 2010

You might find it useful to head over to the Greytalk forums and do a search for separation anxiety:
posted by vers at 12:21 PM on January 6, 2010

If he's an ex-racer and has come straight from kennels, I would expect him to be still settling in after only a month. Remember that his situation is different from that of a normal adopted dog (i.e. one that has come from another home). The normal 'family home' environment is completely different to his previous life as a racer. So as long as you keep doing the right things (exercise, training, etc) his separation anxiety will probably improve in time.

In the mean time, could you look into getting a dog walker to take him out for half an hour during the day? Contrary to what many people think, greyhounds don't generally need a lot of exercise (since they're bred to run for only 30 seconds at a time), but a walk in the middle of the day would help to break it up. If you could have him walked with other dogs, especially other greyhounds (they often seem to enjoy the company of their own breed more than other types of dogs) then it would be good mental exercise for him also.

Feel free to mefiMail me for more greyhound chat (I own and foster ex-racing greyhounds for adoption)
posted by primer_dimer at 5:51 AM on January 11, 2010

« Older How to re-home cats in Chicago?   |   SD card reading problem Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.