Hound Anxiety!!!!!!
June 9, 2014 8:25 PM   Subscribe

Yesterday my boyfriend and I adopted a loving, sweet, mostly well-behaved rescue hound (Basset/Beagle cross). He doesn't want to let us out of his sight, and definitely doesn't want us to leave the house. We know about long-term separation anxiety training, but what do we do in the short-term so we can actually leave the house together once in a while?

The problem is partly: barking. As soon as the front door shuts, this fella barks nonstop. And he's got a really loud bark, because he's a hound. We live in a detached home and you can hear the bark from across the street. We've purchased a bark collar, but haven't tried it on him yet.

The problem is also: extreme generalized anxiety. Our pal is ostensibly crate trained: happy to hang out in his crate with the door latched when we're all home. But we're worried that his extreme anxiety (he was so happy when we came home from a 10 minute test run today that he continued to whine for 5-10 minutes, and his tail wagged so hard that his rump thwacked the sides of the crate. We took him out of the crate when he was settled) might cause him to hurt himself within the crate. We're renters and have been warned that pet stains will not be appreciated. He's also already peed inside three times today. So, we need him to be crated right now. But we've heard horror stories of anxious dogs seriously injuring themselves trying to escape from crates. I'm worried about the combination of crate and bark collar. Could this aggravate his anxiety and make things worse?

I've owned hounds before, but never with this level of anxiety. Granted, the poor guy has seen a lot of change in the last 24 hours and is, of course, freaking. What should we do, in the short term, about this? We're supposed to co-teach a course but can't see ourselves being able to go out together anytime soon.
posted by Bluestocking_Puppet to Pets & Animals (17 answers total)
This is a great question to ask of both your rescue group AND your pup's new vet. The former might be able to provide you with short term training options, and the latter might be able to advise you on long term medical treatment to help him overcome his extreme anxiety.
posted by Hermione Granger at 8:31 PM on June 9, 2014

Is he getting lots of exercise and not just being let out? A tired dog is a happy dog. This should help with the peeing too. You've only had him one day so I wouldn't let him out of the crate much inside the house. Start establishing the schedule you'd like to keep, which should mean morning, afternoon and evening walks. And be sure to use enzyme cleaners so he doesn't it doesn't smell.
posted by shoesietart at 8:35 PM on June 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I also adopted a hound with bad separation anxiety! There are many things you can try before leaving a dog alone with a bark collar, which does sound cruel and dangerous to me. See if leaving the radio or tv on calms him down. See if he is distracted enough by a frozen kong to be calm by the time he's realized you've left. Desensitize him to you stepping out the door by giving him a kong with a tablespoon of peanut butter in it and then coming back before he starts barking. Look into buying him a Thundershirt, and, in the meantime, see if putting an old, medium tight-fitting t-shirt on him helps a little.

You'll probably end up using a combination of methods in the end. What's most important for my dog is the routine we've established: he gets told to go in his kennel (we don't close the door anymore and usually return to him sleeping on the bed) where he gets his kong. Then we tell him to be good and we leave. If any of these steps are skipped, he basically flips out like a toddler without their bedtime routine, and will yelp until we get back, just like he did when we first got him.

In any case, it really only has been 24 hours, and things may change quickly. Give yourselves and him more time.
posted by emyd at 8:45 PM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I dogsat (for over two months) for a dog who barked loudly and almost incessantly whenever I left the house when she was in her crate. She never barked when I was home. Later her owners decided to stop leaving her in the crate, and when I dogsat then, she didn't bark when I left. Just a data point.
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:09 PM on June 9, 2014

I have a basset hound mix and she can't stand being in her crate when I am not home. I gave up on keeping her in a closed crate while I'm gone, because I was concerned with her getting so upset and disturbing the neighbors.

Now when I leave the house, I keep her in a hallway (roughly 10ftx3ft) with her open crate. I haven't heard a peep from her since I have been doing this. Most of the time when I get home and open the hallway door, I catch her half asleep walking out of her crate.

I agree with previous commenters' suggestions of walks to tire out your pup. If yours is anything like my basset hound, it won't take too much walking to prompt a 3 hour nap when he gets inside.
posted by rancidchickn at 10:40 PM on June 9, 2014

You adopted him yesterday? Give him time before worrying too much. Everything is so, so new, different and therefore stressful for him.
posted by sianifach at 12:20 AM on June 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: It took my rescue sighthound two weeks to stop yeowling incessantly when left on his own and now he sleeps all day on his own, so don't take his day one behaviour as indicative of his normal personality - he's probably really stressed out from the move! Definitely ask your rescue group for advice as they know your particular dog.

One thing that worked for us and still does is that the dog gets fed in a Kong wobbler when we leave. This distracts him enough that we can leave without him getting worked up, and means that putting on our coats and getting keys is a positive sign that means YES FOOD IS COMING! The problem for our dog that if he gets worked up he doesn't know how to calm himself down. My dog also goes apeshit when left crated on his own.
posted by bimbam at 3:36 AM on June 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Lots and lots of exercise- mental and physical so he is generally a tired pup when you get ready to leave. I also use a Kong or a Tug-a-Jug with yummy food that I only give out just before I leave the house. Early on I used a combination of a Thundershirt and pheromone diffuser as well.
It also helps to make your coming and going pretty low key and quiet.
Whatever you do, make it consistent and he'll settle in and relax- it may take a few weeks to a month. My dog now is usually sound asleep when I come home midday.
posted by bookrach at 4:08 AM on June 10, 2014

Please do NOT use a bark collar on him. I'm presuming it uses some kind of shock or spray. This will be highly stressful for him, and will not cure his anxiety, even if it masks the symptoms. It would be an especially bad idea to use when he's alone and crated. Imagine the feeling of being locked up, abandoned, and then zapped with something unpleasant every time you tried to call out for help. That's cruel, and also useless.

If you can spend time with him to help him settle in that would be really great. The suggestions of plenty of exercise are also good. If you're worried about his safety in a crate, then I would avoid using it. Can you put him in the bathroom (with anything he could get into like the bin/toiletries/bleach removed) so at least there's easy clean up?

Leaving a kong is a good idea, but if he's extremely anxious he might not be interested.

You can work on leaving for short periods of time using the techniques in this video, but it won't be a quick fix.

There's also the option of medication to keep his anxiety at manageable levels while you work on his separation anxiety. I'm not a vet but I think prozac has been used successfully in these cases.
posted by mymbleth at 4:53 AM on June 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Sit outside on the front step with only the screen door closed. He'll see that you're outside, but still home. Do that for 5-10min. Slowly increase the distance. Reward calm behaviour with treats.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 5:09 AM on June 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I was recently informed that bassett/beagle mixes are called bagle hounds, pronounced like the delicious bread product.

There is a great FAQ post with lots of suggestions at dogforums.com about separation anxiety. Dogforums members strongly favor positive reward methods so you are very unlikely to exacerbate the problem using the techniques listed here.
posted by workerant at 7:21 AM on June 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

You've barely had him a day. Give him a chance to settle in and get used to your routine as that will help a great deal with his anxiety. When he knows that you will come back when every you leave. If you leaving means he gets a nice treat filled kong that will help too.

A bark collar at this point will only add to his stress and most likely make any habits worse or bring in new ones, it is definitely a tool of last resort.

If you want to help him feel calm, I've had good luck with pheromone collars, that don't hurt the dog in anyway, you can also get plug in diffusers you can put near the crate. Not every dog responds to these.

A lot of dogs will also bark and carry on while there owners are with in range of hearing just in case they can convince you to come back and will settle down fine once you are gone. Talk to your neighbours to make sure, also to let them know you have a new dog settling in and will be working on any barking issues. Neighbours are usually happier if forewarned than thinking they are going to have to suffer and you're not doing anything.

OH this book is amazing for info about settling in a new dog.
posted by wwax at 7:53 AM on June 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you can afford a second dog, get your dog a dog. Two dogs are only a little bit more extra work than one dog and can keep each other company when you're away.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:03 AM on June 10, 2014

Best of luck with your new hound! Just wanted to seconding mymbleth's comment to avoid using a bark collar. Equating calls for help and attention with pain & discomfort would probably make his anxiety worse - not better. He might quiet down, but the anxiety would still be there, under the surface. Much more destructive behaviors usually result from suppressed anxieties (think Titanic and the iceberg).
posted by apennington at 8:55 AM on June 10, 2014

Please don't take Jacqueline's advice and get a second dog on the assumption that it will cure separation anxiety. There is no guarantee that having a canine companion will make your dog happy to be left alone. I've seen a documentary about separation anxiety, filming dogs when the owners are out. One example was of two dogs filmed when alone: one is chilled, but the other one is still frantic with anxiety. You might end up with TWO dogs barking and causing messes in your house. Far better to put your resources towards helping the dog you've already got.
posted by mymbleth at 10:26 AM on June 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Definitely talk to you vet and the rescue organization, they might have some good advice for you.

When my parents adopted a 3 year old rescue golden a few years back, his anxiety and behavior was really difficult to deal with and he eventually saw a vet behaviorist, who told them often rescue dogs can be put on medication for anxiety during the period of time while they are adjusting to their new homes. So that's something to keep in mind if the problem persists.

Before leaving the TV on for him, see how he responds to it. Television can make some dogs more anxious.
posted by inertia at 10:29 AM on June 10, 2014

I don't have a specific link but if you look for "alone training " on retired greyhound sites you may find good suggestions. The gist of it is to leave extremely often for very short periods, with the dog getting something good each time. Start by walking out, closing the door, and coming right back in. Repeat a zillion times in one day until the dog is bored. Start as soon as possible because now the dog is learning what is normal for the house, and you want that to include "we leave and always come back "
posted by sepviva at 2:10 PM on June 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

« Older Oh god oh god the dog is sick.   |   Social Media Protocol: Unfriending a Coworker... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.