Sitting friend's anxious dog - constant wimpering, barking, peeing
March 25, 2023 10:20 AM   Subscribe

I'm sitting my former foster puppy - now as a 1 year old 80 pound dog, who still struggles with separation anxiety, soiling indoors, leash pulling,

Hi there, a year ago I fostered two puppies who were found in the forest with their mom and siblings; they were lab mixes and 6-7 weeks old. One of them was adopted by a young woman who later became my friend, so I am occasionally sitting the dog while she travels etc. and he is 1 year old now. I have a dog of my own (collie) and they are best buddies. Sitting him however is hell, I just felt like I owed her one since the dog is "much better now" according to her and she was sitting my dog as well last year (and offered to do so in the future). We are both foreigners in the country.

The problem is, his owner is facing plenty of mental health issues, especially anxiety, depression and PTSD (she is from Ukraine and there has been a war for the last year). but despite that is trying ; the dog is still kind of a messy teenager. She did not manage walks like I did, for 2 hours or more, to burn his energy. He weights 80 pounds now, he has this piercing bark that he uses every time I leave the flat and won't stop til I get back. I agreed to have him for 5 days but it's been hours and I am drained already. He is constantly whimpering while he is awake even if I am only one room away (it started happening half a year ago) and I am really not sure if it is a training matter or separation anxiety. It should not be a medical issue, according to a vet. My friend has him in a studio flat so can't really face the same issue; i have a two store flat with a spiral staircase, not appealing for dogs to walk on, meaning no door to separate bedroom from noises, and his whimpering and random barking can get overwhelming and sleep depriving.

2 months ago he started teeth chattering multiple times a day - it is only for a few seconds but it looks like he is having a mini-seizure. His owner said it was fine, it happens randomly, it comes and goes. Also I should just tell him to stop whimpering (but it doesn't work...)
Apart from that, housetraining - he still pees indoors as soon as he is left alone (we both have home office). Both might be a neurological disorder and the owner is collaborating with a zoo psychologist and a trainer and she sees a progress, although slow. He is not crate trained - allegedly he destroys even the metal crate. I own a metal crate and feed him there since the puppyhood, he goes in there with pleasure, however I have not tried closing it and leaving him there. He is overall anxious dog, it seems, can't stand being alone and even when you are near him, he is barking and whimpering. Presence of my dog won't help, long walks did pretty much no improvement and I've walked him for several hours today. Mental exercise is also something I tried but as soon as it ends, we are back to whimpering again...on walks he does not whimper, however.

Should I try to crate training these days or will it make him more anxious if i try it too fast? What can I do to make my following days (and his life) more bearable?
posted by ScorpionFlower to Pets & Animals (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
this is a second hand tip from my friend with a very anxious dog: doggie cbd.
posted by j_curiouser at 10:28 AM on March 25

yes, absolutely try some crate training and even some separation training. Even if you friend doesn't stick with it, the dog will have some of the foundations next time you pet sit.

Doing something is better than doing nothing at all - even if it's just for your own peace of mind.

I know that high-pitched lab bark well - my friend calls it her dog's "bitch-bark". It's grating on the ears.
posted by hydra77 at 12:00 PM on March 25

I've had wonderful results in utilising the techniques of Jan Fennel, and Amicien Bonding. 10-15 years ago.

We were so inspired, my partner at the time ended up doing one of their training courses too, but the basic techniques cover so much of what you could need.

Although the techniques were not human intuitive, it's really only a few changes in human behaviour to help the dog behaviour massively, and we continued to experience the most healthy, attentive and well balanced dog behaviour for years, including through some major human trauma events.

We also found the techniques incredible in both meeting, and looking after other dogs too.

So yeah 10/10, would highly recommend.
posted by many-things at 12:34 PM on March 25 [4 favorites]

You're watching the dog for 5 days? You're not going to be able to make any real progress on addressing separation anxiety or getting the dog used to being left in a crate in 5 days. I wouldn't try. If he's anxious and pees indoors when you're not in the same room with him, I think life will be easiest for both of you if you can manage to be in the same room with him as much as possible. Even if that means working on a laptop in a different room from where you usually work or sleeping downstairs on the sofa. I would just continue to make sure he gets a good amount of exercise and when he's not out a walk, stay nearby but try to make things calm and kind of boring so he feels like he can lie down and relax. Have you tried giving him something to chew on? That might help him settle down.
posted by Redstart at 1:19 PM on March 25 [8 favorites]

This sounds incredibly hard on everyone, but especially the poor dog, who is really suffering. The long answer is your friend should work with a dog behavior specialist for even 1 session and map out a plan to help the dog.

The really short answer is to keep the dog busy. I've learned over the years that yes, physical exercise and lots of sniffing outdoors can tucker a dog out, but keeping their brains busy inside does the same. So keep the dog busy!

Put their food in water, freeze it, and give them that instead of regular food.

Get a bunch of fillable Kongs, stuff high value treats like freeze dried liver bits inside, then put in half a cheese stick, melt it in the microwave, then freeze it. The dog will spend HOURS trying to get the tasty morsels from the frozen melty cheese. When they have finished the Kong, go for a walk and give them another one.

This will keep most dogs very, very happy and busy and most importantly, exhausted.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 5:11 AM on March 26 [2 favorites]

Agree with most of the above, especially exercise and outdoors as much as possible, plenty of treats, and the crate.

Five days isn't enough to crate training, but you can help make that crate as an inviting and secure place as possible for him. Lots of soft comfy bedding, wear him out, and feed the kong treats in the crate. Start with the door open, then close it while you are actually hanging out in the same room doing quiet things--reading or whatever. Since you have a metal crate, cover it with a light sheet or blanket over the top and back, allowing him to see out the front toward where you usually are positioned. My heeler had been crate trained in a standard enclosed plastic kennel crate but was never entirely comfortable in it. I started using my open wire crate, and she still was not entirely relaxed in it. Putting on a cover made it more "cavelike" but not a trap.
posted by BlueHorse at 2:01 PM on March 26

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