Friday, April 03, 2015

My Velcro Dog

I have had Brady for two months and it turns out that the best thing in your life really can be the hardest thing in your life.

(Do I sound like a new mom? I feel like I sound like a new mom.)

We are still transitioning. Brady is a nervous creature (I suspect that he was not treated well in his previous home) and has separation anxiety and I am a nervous creature and his separation anxiety breaks my heart. But we're getting by.

His nervousness improves a little bit better every day. He is still easily startled and he follows me from room to room (we call him Velcro Dog) but he seems braver. I think that obedience class has a lot to do with that; he is starting to learn his boundaries and my expectations and it is making him more confident.

But the separation anxiety is TOUGH.

When I first got him: he stayed at Mom and Dad's house for the first couple of weeks when I was at work. He was already accustomed to spending time there and he would have the company of their dog, Elle. That worked okay.

Then: I made a few attempts over the course of one weekend to leave him alone at my condo for a short period of time. He barked the whole time. 

Which is never ideal but the barking is one thing if you live in a house and a completely other thing when you live in a condo and the three other families that live adjacent to you are also subject to the barking. Nobody complained but I don't want to be a bad neighbor. 

So: since I was going to dogsit for my parents in another week anyway, I decided he could stay at Mom and Dad's house for another week.

During dogsitting week at Mom and Dad's: I crate trained him. No issues. He loves his crate, which I had suspected that he would because he was already drawn to tight spaces, like underneath my kitchen table.

Continuing on: after Mom and Dad got back, I was determined that Brady would start staying at my condo. I planned to leave him alone for few hours on Monday. I pulled out all of the stops: crated him, wrapped him up in his little anxiety shirt that makes him look like a sausage, gave him a Xanax (prescribed by the vet), made him up a special treat that would entertain him for a while, turned on the radio, didn't make a big production about leaving. I am such a worrier but, for some reason, I was really convinced that this would work.


I asked my mom to check on him about an hour in. He was barking. I drove by a half-hour later: still barking. It took everything I had in me to leave him a little bit longer before rushing back home to find him still barking.

I didn't cry but I definitely wanted to. I'm so thankful that my parents are understanding and, quite frankly, happy to have Brady crated at their house for the time being.

But it can't be like this forever.

So we've been practicing. He goes in his crate. I give him a special treat. I hang out in another part of my house for a half hour or so.

Looking for additional suggestions or the magical cure, I vented to our trainer. I told her the whole story. Our conversation went something like this:
Her: "what about (insert suggestion here)?"
Me: "I already do that."
And that and that and that and that.

"I would rather not have to purchase and use every anti-anxiety product out there," I laughed. But of course I will. Brady is my dog. He isn't going anywhere. I will make the investments.

Next up is a Dog Appeasing Pheromone diffuser (although he already wears a collar that's infused with the pheromones that are supposed to make him feel more secure) and maybe some calming chews because I really hate the idea of giving him Xanax every damn day and, I don't know, maybe an appointment with an exorcist?

The trainer assures me that I am doing all of the right things and that I just need to give it more time and more practice.

Which I can do. Which I am doing.

While being completely paranoid that I am going to permanently scar the sensitive little guy.

I might need to dip into Brady's Xanax supply.


Mandy Potts said...

Oh, honey. This is so hard. (PS: Been reading for years and first time commenter here!).

I have a 9 year old beagle who has had horrible separation anxiety since DAY 1. He gets kenneled when we leave, I throw in a Kong filled with peanut butter and we also used to live in a condo and people would tell us he barked. Like you, I would do anything--I have a Thundercoat, have talked to trainers and my vet, we have "practiced," I've tried to leave him roam the house (DID and DOES NOT WORK), I've tried calming sprays and am recently onto some essential oils. I have also tape recorded him and do not believe he barks the whole day; I believe he knows my car and reacts to that when I'm trying to "catch" him in his act. I also know that the more tired I can get my dog, the less he barks...mostly because he falls asleep quicker and for longer.

What I'm trying to say is: Don't beat yourself up too hard. They are safe in their kennel even though it's really hard on the mama. You are doing everything you can and your pup is lucky to have you!

Danielle said...

Agree with Mandy, definitely trying to tire him out, which is hard in the morning right after waking up! I think practicing while you're at home is a great idea, and one I would never think of. Some dogs just have crazy anxiety. My parents dog has anxiety like that and my parents didn't know how to deal with it, and now that dog is my sisters dog because she is more of an animal whisperer than my parents.

I do think that establishing a routine is beneficial. It just takes time till his doggy brain programs and recognizes this routine.

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