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Canine Behavior/Night time separation anxiety



I have a three year old jack russell/yorkshire terrier cross. Up until three weeks ago, she happily spent the night sleeping in her own bed in the lounge.

Three weeks ago, she was attacked in the park by another dog which jumped over a fence, ran straight over to her and beagn throwing her in the air and shaking her like a rag doll. It was a horrific experience-she had puncture wounds all over her and her two front teeth were bent at a 90 degree angle.

We took her to the vets and she was given painkillers and treatment. For the first two nights afterwards, we allowed her to sleep on our bed as she was really shaken up. On the third night we put her back in her bed. We were woken a couple of hours later by high pitched screming and found her upstairs in the kitchen (we have a mezzanine kitchen overlooking the lounge) running at full pelt round the kitchen table screaming. She ran up my other half's body when she saw him making him bleed form the scratches. She woke up howling and crying for a few days every night after this. We allowed her to sleep on our bed.

We now cannot get her to spend more than an hour in her bed in the lounge without whinign and crying and keeping us up. We go in and put her staright back in her bed and walk out again but she just starts again five minutes later. When we walk in the lounge, she is extremely distressed; shaking and licking profusely.

It has got so bad that I slept on the couch with her last night from 2am. This is starting to become a real issue that is ruining our sleep and causing a lot od stress. I feel guilty putting her in the lounge because I know how anxious she gets.

Any advice?


Well, this sounds very much like complex post traumatic stress syndrome in HUMANS except for one thing:

As loving persons, you took the dog to your bed when she vocalized and demonstrated that she was in the grip of a fight/flight experience (could have been the result of a dream, yes dogs dream).  So that rewarded it.  Now, she may very well have developed a "superstitious behavior".  This means, rather than "learning" you were trying to "comfort" her, she "learned" you were agreeing with her distress and now cannot sleep alone.

Thankfully for you, in the UK there are government licensed and highly competent behaviorists.  I think one or two visits from one of these will help enormously; plus, your dog might need a short term medication (a beta blocker like propanolol) that truncates the rush of adrenaline in a fight/flight response (where cognition doesn't play a role, just as in human CPTSD).  I suggest you start at the top and work your way down:

Sight unseen, my first impulse is to say this dog MUST NEVER BE LET LOOSE in any situation which could even remotely approximate this traumatic event.  Not now.  Perhaps later.  Three weeks is no time at all and the dog is still reacting to the trauma.  Find a Behaviorist, spend some money, well worth it for you and your dog.

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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