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Canine Behavior/Anxiety/Hyperactivity?


Hello Ms. Connor,

I apologize for writing again and should have used the follow up question feature, however I was

reluctant to bother you again with another question regarding my black lab/basset hound mix.

We spoke earlier this week about his stealing issues, he is 14 months old. The information you

gave me pertaining to his stealing issues has already begun to help quite a bit. I realize that with

pets there is never an easy or simple solution and behavior is something that takes much time

to correct. But I am already having good results after using your advice related to his stealing


My dog Riley is a very complex dog. He was abandoned and found wandering the streets of a

nearby city when he was very small. I adopted him at 7 months and he has been in my home for

7 months as well. I'm new to this breed of dog, so I'm hoping my question is not wasting your

time. I recently owned a beagle who passed in June of 2012. He had separation anxiety during

his life and was given medication as a treatment whenever I would have to leave for work. This

medication helped him greatly. He was also an abandoned dog.

With Riley, my lab/basset, he is a very high energy dog and I am disabled, so it is quite a

challenge for me. In the last 5 years, I've been diagnosed with MS. Riley is part labrador, so I

understand that in his youth, he will be extremely high energy. However, he is often panicked

whenever I am out of sight. Because I am home everyday, all day, he often does not deal with

my absence. On the days that I must visit my doctor, which is once a month, I kennel him while I

am at the doctor for a couple hours. He will whine and cry despite having a Kong filled with treats

to keep him busy while I am away. He never once touches his Kong and has never any day that

I've gone to the doctor.

I would not kennel him when I leave, except that he is very destructive. When bored, he often

tears up carpet, my entire apartment now needs total removal of my carpet for new carpet, he

has torn up my couch down to the frame, he has ruined several sets of curtains in my front

apartment window, he will chew on wooden kitchen chairs or wooden shelves around the house.

He destroys things often, despite having many toys, going for moderate walks twice daily, and

he has 3 kong toys stuffed with frozen treats to challenge him and last longer than unfrozen

treats. He loves all of his toys, we do play once a day, however because he is a biter, my vet

has advised me in no tug-of-war and no fetch until he learns to release the toy instead of me

having to wrestle it from his mouth. He does not seem aggressive when he bites, it seems to be

more for attention and play. I think it is considered "mouthing" as well. This is an issue that has been evaluated by my vet and my vet is aware of it. So this is really just some added information.

After keeping my hands away from his mouth during play and ignoring him when he bites for attention, the biting has seemed to ceased incredibly from how it was when he first came into my home.

I have support from my mother who helps me to maintain my living style by picking up groceries

and medications, but I would like to venture out of my home at some times when I am feeling

well enough to. However, I have been so afraid to leave him alone, uncaged, that I've had to

have my mother "babysit" him when I've had to be gone longer than a doctor visit. I'm fearful that

he will tear up items around the house, and not fearful for my possessions, but fearful that he will

ingest something that will harm him.

For that same reason, he is also kenneled at bedtime, as I take medication to help me sleep. I have tried to take a nap during the day to see how he would react, but he panics if I close my eyes. He will jump on me and repeatedly lick my face and bark. I do not think he understands what is happening. He will panic when I shower as well, even though he peeks behind the shower curtain and will watch for me awhile, he will then lie on the bathroom floor and whine loudly until I am finished.

I understand that he is still a very young dog, only slightly over a year old, so I am wondering if some of this is puppy behavior, such as the anxiety or hyper activity, and will go away with age. He has slowed down since he was 7 months old, when he first came into my home. However, the boredom and destruction has not stopped and at times, seems to be worse. It may seem that I am complaining simply over my material items, but that is not the case. I am not materialistic, while I do not have much money, I love my pets as if they were my own children, and am only worried for his safety and mental and physical health.

Because he is incredibly afraid of having his nails clipped as well, I must schedule a vet appointment for this procedure. So as I need to schedule that within the next couple of weeks, I was wondering if there is something I need to approach on this hyper activity or anxiety subject.  I am very worried about how sad he seems to be if I am not in his sight and how his constant boredom and hyper energy leads to destruction and I have to be constantly vigilante and making sure he is not ingesting anything. It is a fear I have everyday. Should I approach these topics with my vet or is this an area that my vet may not be knowledgeable? Is there anything I am doing wrong, or is this something Riley will eventually grow out of? Is it possible he may need medication at this young age?

While I do not want to give my dog medication just for MY benefit, I have had the experience with my belated beagle that the medication he was given for separation anxiety very much helped his well being. He was able to go off the medication when he reached an older age as well. I am really stuck between a rock and a hard place with Riley's behavior, I am just not sure that he is as happy and mentally healthy as can be and I am unsure if I am the cause of it. Thanks so much for taking the time yet again to advise me on another situation. I really appreciate your help and I apologize for asking yet another question of you. I just thought it to be appropriate in obtaining some advice before scheduling his upcoming vet visit.

Thank you so much for your time!

#Oh and just as added information, he has been neutered and had this procedure before I adopted him at 7 months. In case that was necessary. He also had shots and a well-ness check before adoption and once again at his last vet visit in January of this year.#

Never consider a question any "bother" to me as I make myself available for that purpose. :o)

Your dog is not "bored", he is severely anxious.  As his (most likely) first primary caregiver (other than his dam, former owner obviously dumped him), he has become quite attached to you.  His panic when you "sleep" is a total lack of habituation to humans who are "asleep".  It evokes a fear response.  While medicating a very young dog has obviously drawbacks, it also has great benefits.  This is providing the medication is not in a class of drugs such as benzodiazepines.  Those drugs inhibit learning.

I would mention to the vet that this young dog has extreme separation anxiety and perhaps requires short term medication.

My treatment for serious separation anxiety is here:

 1.  You can create an emotional independence in the dog by conditioning a "time out" article.
Simply place the chosen article (something you don’t use for any other purpose, like an odd garden statue) in full view of the dog every day for thirty minutes to one hour and call a "time out", during which you actively ignore the dog.  When you remove the article, reward the dog with praise, but don’t overdo it.  Over the course of two weeks, your dog will begin to recognize the article and begin to acknowledge your unavailability (many dogs go to a corner to lie down, or their favorite couch spot, etc.)  Once you observe your dog’s recognition of the article, put it in plain sight about ten minutes before leaving the house (but NOT in the room the dog is confined to, the dog will lose its conditioned response.)  In other words, use the article as a CUE to the dog that you are not available.

2.  Make your dog earn everything for about one month, including pats, entering/leaving the home, etc.  (This is called “Nothing in life is free”.)  You will be promoting yourself psychologically, which will help the dog to feel calmer.

3.  Purchase Turid Rugaas' book, “On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming signals” or go to her web site  Observe the dog’s behaviors before you depart to determine if your departure rituals are creating anxiety.  Use calming signals just before leaving the house WITHOUT saying “goodbye” to the dog (which can set the dog up for emotional distress.)  Dogs instantly respond to these signals and you’ll begin to see that response immediately.

4.  Change your departure rituals so you do not inadvertently "cue" your dog.  This means doing things differently EVERY day during treatment (which should last about two to four weeks.)  If you put your coat on last, put your coat on five minutes before you actually leave the house; if you pick up your keys last, put them in your pocket ten minutes before leaving the house, etc.  Again, given two weeks (at least) of this treatment, along with the others, your dog’s extreme sensitivity to your departure rituals should diminish and/or extinguish.  When you RETURN home, ignore the dog for a few seconds, and then ask the dog to “sit” and acknowledge him/her; keep your homecoming attention short and sweet.  If there is any destruction around (torn objects, etc.) IGNORE IT.  What you don’t want is the dog to fear your RETURN as much as s/he fears your leave taking.  

5.  Do not allow the dog free “run” of the house when you are gone; this places a heavy emotional burden to “protect” on the dog, and might increase stress (which accounts for excessive barking!) Put the dog in a protected space (kitchen, well ventilated and spacious laundry area,  etc., NOT the basement or the garage), or use a crate large enough for him/her to get up and turn around, and only use it for short periods of time.  Keep “special” toys there the dog doesn’t have at any other time, like a “kong” with a ½ teaspoon of peanut butter, a Buster Cube which holds a portion of the dog's daily food and which the dog will roll around to obtain it, a squeaky toy, etc. The dog will begin to anticipate this treat and associate it with your leaving the house.  Try using sound technology especially designed for dogs, as seen on Amazon:

Dogs that have been rehomed often develop separation anxiety; dogs that have been heavily bonded to a person that is then “lost” (not seen again for whatever reason) can suffer serious anxiety at the leave taking of the “new” human caregiver; dogs that have moved with their human family to a totally foreign environment are emotionally “lost” and may develop separation problems.  Some dogs are generally anxious or high strung and have a greater tendency toward emotional distress.  Ask your veterinarian if your dog may benefit from a course of medication while you are using behavior modification to change his/her separation related problem behaviors.  This medication should NOT be SSRIs (“doggy Prozac”) or in the class of drugs known as benzodiazepines, which inhibit learning.   There are several medications that are presently being used to treat severe separation anxiety, but remember that all medications have side effects.  Be certain to check the web site and observe your dog carefully for potential side effects, especially harmful ones, and report these to the Vet immediately.

It might take months for any treatment to work.  The dog should eventually habituate to your lifestyle but there is no guaranty that an extremely anxious dog will totally be counter conditioned.  Just keep going and have hope.

PS: A hybrid between these two breeds would produce (as an "outcross") an enormous litter.  If the sire was the Labrador, the dam would most likely have lost some puppies soon after birth or been totally unable to care for them all (nurse them, instruct them, supervise them).  If the sire was the Basset Hound, the Labrador would still have had an enormous litter (possibly up to 14 or more) and, if young and inexperienced (or if this was her first litter) been unprepared to nurse appropriately and supervise her puppies.  Bite inhibition is acquired among litter mates and at the "paws" of the dam who will not tolerate "playful" or experimental nips.  His play behavior demonstrates that he was either not supervised by the dam or was removed from his litter mates at far too young an age.  He may have been the only surviving neonate for all we know.  It's normal, in other words, and not a sign of aggression.

You can easily counteract this "mouthing" by teaching the dog to take it/leave it:

I also recommend the following:

For overall positive reinforcement training, see Dr. Ian Dunbar:  

Canine Behavior

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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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