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Canine Behavior/Anxiety at its worst...


Hello, I am hoping you can shed some new insight on my pet problem.  I have a 4 year old terrier mix (schnauzer, rat terrier, Chihuahua).  I do know that these breeds are all hyperactive and anxious dogs but this case seems extreme to me.  He hates any type of wind or loud noise.  He gets very shaky, paces, and starts to pee and chew up things.  At first I thought it was just the weather so I tried the thundershirts, calming collars, a combination of both, and other non medication options.  I eventually had to take him to the vet for medication because I thought he was going to give himself a heart attack.  The medication helped for 2 weeks and then it did nothing.  He is currently on Chloracalm and it seems to have no effect either.  I have recently noticed that he gets worse when I am not at home and chews up things when my husband is home. I understand this is a separation anxiety and have been putting him in the kennel or locked upstairs (baby gait) while we are not home.  Unfortunalty if we leave him in the kennel 9 times out of 10 he pees in it and or poops.  I am just wondering what other options may be out there to help him and help our wallets, the medication is very expensive and the things we have had to replace has broken our pockets as well. (blinds, baby stroller, baby bag, carpet, rugs, shoes, baskets.) I am in need of advice because I do not want to have to keep him in the kennel if no body is watching him constantly.  I just want him to live a normal happy dog care free life.

My heart goes out to you and to this poor dog.  Information regarding medications can be found here:

Now, let me advise you: these drugs are much like psychiatric drugs used to treat Human emotional dysfunction, mental illness, etc.  Every drug has a side effect.  A Human can report that side effect (although in extreme mental illness, that person might not be able to attribute the side effect to the drug).  A dog cannot report a side effect.  Most of the drugs used have to enter the system on a consistent basis before they "work".  At some point, a negative side effect can be seen after the first two to three weeks.  Some drugs used to "calm" can actually worsen anxiety and generalize it (meaning: the dog learns to fear other things as well as the original stimulus that caused a fear reaction).

The breed mix is questionable without a DNA test and not all breed types (as you mentioned) suffer from hyperactivity or high anxiety (these can be inherited or the result of neonatal experience, or even inadvertently rewarded by a loving owner). This dog is terribly anxious when YOU are not present.  When your husband is at home, it appears he is even more anxious and this might be caused by: his observation that someone higher in social hierarchy is present and he is without his primary caregiver (you); or, your husband has far less patience (no blame here) and the dog is fearful of him not because your husband as done anything, but because his body language alone communicates his distaste for this entire situation.

I know the medication is expensive.  I also know that generic brands (even with a prescription from a veterinarian) can be filled at some locations (such as Walmart) for a fraction of the cost.  My advice is twofold:

1.  Find a Veterinary behaviorist; this is a professional who is able to observe, evaluate, and attempt medication that will benefit, and not harm (much like a psychiatrist):

2.  Create a stronger bond between the dog and your husband (if your husband is willing) by making your husband the source of all good things:  being fed, being taken or allowed out and in; affection; attention that is only positive.  While your husband is doing that, YOU will be utilizing the Nothing In Life Is Free program.  You will begin by following the protocol I designed to treat severe separation anxiety, as found here:

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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).  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.  Leave a radio playing (on soft music or calm talk shows) and a light on when you are not home, and if possible move your answering machine (at full volume) into the room with the dog and leave your dog "messages" during the day.

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The dog will continue to eliminate (out of stress) in his crate, so purchase the largest crate you can find/afford and have space for (a Great Dane size crate).  Put a soft bed and a bowl of water at the back, and cover the front with newspaper because the dog will most likely eliminate and no dog will do so where it has to lie in it unless forced by size of crate.

It will take a great deal of time and patience on your part, and on the part of your husband (this is the tough part, trust me, I know lol).  If you are able to afford a veterinary behaviorist and the medication is either changed or eliminated (you can't just STOP it, dog has to be weaned OFF it), and you persist in making this dog earn everything from YOU while getting everything for FREE from your husband, it just might work.  Please use followup to report on progress as a few weeks pass.  

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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