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Canine Behavior/Separation Anxiety


I have 2 dogs: an 8 year old golden retriever that we've had since she was a puppy, and a 7 year old black lab mix that I rescued 3 and a half years ago. The golden retriever hasn't had any behavioral problems, but the lab does. She had a couple behavior problems when we rescued her (food aggression with other dog, fear of thunder and fireworks) that we slowly trained out of her, but she still has some separation anxiety problems.

During the day, the dogs have free run of our 27 acres and can go inside and out as they please because there is almost always someone home. When everyone is gone, they stay inside. The golden just lays on the couch and sleeps, but the lab yelps and destroys anything she can find. She immediately tears up the window blinds and the carpet in front of the door as we leave.

At night, things get shredded and eaten. Usually, it's paper or socks, but occasionally food will get left on the counter instead of put away. If they find it, the dogs will eat the food and destroy the packaging. Since we have 2 dogs, it's hard to tell which is destroying things, but this didn't start until we got the lab. The golden retriever, aside from when she was a puppy, hasn't shredded anything she can find. She will, however, eat any food in sight. I believe the lab is destroying everything, and the golden is helping to eat any food.

We live in a very small house trailer with no room for a dog crate big enough. We've tried confining them to the bathroom, but the lab broke the door to escape. If we keep them in the bedroom with us, she tries to sleep in the bed. My husband will wake up right away (light sleeper) and she'll get down, but then she claws at our bed and tears the edges of the sheets. When it's cooler outside in the fall, we had them sleep outside. But in the winter and summer, that's not a good choice. The golden would live outside if we let her, but cold weather is harsh on her aging hips. The lab just scratches at the door for hours wanting to come inside.

What can we do to help the lab relax? My husband is nearing the final straw before he takes her to the shelter for destroying something expensive like a couch or the bed.

Your living situation appears not to allow you to confine the dog that is the "problem".  (BTW: any dog will counter surf once high value food reward is found and this has nothing to do with separation anxiety). There is behavior modification available to treat separation anxiety and I would be most happy to give you a very long and complicated procedural plan, but first I would like you to consult your veterinarian.  There are medications available BEFORE beginning behavior modification (and I do NOT mean Doggy Prozac, do not use that approach).  If you are able, a veterinary behaviorist is preferred to a general veterinarian.  You can see if there is one in your area from the following link or by calling the veterinary teaching hospital in your area for referral:

Meanwhile: making any dog live outdoors, regardless of weather conditions, is extremely punishing emotionally.  While I understand your frustration, you must also agree that there is no confinement area in your home (such as a laundry room) that will successfully confine both dogs.  Your Lab suffers from what appears to be extreme separation issues; this can be treated but, as I suggested, a veterinary visit must come FIRST before putting into place any behavioral approach.  Also: your municipal "shelter" is most likely far from that; many such places are high kill shelters.  At age seven, your Lab has NO CHANCE of succeeding in another home: NO CHANCE.  Her condition will severely worsen if she is dumped and she may be euthanized immediately as an owner release.  Plus: few municipal "shelters" will screen potential adopters and anyone can take your dog "home" for any purpose, many of them quite bad.  Black dogs die in "shelters", they are not readily adopted.  I understand your frustration and the expense of having your home demolished by a dog, but death is not what this dog deserves and I'm certain you'll agree.  Please seek a veterinary opinion and use Followup so I can then help you help your dog.

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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