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Jane Lefler
Jane Lefler, Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 19830
Experience:  Dog breeder/Trainer and Behaviorist 18+ years
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I have a 10 year old staffie cross lab male dog who is neutered.

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I have a 10 year old staffie cross lab male dog who is neutered. I used to work 10 hour shifts and he was as good as gold left on his own. I recently retired from work and moved in with my partner and his 17 year old son. The dog appeared to settle at first but over the last few weeks he has started to mis behave. Breaking fences to escape out of the garden and breaking down the baby gate on the stairs to gain access to the bedrooms (even opening doors) I am not able to leave him alone and cannot go upstairs to have a shower without him crying and breaking down the baby gate. I took him to the vets who has prescribed a calming collar which has not worked. It is like he gets into a bit of a frenzy panting and pacing. Someone has suggested changing his food to one with less protein which I am in the process of doing gradually. Can you suggest anything else?
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Dog Training
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 3 years ago.
JaCustomer,
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My name is Jane. I have been working professionally with animals especially dogs in both health and behavioral issues for over 18 years. I have over 14,000 satisfied customers. It will be my pleasure to work with you today.
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There are a few things you can do. One solution to the problem is to crate him when you need to leave him by himself. Given his ability to escape, I'd go for a very sturdy crate like the empire pro series. They are expensive and are made from square bars rather than the wire like crates and considered escape proof. This would solve the issue quickly.
For the outside, I'd install another underground fence system. This would prevent him getting close enough to the regular fence to destroy it or escape. Petsafe makes a good underground fence system and you can find them on auction sites very cheap. They make both citronella spray types and shock types. I've found shock types more effective but tell owners to let the collar shock them first so they see that the intensity is not bad and it is the unexpectedness of the correction that helps stop the behavior.
They also make indoor pet fence systems that would make parts of the house off limits to the dog.
However, it seems that the issue is more of a separation anxiety problem. So let me give you some information on separation anxiety and ways to overcome it.
First thing is to take your dog for a nice long walk before you plan on leaving the house, preferably 30 minutes or long. Make it a long, quick paced walk to tire your boy out.
Second is to use a low-key approach to leaving the house. Ignore your dog before you leave and after you come home for at least 5 minutes or more. If your house is like mine in the morning everyone is running around getting ready to leave. This has the dog in an excited mood and then suddenly he is alone. If this is the case, put him away from everyone, say in a bathroom until the frenzy is over.
You can provide him with small stimulating toys or toys that you can fill with treats. Kongs are a good choice as you can fill the kong with peanut butter or yogurt and freeze it. Give it to him right before you leave. It may help keep him occupied while you are away from him. Also remember to not reward a dog's excitement to you with petting and affection or even eye contact. You want to show him nice calm praise when he is being calm.
The best way is to crate him. This prevents injury to the home and protects him as well. Another thing that might help is a DAP collar. These use a pheromone to calm a dog. I'm assuming this is the calming collar your vet prescribed. They are proven to help with separation anxiety but usually we use them while doing some training for the issue as well. Rarely will a collar magically correct the behavior unless it is minor to begin with. See one here:
vetmedicine.about.com/od/behaviortraining/gr/DAP-Dog-Collar.htm
Practice putting him in the crate, leaving the house, opening the door immediately and rewarding him with a hot dog (vienna sausage) treat if he did not scratch, bite and carry one. This teaches him that you leave but come back quickly. Once he seems to not do anything when you initially leave, lengthen the time he must be quiet for you to come back in. Change the time as well. Make it 2 minutes one time and 10 minutes another, so he never knows if you are gone for an hour or gone foe 2 minutes. It helps him stay calm for longer periods of time, just be sure you reward him when he is good.
Since he is very bad right now, you might start with just walking around a corner and coming back and slowly progressing to leaving the house or the room for longer periods of time.
Another thing that helps is to do things that might make the dog feel you are leaving and then don't such as putting on your coat or picking up your keys. Or leave without doing those things. This helps remove things that might trigger the dog to become anxious.
These should help his separation anxiety and boredom and help curb hisbehavior. It will not be an overnight cure and will take work on your and your family’s part to be consistent in your interaction with him. Here is a site that also offers idea to combat separation anxiety.
http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/overcoming-separation-anxiety.aspx
Another option is medication, which is discussed on this site:
http://www.cpvh.com/2011/08/08/separation-anxiety
You might also ask the vet about Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS). It has been seen in dogs younger than yours. There is a wonderful site that explains it well and also explains how to document your dog's behavior and discuss it with your vet. It is similar to alzheimers and many dogs do become very focused on one person as they forget other things.
The good news is that there is a drug called L-Selegeline (Anipryl (R)) which has been recently approved for use in the clinical indication of cognitive dysfunction (CDS) in dogs.
Please see this site for more information and other causes that may exhibit the same symptoms.
http://www.swiftwaterfarms.com/swiftwater/p22CanineCognitiveDysfunction.htm
http://www.cliniciansbrief.com/column/applied-behavior/house-soiling-cognitive-dysfunction-syndrome?96m5sri9MY
I hope this information is helpful to you and you are satisfied with my response. If you would like any additional information or have more questions please don’t hesitate to press the reply to expert or continue conversation button so I can address any issues you still have .
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