Separation Anxiety?
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Thread: Separation Anxiety?

  1. #1
    Join Date
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    DefaultSeparation Anxiety?

    am seeking more training ideas to potty train my chocolate lab while I'm away.

    I have one lab, Maggie, that is about a year and half old and last November I got a chocolate lab puppy -- Millie. Millie is now about 8 months and is a great dog and is doing great with obedience and house training in the house when I'm home. However, when I leave her I have not been able to come up with anything to keep her from potting.

    The crate training has not worked at all. Whenever I leave her in the crate she messes. I suspect this is because I got her when she was ~3 months old and she was kept with her litter mates in too small of a pen where she just got used to living/sleeping in her own mess. I was trying the crate where I would come home over my lunch break and that didn't seem to be particularly successful.

    My other approach is I have a dog run (12' x 6' chain link deal) where I put both dogs in my basement -- at least it makes the clean up from her messing much better. It seemed like for a while she made some headway where I could leave her for the day in the run without messing but then seemed to go away. She has just learned that she can go to the bathroom in her crate or the run even though she is very reliable in the rest of the house when I'm around.

    Can anyone suggest any more approaches? Is this likely a separation anxiety issue?

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  3. #2
    Bob Pr. is offline Senior Member
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    DefaultRe: Separation Anxiety?

    It could be separation anxiety but I doubt it. Does Millie appear anxious when you're about to leave the house briefly on non-work days? -- or when you leave for work?

    I suspect the problem is that she wasn't trained when she was younger so by now she's had ample reinforcement to potty in her crate or dog run.

    It's best to catch them just before the potty act -- as soon as the anal sphincter begins to look larger or when the arched back, tail raised position is taken. Then you can whisk them outside and reward the act there.

    The only thing I can suggest is to alter your schedule to include periods of exercise outside because exercise promotes bowel evacuation.

    And, when the pottying occurs outside, PRAISE and TREAT

    Most every dog falls into ruts and Millie is unfortunately now in a rut you don't like.

    If you take Millie out for 15 minutes exercise in the morning, you will at least get some peeing -- possibly pottying -- at that time.

    Can you get a pet sitter to come in at noon or early afternoon?

    Then some more exercise and the possibility of P&P before retiring?

    It will take some patience and repetition to switch from an old rut that you dislike to a new one that you're more comfortable with.

    I'm retired and with Puff most of the day. At 6-6:30 AM we go out for a 40-60 minute offleash walk with much retrieving. Within 3 minutes when first out of the car, Puff always potties. She gets fed breakfast on our return. If I oversleep, Puff usually licks one of my ears until I get up.

    At 2 PM, (sometimes beginning at 1:30) Puff begins licking my hand reminding me it's soon time to potty. We go outside and I bowl a softball on the sidewalk a few times to hasten her bowels' peristalsic movement. She pees several times and always potties.

    At 10 PM we have a repeat of Puff's hand licking and we go out for a brief walk on our block. Usually within a few hundred feet, she potties, I bag it, and we head inside for the night.

    Day after day, week after week, year after year, that's her rut and we comfortably live with it.
    Puff [YF, AKC field line (from competing HT/FT breeder) 62 lbs, dob: 8-'01]

    Bess [BF, AKC bench line (from competing show breeder) 55 lbs., 1967-1981] "Poor Bess, the Wonder Dog":
    http://forum.justlabradors.com/showt...?p=748#post748

  4. #3
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    DefaultRe: Separation Anxiety?

    Thanks for the reply. I guess I just need to figure out ways to make her successful in the crate and slowly increase the time she is in it.

    It could be separation anxiety but I doubt it. Does Millie appear anxious when you're about to leave the house briefly on non-work days? -- or when you leave for work?
    She doesn't seem to get too concerned when I'm getting ready to go.

    I assume that if I think there is any chance she will mess in her crate that I shouldn't put her in it, right? Wouldn't that just be reinforcing that behavior? I think what I will try now is putting her in the crate when I'm home or only gone for a little while and keep taking her outside to do her business. (She always reliably does her business as soon as I take her outside.) And then try to slowly increase the time...

    The crate training worked so well on the first dog -- it is frustrating that it has been such a failure with Millie.

    (I was trying to post a picture of them but I must be to new of a member or something... keeps saying that the upload directory is not writable or something...)

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  6. #4
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    DefaultRe: Separation Anxiety?

    Or how about this question:

    Is it better to put her in the crate where at least she won't BM (but probably will pee) or leave her in the run where she will do both?

  7. #5
    Bob Pr. is offline Senior Member
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    DefaultRe: Separation Anxiety?

    Until you get the new rut established, I'd choose the run because it's probably more similar to being outside than the crate is.
    Puff [YF, AKC field line (from competing HT/FT breeder) 62 lbs, dob: 8-'01]

    Bess [BF, AKC bench line (from competing show breeder) 55 lbs., 1967-1981] "Poor Bess, the Wonder Dog":
    http://forum.justlabradors.com/showt...?p=748#post748

  8. #6
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    DefaultRe: Separation Anxiety?

    I wish you well with Millie, Bob's advise is wonderful. Have you tried opening an account with Photobucket for free, then you will be able to post a picture.

  9. #7
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    DefaultRe: Separation Anxiety?


    I'm going to try putting her in her crate while I'm gone. I expect there to be accidents but hopefully she will learn. At the same time, I'm going back to always going outside with her and praising and treating when she does her business.

    What do you think of not putting a bed in the crate? My thinking is that if she has to lay in a puddle, maybe she will be less likely to make a mess.

    Another thought: what about putting her in the run when I know she needs to go to the bathroom and trying to "catch her in the act" and let her know that is not what I want her to do?

    I never would have imagined that I would have this much trouble getting her to not potty while I'm gone -- especially since she is so good in the house when I'm home.

  10. #8
    Bob Pr. is offline Senior Member
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    DefaultRe: Separation Anxiety?

    I'm going to try putting her in her crate while I'm gone. I expect there to be accidents but hopefully she will learn.
    A problem with that is, when she has to eliminate, it's reinforcing to immediately do so rather than contain it. So if you don't want her to Pee or Poop in her crate, putting her in there is going to lead to those acts being reinforced whenever she does so. It's immediately gratifying to empty a full bladder or full colon.

    At the same time, I'm going back to always going outside with her and praising and treating when she does her business.
    That's good. Don't stint on the exercise, it helps speed along the elimination process.

    What do you think of not putting a bed in the crate? My thinking is that if she has to lay in a puddle, maybe she will be less likely to make a mess.
    Positive reinforcement (treats, praise) are FAR more effective ways of training than aversive consequences (such as getting soaked with her own pee).

    My thinking is you're just setting up your dog to fail, for you to be angry, for your dog to need a bath every day, for you to have to clean a crate every day. (But if you do have to bathe your dog, be sure to NOT use a human shampoo, even those for babies, because they're all too acidic and irritate their skin. Get a shampoo formulated for dogs.)

    BTW, if you get pee or poop accidents in the run, OR the crate, BE SURE to use either "Nature's Miracle" or drugstore Hydrogen Peroxide to eliminate the scent of the pee or poop -- just plain detergent and water isn't sufficient to eliminate that odor that continually calls to them -- "here's a great spot to pee or poop." That COULD WELL BE something that's been tripping up your efforts, if you haven't thoroughly enough descented the old spots.

    Another thought: what about putting her in the run when I know she needs to go to the bathroom and trying to "catch her in the act" and let her know that is not what I want her to do?
    If you do NOT want her to go in the crate or the run, why would you try to catch her in the act in the run in your basement? How would you let her know that's not what you want? This is a dog. Dog's learn best when you set up the conditions to treat and praise the behavior you do want, not to punish the behavior you don't want.

    And I bet it's too long a distance and time to get her outside where you want her to go. Far better to set up the situation so she's most likely to pee and poop outside -- that's what you really want, isn't it? -- and give positive reinforcement (treats, praise) for those acts.

    Jean Donaldson's book, "Culture Clash", maybe about $12 from Amazon + S&H is very good in explaining mainstream training procedures for dogs in a variety of situations.
    Puff [YF, AKC field line (from competing HT/FT breeder) 62 lbs, dob: 8-'01]

    Bess [BF, AKC bench line (from competing show breeder) 55 lbs., 1967-1981] "Poor Bess, the Wonder Dog":
    http://forum.justlabradors.com/showt...?p=748#post748

  11. #9
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    DefaultRe: Separation Anxiety?


    Thanks for the reply Bob. I know and understand what you are saying. I'm just frustrated and trying to come up with new ideas to try.

    I feel like I have been getting nowhere putting her in the run in the basement every day because I just come home to a mess of poop and pee. Again, this is just reinforcing the behavior. (No matter what I do, the bad behavior is getting reinforced since even coming home half way through the day doesn't seem to set her up for success.) Do you think she might eventually out grow/learn the desired behavior if I just continually treat/praise when she does what I want? I guess the other good thing about crate is that at least there are no BMs when I put her in that.

    I have generally been using bleach and water to mop up the run. (It is a concrete floor in my basement.) Is this good/bad? When she messes in her bed in the crate, I generally just throw that in the wash with normal detergent...


  12. #10
    Bob Pr. is offline Senior Member
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    DefaultRe: Separation Anxiety?

    Do you think she might eventually out grow/learn the desired behavior if I just continually treat/praise when she does what I want?
    Absolutely. But it all depends on the number of times you're able to treat/praise outside, where you want it to occur -- the more often you can do that, the sooner.

    I have generally been using bleach and water to mop up the run. (It is a concrete floor in my basement.) Is this good/bad? When she messes in her bed in the crate, I generally just throw that in the wash with normal detergent...
    Since there's such a problem, I strongly suggest you ALSO (in addition to your usual) use the Nature's Miracle or hydrogen peroxide on ANY "mistake" in order to eliminate ANY possible cue to doing what you do not want. And not ONLY the bedding, any portion of the crate or run that might have come in contact. THIS could be the element that's been defeating your efforts, SO bend over backwarfds to make sure it's no longer having an influence.

    Usually, she'd not want to poop or pee in her crate or run. BUT, this has unintentionally, unfortunately, been established as THE place to do that.

    ANYthing you can do to make P/P more rewarding OUTSIDE will be to your benefit. Treats + praises for the desired responses are VERY effective. Punishments and aversive consequences also have their effects BUT they are extemely difficult to aim correctly and they may easily lead to responses you do NOT want. Using treat and praise for desired responses allows you to aim with much greater precision the responses you DO want.
    Puff [YF, AKC field line (from competing HT/FT breeder) 62 lbs, dob: 8-'01]

    Bess [BF, AKC bench line (from competing show breeder) 55 lbs., 1967-1981] "Poor Bess, the Wonder Dog":
    http://forum.justlabradors.com/showt...?p=748#post748

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