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Old 12-22-2012, 06:51 PM   #1
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New Dog Owner, New Dog - Help!

Seeing as other people have been asking for behavioral help in here, I guess it's not off-topic. And my goodness, but do I need help. My family had a dog or two when I was a kid, but I've never had a dog of my own, and my spouse has no dog experience at all.

I got a new dog from the shelter two days ago. She's a sweet little mutt, about three years old. Already house-trained, eager to please, happy to bond with me immediately...

Well. That's the problem. She's bonded with me so damn hard that she doesn't want me out of her sight. She follows me from room to room, which is sweet until I need to go to the bathroom, or take out the trash, and she sits anxiously in front of the door until I return. Longer than about a minute, and she starts whining, and then barking. I tried putting her outside in the (fenced, secure, with water dish) back yard for ten minutes so I could take a shower, and gave her a new chew before I left. When I closed the door, she was happily working on the chew; by the time I got in the shower, she was wailing for me.

I've been reading up on separation anxiety, and grateful that at least she's not destroying things. (Yet.) But I don't know how to cope with this. I didn't get more than two hours of sleep the first night, because we crated her and she cried most of the night; last night I slept on the couch with her, just to keep her quiet, and while she was happy, I only got a few hours myself.

I can't let her into the bedroom; the terrified cats have decided to hide out in there. (She's not cat-aggressive, but if they flee, she will chase, and we're trying to help them calm down. One of my cats has retreated to the top of the bedroom closet, and just sits there for hours now.) I can't sleep well on the couch. I've been trying to get her to associate the crate with Happy Things again, by tossing treats in there, but she'll only stretch in far enough to eat the treat and then back out again quickly.

I need to go to the grocery store. And the library. And occasionally shower, and pet my cats. And I'm so amazingly exhausted on this little sleep that I just want to break down in tears. The spouse helps when he can, but she hasn't bonded to him; she'll still cry by a door I went through if he's present and trying to distract her.

Someone, please, tell me it gets better. And how to cope. I cannot deal with a dog that needs 24/7 attention. I can take her for walks, I can feed her and brush her and play with her... But at some point I need to be able to leave her alone! Some point soon, before I get so tired I do something terrible.
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Old 12-22-2012, 07:26 PM   #2
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You have my every sympathy with this but.... I'm afraid to say that you made a mistake by sleeping with her that first night. What you did is reward her for the wailing and barking. She knows now that if she barks, you respond. Which is what she wants. And that's understandable considering her history. And remember, you've only had her for two days. It can take time for a dog to settle. Especially a shelter dog. You have no idea what has happened to her in the last two years.

Which I know isn't much help to you at the moment!

But don't worry, there is a way around it. She is obviously a dog that responds more to attention than to treats. So that's what you use to improve her behaviour.

Have you been able to train her at all on anything else? If you have, then she's a smart dog and you can do it. You need to teach her that leaving the room isn't the end of the world.

So, teach her the 'stay'. Do this by getting her to sit, put your hand in front of her face and say 'stay'. Then take two steps back. Wait a few seconds and if she doesn't move, go to her and praise her. If she does move, put her back and do it again. Keep doing it until she gets the point. Then take more steps back.

This will teach her that you will come back to her. She's not being left for ever. And eventually you will be able to get out of the door without her freaking. If she does freak out, just come back into the room and don't praise her. Just sit down. Then, when she calms down, you can pay her attention.

You have to associate the 'bad' behaviour with her not getting what she wants. Don't tell her off, don't look at her. Just sit down until she's calm. Then pet her.

This will take time and patience. But it can be done.

As for your partner, has he fed her or walked her since she arrived? Feeding is a good way to bond with a dog. If he feeds her for the next few days, she will see him as a good thing. She won't bond with him while you are doing all the important caring.

And don't worry, a lot of dog owners have gone through this. You're not alone.
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Old 12-22-2012, 07:53 PM   #3
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Keep trying with the crate it's a good tool to use. The sit and stay is good too. It will take time, you may also want to think about a few professional training classes.
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Old 12-22-2012, 09:18 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by mirandashell View Post
You have my every sympathy with this but.... I'm afraid to say that you made a mistake by sleeping with her that first night. What you did is reward her for the wailing and barking. She knows now that if she barks, you respond.
Erk. I was afraid of this. It was the second night, not the first night; the first night we left her in the crate all night, and she was miserable. I just couldn't stand to have her crying all night again, and I couldn't let her sleep in the bedroom...

I'm not sure how to handle the need for crate training with the separation anxiety thing. There really isn't any room in the house that's good for confining her in.

Quote:
So, teach her the 'stay'. Do this by getting her to sit, put your hand in front of her face and say 'stay'. Then take two steps back. Wait a few seconds and if she doesn't move, go to her and praise her. If she does move, put her back and do it again. Keep doing it until she gets the point. Then take more steps back.
I will try this!

...how do I get her to sit in the first place?

Quote:
You have to associate the 'bad' behaviour with her not getting what she wants. Don't tell her off, don't look at her. Just sit down until she's calm. Then pet her.
I'm trying to do this; offering attention when she's lying quietly, and ignoring her when she's fussing. But it's so damn hard to keep working on it when I'm so stressed by lack of sleep.

Quote:
As for your partner, has he fed her or walked her since she arrived? Feeding is a good way to bond with a dog. If he feeds her for the next few days, she will see him as a good thing. She won't bond with him while you are doing all the important caring.
She had no appetite for the first day, and not much the second; she's starting to eat normally now. She was spayed at the shelter the night before we picked her up, which is complicating things somewhat; it puts her in pain, gives her a wonky appetite, and means that I can't tire her out with vigorous exercise. The care sheet says no running, jumping, or long walks for a week. Sigh. So we've been going on a loooooot of short walks.

Quote:
And don't worry, a lot of dog owners have gone through this. You're not alone.
Thank god.

Part of my frustration, I think, is that I feel so incompetent. None of these problems are unusual at all! But I don't feel like I know how to respond effectively, and lack of sleep is making me all the more insecure. Whole lot of "Oh god, why did I ever want a dog?" thoughts going through my head right now, because even when she's being quiet and adorable, I'm exhausted and cranky.

Some of my friends recommend putting her in her crate for the night, and just letting her cry, while sleeping with earplugs; she needs to get used to it. But a lot of separation anxiety websites say that I shouldn't leave her alone for more than an hour at a time until she's completely over all this. Which am I supposed to do? I don't think I'm up for rolling out a sleeping bag on the kitchen floor quite yet...
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Old 12-22-2012, 09:19 PM   #5
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Keep trying with the crate it's a good tool to use. The sit and stay is good too. It will take time, you may also want to think about a few professional training classes.
I am taking pro training classes, starting next Saturday. Which is good! But I need to get some sleep between now and then, or I'm going to have a complete meltdown.
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Old 12-22-2012, 09:26 PM   #6
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Why did she keep you awake the night you slept with her? Was she actually lying next to you?

If so, maybe you could try being in the same room but putting her in the crate. Maybe if she knows you are there, she will be calm and let you sleep. At least then you can get some shut eye. But don't let her up on the sofa.


As for the 'sit', it's fairly easy. Most dogs get it pretty quickly. Just push down very gently on her bum until she sits, saying 'sit'. Then praise her when she does it. Do it a lot. Then when you think she's got it, try without the push. And praise her every time she does it. She'll soon catch on.

As for the feeding, if her appetite is now back, get your partner to do it. She will bond with him through that.

And remember, patience patience patience. Try as hard as you can not to get angry or upset with her. She really is doing her best to make you love her. Your job is to show her how.
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Old 12-22-2012, 11:08 PM   #7
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Why did she keep you awake the night you slept with her? Was she actually lying next to you?
She was lying on me, but it's more that I don't sleep well on the couch. And all the dog issues are stressing me out, and stress gives me insomnia, and insomnia means I'm exhausted and more easily stressed... It's a horrible cycle. Not sure how to break it.

Quote:
If so, maybe you could try being in the same room but putting her in the crate. Maybe if she knows you are there, she will be calm and let you sleep. At least then you can get some shut eye. But don't let her up on the sofa.
So far, she's mildly unhappy in the crate if I'm in direct line of sight, and starts whining the instant I'm not. And I really can't crate her in the bedroom. But I could try sleeping on the couch with earplugs and moving the crate to be nearby; not sure if that would help, or confuse the issue by moving the crate location.

Quote:
As for the 'sit', it's fairly easy. Most dogs get it pretty quickly. Just push down very gently on her bum until she sits, saying 'sit'. Then praise her when she does it. Do it a lot. Then when you think she's got it, try without the push. And praise her every time she does it. She'll soon catch on.
I will try! I'm not sure how much she cares about praise, compared to caring about my presence, but it's worth a try.

Quote:
As for the feeding, if her appetite is now back, get your partner to do it. She will bond with him through that.
Working on that now.

Quote:
And remember, patience patience patience. Try as hard as you can not to get angry or upset with her. She really is doing her best to make you love her. Your job is to show her how.
I'm trying very hard not to break down in front of the dog, and to stay calm and positive around her. Because she is like a toddler, with even less language understanding. It's just so damn hard to keep an even keel when I'm exhausted to tears constantly.
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Old 12-22-2012, 11:12 PM   #8
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I know.

But remember, you go through this now and you will get a wonderful dog who is a joy to be with and will give you a lot of love in the future. It's worth it, I swear. Even if it doesn't feel like it right now.


I promise, it won't last long. It won't last long. Keep saying to yourself. It won't last long......
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Old 12-22-2012, 11:58 PM   #9
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So far, she's mildly unhappy in the crate if I'm in direct line of sight, and starts whining the instant I'm not. And I really can't crate her in the bedroom. But I could try sleeping on the couch with earplugs and moving the crate to be nearby; not sure if that would help, or confuse the issue by moving the crate location.
So the crate is in the kitchen and the sofa is in the lounge? It might be worth moving it into the lounge so she can see you. Then when she's crated, you just lie down and try to sleep. Ignore her if she whines. Just lie there with your eyes closed. It might take some time. And you never know, if you're knackered enough, you might sleep anyway! Then she will know you aren't going anywhere and should calm down.

Good luck with it!
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Old 12-23-2012, 12:00 AM   #10
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BTW, a good trick for getting to sleep is to slow your breathing. Take deep breaths that fill your lower lungs so your tummy inflates, not your chest. Concentrate on your breathing and just let your mind drift. Don't worry about your thoughts, just let them in and back out again. Hopefully this will calm you enough. And often a dog will pick up on that and be calm too.
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Old 12-23-2012, 12:01 AM   #11
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You might try some leash stuff while she is spending time with you. I hope you have chairs and cabinets you can tie a leash to, lol!

Keep putting her away from you, in spells, while she's in a good mood. Leash her so that she can't get closer. Give her toys to play with. Let her see you at first, and then move her leash-station farther away. If she does well enough, randomize that.

For things like showering (eta: things she's already afraid of), leash her close by. Keep talking to her while she's afraid you are gone so that she knows you are right there.

Try your best to act exactly the same whether you are in her sight or not (except for a little more talking while she's really out of eyesight).

The idea is to get her used to being away from you while she's not really away from you and she knows that. Give her toys, and I'd get a fluffy bed that you could move along with her new leash-station each time. Maybe pick random spots in the house for this, and do it for maybe 10 minutes at a time. Force her to hang out around the house, away from you, in other words. But tell her she's a good girl whether she's away or close! Don't let her think it's punishment at all.

I wouldn't reward her a lot when she's closer and off-leash (just got off the leash), either. She needs to think being on-leash (forced distance) with toys and a bed is good and fun for short periods of time, too.
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Old 12-23-2012, 12:09 AM   #12
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That's like the 'sit, stay' but easier to do cos she's on a leash. I prefer the 'sit, stay' but it's totally up to you, Fade. Whatever works best for your dog.
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Old 12-23-2012, 12:38 AM   #13
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That's like the 'sit, stay' but easier to do cos she's on a leash. I prefer the 'sit, stay' but it's totally up to you, Fade. Whatever works best for your dog.
Yep The 'sit, stay' is a great idea, imho. I've just had many stubborn breeds () , so I did the leash thing for their bullheaded butts
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Old 12-23-2012, 12:40 AM   #14
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True.

It all depends on the personality of the dog. Some techniques work better than others.
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Old 12-23-2012, 01:06 AM   #15
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Okay, hard facts. You may not be well paired with your new dog. Not saying throw in the towel, or get upset, just keep an objective mind. You got a dog right before the holidays, and you two are similar in that you don't deal well with stress.

The good news is that you can become the human your dog needs you to be. So keep reading, get training, talk to and take individual classes from dog professionals until you ooze confidence, and get on top of this.

IF after a period of time you realize you aren't ahead (keeping track of your status in this thread is a very good thing) then you can look into finding her a new human while she is living with you. Don't just give her to the first good match but do trial periods and stuff. This way she and you have an easy transition. Check your adoption contract first though.

Deep breath and best of luck. Knowledge is power.
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Old 12-23-2012, 01:08 AM   #16
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Let's not go there just yet. It's only been, what?, three, four days?

No need to give up on the dog just yet.
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Old 12-23-2012, 01:30 AM   #17
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Three days. Two nights of no sleep, three days of no napping. It's certainly not time to throw in the towel, though if I can't sleep tonight, either, I admit I'm going to be thinking longingly of the "Take the dog back to the shelter if you can't cope" clause in the contract.

She's really a sweet dog. She plays fetch well. SHe's learning "sit", though she's clueless on "stay" and doesn't really grok "stand" yet. She starts scratching at doors if left alone, but isn't destructive otherwise so far. Heck, she's even house-trained!

But it may well be the case that I'm not cut out for dealing with a clingy, needy dog as a first time owner. I sincerely hope that's not the case, but...I can only put up with a complete lack of sleep for so long.
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Old 12-23-2012, 01:34 AM   #18
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Then you need to find a way to get some sleep. You'll feel much better when you have.


But... if you do need to take the dog back, don't feel guilty about it. It didn't work out.
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Old 12-23-2012, 01:37 AM   #19
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Yeah, for now keep telling yourself that you are providing a safe home for her, and let that knowledge ooze out of your demeanor. You are doing great, and remember that. She is fine. Project that out of every cell you have

It's a tough time, first bringing home a new family member. But it's fine (or if it's not, you'll find out later. Tell her she's fine ). Her real demeanor may be masked right now by anxiety. She just got spayed. She's bound to feel needy, even if she's really a she-devil

At least she'll probably be a cuddly one! Maybe
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Old 12-23-2012, 01:39 AM   #20
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Absolutely. You're doing a good job. You just feel this way cos you're knackered.

And if you can get her to bond with your partner, that will take some of the pressure off.
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Old 12-23-2012, 05:55 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by mirandashell View Post
Then you need to find a way to get some sleep. You'll feel much better when you have.
Tonight, I have sleeping aids and ear plugs. I can't go to bed until a reasonable hour, because it's unfair to leave her crated for too long. But by god, I'm exhausted.


Quote:
But... if you do need to take the dog back, don't feel guilty about it. It didn't work out.
I hope it doesn't come to that. But it is, in a small sad way, reassuring to know that there's the option. I mean--she cries when I go into the bathroom and shut her out. The bathroom! The one she's seen me enter and leave within a few moments a half dozen times already!

Sigh. This dog.
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Old 12-23-2012, 06:05 AM   #22
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I had a similar experience when I adopted a "street dog" from a private shelter. She bonded to me so fast and hard that I couldn't escape her. The crate helped, especially if I tossed some of my (unwashed) clothes in with her.

You may also find (as we have) that the dog has other fear issues that complicate this. If that might be the case, I really recommend asking a pro trainer for help, as you don't have time to qualify as a dog psychologist before this gets resolved.

Two years ago, in a moment of weakness and grief over another rescue who died, we got an 8 week old puppy. He cried constantly at night, full volume. I ended up with the crate next to my side of the bed, with one hand on the crate. When he cried, I tapped or scratched, just enough to quiet him. This went on for a long time but I was finally able to tap/scratch without fully waking.

In retrospect, this was probably a mistake, as he still cries when crated and left alone. But... it seems that most of these lessons are learned the hard way. You're doing a very good thing in adopting the dog. Don't doubt for a minute that the dog doesn't appreciate it!
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Old 12-23-2012, 07:46 AM   #23
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I don't have any experience with separation anxiety, but I agree with the others about ignoring bad behavior and rewarding good behavior.

Also, I wanted to say that I used a baby gate to section off a piece of the house for my cat when I got my first dog. I think it helped the cat to know he always had a safe place to go. I still use the gate to give the cat some private space, not because my dogs are cat aggressive but because they don't distinguish between cat toys and dog toys.
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Old 12-23-2012, 08:29 AM   #24
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It doesn't really sound like full blown SA, more like adjusting and a bit of "am I here for real and not going back to the cage" panic.

Check with local herb/health stores for something called Bach's Rescue Remedy. I've known it to work seeming miracles.

Now, for the crate: get some sort of high value treats, preferably something that will last awhile, maybe a Kong toy stuffed with peanut butter (it lasts longer if you freeze it ) and ONLY give it to her in the crate. Make crate time a good experience.

Bully sticks last awhile for some dogs, but they're a bit expensive. Kongs can be stuffed with all kinds of good stuff, and one even keeps my APBT busy for a good long while. The black ones are virtually chew proof.

I've written a few articles I can send you if you want, just PM me I'm pretty much a dog nerd, lol, and helped start up one of the more active dog forums on the net
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Old 12-23-2012, 07:40 PM   #25
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For what it's worth... I have tried putting my dirty laundry in the crate with the dog. And giving her a Kong with peanut butter only when she's in the crate. There's a big beef bone she loves that she only gets if I'm leaving her alone in the back yard for a little bit. And I won't let her out of the crate, or back into the house, while she's whining; I stop and wait for her to quiet before she gets to come back again.

I realize it's only been...four days? Three nights. But. God. She spent most of last night barking. Just. Constant, piercing barks. I was wearing earplugs and took a sleeping aid, and that barking still kept me from getting much sleep at all. I thought she finally shut up on her own, around 4am, but it turns out the spouse just went and slept with her on the couch so she'd be quiet.

I am really at my wit's end. I think I can hold out through Christmas, to see if there's any improvement, but I can't do this for weeks and weeks. I need the break between semesters to include some rest for me, or I'm going to be a wreck when classes start again.

Sorry if I sound a bit incoherent. Not much sleep.

ETA: Oh, and I have been trying to get her plenty of exercise so that she'll be tired, before putting her anywhere by herself for more than a few minutes. But she was spayed right before we got her, so she's supposed to be on light exercise. I'm sure the pain of healing from that isn't helping either; and it means I can't put her through really vigorous exercise before crating.
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