|Barked: Sat May 31, '08 5:24pm PST |
|Have any of you Sheltie people dealt with separation anxiety in your doggies? I've been having a struggle with my two, and am starting to think that maybe this is the problem. Let me explain, and maybe you guys can help me with this...
Ace and Nova are litter mates (brothers). They are now almost 11 months old, and we've been their only home since they were weaned. My husband and I both work 9 hour days, 5 days a week (but not always the same days). We're fortunate enough to live close to work, and come home each day at lunch to let the dogs out and play with them while we eat. They are both crate trained and each has his own crate and toys, and until a while ago, were very well behaved in their crates.
For about two months, at the beginning of the year, I was switched to working evenings, and I believe the puppies got used to having one of us around most of the time. They were still crated when they were unsupervised, but because of our schedules, this was pretty much only if we went out to dinner/had errands to run/appointments etc. Once I was switched back to days, the puppies were back in their crates for the usual 4-5 hours in the morning and 3-4 in the afternoon. I didn't realize there was a problem until I talked to my landlord. She lives upstairs, and mentioned one day that the dogs had been whining, and asked if maybe one was sick. At this point, they were teething, and we figured that's what the problem was, and it would go away once their big teeth grew in.
I let it go for a few weeks, and she occasionally mentioned that she would hear them every few days. Once April hit though, not only had it not gone away, it had escalated to howling and some barking. I felt awful because we work at 6/7 in the morning, and they start very soon after we leave, and were waking up everybody upstairs. I tried leaving them out of their crates in the living room, but in addition to making noise, they also were chewing things (I know, my fault because the room should have been puppy proofed). I took them for longer and longer walks, hoping that they'd be worn out and sleep while we were gone. Still no luck.
My husband, realizing how frustrated I was, suggested we separate them for a few weeks to see if we could figure out what was going on. He also thought it would help us bond with both Ace and Nova as individuals, since they are litter mates and are very close to each other. We took Nova to my mother in law's, and worked with Ace for two weeks. He was a star, learning how to play fetch, learning a few new commands, behaving well on walks. We got to understand his personality more, since he is the more shy and sensitive one, and sometimes gets overshadowed by Nova's more dominant, attention seeking personality. He was still making some noise in his crate when we weren't home, but seemed much better.
We switched the dogs off, and had Nova for two weeks. He challenges me daily, since I am not as strong a 'leader' as my husband and sometimes have difficulty getting Nova to respect me. We worked mainly on his basic obedience, getting him to focus his attention on me, not having to repeat commands, and better leash behavior (I'm hoping that taking an obedience course with him will help our relationship... I really do believe he's just too smart for me). He also did very well, with only the occasional whine in his crate while we were gone.
We've had them back together almost a month, but we're pretty much back where we started. We've tried giving them bigger crates, so they've got more room to stretch and move around a bit (we haven't had a crate potty issue since they were about three months old), that didn't help. I've tried taking them for on leash walks around the neighbourhood before work (it's too dark at that time to take them for their usual off leash walk), but that doesn't help. My last idea was to get them an exercise pen and leave them together in there, thinking they just wanted some company, but when I talked to the landlord today, she said they're still howling and barking.
They never, ever do it while we're home. Ace is our watchdog, as he barks at strange noises or people coming to the door or thunder, but I've never heard him or Nova howling. They bark while playing, but are otherwise very quiet, especially for Shelties. That's why the only other thing I can think of is separation anxiety. We can crate them for hours when we're home, and they don't make a noise. How can I help them? In every other way, they're wonderful and I couldn't ask for better, but this one issue is stressing me out to the point where I worry about them while I'm at work, and am often avoiding the landlord as I'm afraid her patience will run out.
I'm sorry this is so long, I just thought maybe the background information would help determine what the problem is and how I can fix it. I don't know if it makes a difference, but they're both getting neutered on Monday, and at least one of us will be home pretty much the whole week to watch over them. I just don't want it to get to the point where we get evicted or told we can't have the dogs any more, since we're expecting a baby in October. Please, if anybody has some advice, or knows where I can get some help, I'd really appreciate it. You guys are awesome... thanks for listening/reading.
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