Saturday, August 20, 2011

Separation Anxiety

Hi World,

My humon (typist) and I are reaching out to you for advice. It is going on three weeks since I was adopted and yet I hate to be left alone. The humon first thought it was because I was being crate-trained but turns out that I love being in there. I willingly sleep in the crate every night but whenever the humon leaves me in the crate for a few hours or in the house for five minutes I flip out and start whining up a storm.

We spoke with a very well-educated humon at Petco who recommended that I have Separation Anxiety, which most likely stems from abuse or neglect in my past. Because of this, I just don't like to be left alone because I think I'm being left forever. Thankfully, this is curable but it will most likely take a while to cure....possibly even dog years (months).

The knowledgable humon said that my humon shouldn't make a big deal of her leaving. I should not be smothered before I am parted with because it will encourage my subsequent behavior. In addition, I should be given a toy and food while the humon is gone, such as a kong with peanut butter (but not organic or natural and it can be frozen), yogurt that has been frozen, carrots, or treats. This will keep me occupied while the humon is leaving and hopefully calm my nerves for my time alone. (I should note too that because Shibas have such active minds that the only recommended items for them to be left alone with are a Kong or Kyjen Fire Hose (made from the same material as a fire hose) dog toys). 

I am reaching out to you world to see if you have any additional advice. This seems to be both an issue that cannot be fixed overnight nor requires attention to be solved.


  1. Hello, this is Kaiju's typist :)

    Kaiju, so far, doesn't have this problem, but we were worried when we first got him, because he did whine when we were leaving the house.

    We've also heard stories about people who thought their dogs were totally fine, only to receive complaints from neighbors about the constant barking while they are away.

    We set up a web cam (with a microphone) which we could monitor on our iPhones. Then we left the house for various lengths of time, and listened in. To our delight, Kaiju whined for about 5 minutes (and it became shorter and shorter), and then stopped. After that, he was pretty much completely quiet.

    Do you know how long his whining continues? It may not be as bad as you imagine (or it could be worse, I guess...) It's good to confirm either way, to determine the severity of the problem.

    OK that was our two cents :)

  2. Thank you so much for commenting. I don't know the full extent of the severity of his whining. One of my neighbors who can hear him said that he goes on for 7-8 hours sometimes (when he has been home for the day). He said he whines for five minutes and then stops whining five minutes and kind of continues this behavior all day. When Hachi has done something bad and was put into his kennel, I noticed the same pattern. I did sense that although the whining continued for his duration in the carrier, his began getting quieter but his time in "time-out" never exceeded 30 minutes.

    I should definitely try out the web cam idea and monitor his behavior. He doesn't seem to exhibit any other signs of distress other then whining but if I leave the house and am out of sight, it quickly begins again. The woman at Petco also recommended to leave the house a few times a day for five minutes or thirty seconds just to show him that although I am leaving him, I will return.

  3. Update: I downloaded a wonderful app called iCam. Now I can monitor Hachi and his whining so easily!!

    I'm spexcited about this and I'm also a little scared to hear the constant noises he'll be making.

  4. iCam is exactly what we use. it's great. :)

    - Kaiju's typist

  5. Thank you so much! He had a little accident about 30 minutes ago and after about 10 minutes of kennel time he finally laid down and stopped whining. Then I just went to talk to a neighbor and I didn't hear him whining at all! I hope this is improvement!!

  6. I think the suggestion to break up departure times into smaller chunks, if at all possible, is good. You can give him stuffed Kongs and other safe activities to keep him preoccupied, but inevitably, a dog with separation anxiety is going to feel it at some point during an 8-hour workday. So build up to it, if you can...

    For us, the most helpful thing seemed to be keeping to a fairly regular schedule. Once our shiba realized the schedule was pretty set, his howling while we were away gradually subsided. We also always give a cue when we're leaving, like, "Guard the house." And yes, we keep the departure pretty nonchalant, almost as if I'm just stepping outside to walk to the corner store or something. I'd say it was about six weeks before he was completely back to "normal."

  7. Thank you for your suggestions. I apologize for taking so long to get back to you, the comment email were being forwarded to Hachi's spam mail. A routine schedule with Kong is definitely very helpful. He is showing very good signs of improvement and I appreciate your comment!!