Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Puddin and Shawshank Redmeption

Puddin and Shawshank Redemption
As you can see in the picture below, Puddin has been working on getting out of the house one scratch at a time -- much like Andy Dufresne, the character in Stephen King's Novella: Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption.  In the book and the movie (The Shawshank Redemption) based on the book, Dufresne spends 20 years tunneling his way to freedom using a tiny rock hammer. 
Just like Dufresnse's accomplishment, I had become concerned that 15 years from now, I'd have a little Puddin sized hole in my front door.
Click here or on the link above above the picture below to read more about Puddin and how trying to reduce Matt-Matt's barking might have had a unexpected and positive affect on Puddin's separation anxiety.

Puddin's Separation Anxiety

When Puddin "happened" to me in March 2010, I hadn't planned to have her very long.  She gave me painful eczema and who needs a puppy at my age anyway?  Since she wasn't going to be there long, I decided to not go through the stress of integrating her into the family (Lupe and Matt-Matt can be tempermental with newcomers - to put it nicely).  So we played musical rooms for a while. Puddin would stay in the bedroom in a crate when my dogs were out, then we'd switch.   Puddin never complained about being crated or about being alone.
As time went on, for some strange reason, I had trouble finding a good family for Puddin.  I didn't want to keep her separate from the the fur kids and me for a long time, so I started integrating her.  But because she was a puppy, I still crated her whenever I left the house to keep her out of trouble.  As Lupe and Matt-Matt got more used to her and as she proved that she was potty trained, I started letting her stay out longer and longer. For some reason it seemed that the more freedom I gave her, the more upset she became about being crated when it was time to go into the crate.
Eventually she got to the point of fretting terribly; and she produced excessive drool (her fur would be soaked in it by the time I got home). She could have easily become dehydrated.
So I started doing everything the books/articles/professionals told me to do i.e. not making a big deal of going and coming, acclimating her to the crate, feeding her only in the crate, food puzzles, classical music, ticking clock, pando music, dog appeasing pheromones, short trips, covering her crate, moving her fromm a larger crate to a smaller crate, wire crate, plastic crate, calming herbs, etc..etc.. but she continued to get worse.
I read a couple of articles that said dogs with separation anxiety will often panic when crated.  So I made the decision to let her have full run of the house with the rest of the dogs.  When I'd come home from work, I'd find toilet tissue and chewed shoes in the living room, but no drool. I left a video camera running when I went to work -- filmed her in the crate and outside the crate. The video of her inside the crate was hard to watch (she would fret and drool and try so hard to set herself free.  But she was fine free in the house (other than getting into typical puppy trouble)
Soo, problem solved right?  Well, for some reason, she'd do fine when I went to work (going out the door to the garage) but she still fretted, drooled and scratched the front door when I'd take one of the other dogs out for a walk. Hence the Shawshank Redemtpion Door. I videoed the front door during a dog walk and saw that she fretted the entire time that we were out. 
So, if I leave out the garage door, I'm gone for 5 or 6 hours at a time and she doesn't fret at all - not even when I first leave. But when I go out the front door on a dog walk for as little as 20 minutes, she frets terribly.  What's the difference? It would seem that she'd be more upset about me leaving to go to work.  It didn't matter which dog I'd take out, and I'd always leave at least one dog behind with her so she wasn't alone when I went on walks.  And surely she'd know that the garage door meant gone for a long time and the front door meant gone for a short time (some separation anxiety articles talk about a "safe door" - a way to let your dog know when you are returning so they know what to expect).

Matt-Matt's Excessive Barking

Switch to Matt-Matt and his excessive and annoying barking when he is happy/excited.  I thought I was doing the right things to stop Matt-Matt's barking,  but we have been doing exactly the same thing for the past 3.5 years with the same results.  I grab a leash, he barks excessively. I stand there holding the leash and wait for him to sit and be quiet. Then I attach the leash and we go.  Lupe even knew that Matt-Matt was holding up our dog walking time. She'd put her mouth over Matt-Matt's mouth and bite down in an attempt to shut him up.
After reading Turid Rugaas's book - Barking: The Sound of Language. I realized that Matt-Matt knows, "I bark, I stop, I go for a walk" Also Turid says that I can't issue any commands or talk to Matt-Matt at all. I can't even ask him to sit. I can use hand signals but I can't talk.  I also can't look at him when he is barking because that means attention.
So, I stopped all talking when going out for a walk.  Which means I stopped telling the others: "wait", "go back", "no" (when they try to cross the barrier). I just show them the palm of my hand and turn my head. If someone gets past the barrier, I calmly and quietly put a slip leash on the offender and walk him/her back to the other side of the barrier then go back to calmly and quietly leashing whomever was going for a walk.
The hardest part about being completely quiet was not praising the dog who who does what she is supposed to do. Lupe goes right to the door, sits calmly and waits for the leash to be attached. Since I couldn't talk at all, I just petted her as I attached the leash.

Back to Puddin's Separation Anxiety 

Well Matt-Matt stilled barked excessively.  But a strange thing happened. When I got back from my walk, there was no puddle of drool at the front door.  This happened 3 nights in a row (I'm being consistent).
So I don't way a word, no drool. Talking to everyone, drool. 
When I leave for work, I quietly tell everyone that I love them, tell them what time I plan to return, and I give them a "job" then I leave without any fanfare.
But taking one or two dogs for a walk was a huge fanfare. I'm telling dogs to stay and not cross the barrier, I'm praising dogs for doing what I say. I'm saying a lot of unnecessary things like - "Lupe. You just went for a walk. It's Murphy's turn now"
So although I knew that for dogs with separation anxiety, you don't make a big deal about leaving the house, I was still doing it every time I took the dogs for walk.
There is still chaos when I go for walks; Matt-Matt is still barking; and Puddin is still trying to get past the barrier when it's not her turn, but least for now, there is no puddle of drool on the floor when I return.  I'll see if things improve as I work on my own will power to be quiet. And of course I need to continue my education on dogs and how to help them using positive techniques. 


Tonight made the 4th night of me not talking at all when taking the dogs for a walk.  After my first trip, I came back home to a little bit of drool. Not nearly as much as before.  I turned on my video camera for the first walk, but Puddn knocked it over in her zeal to get past the barrier.  Puddin went on my 2nd round of walks. Then I took Murphy out for the 3rd and last walk of the evening.  I put the video camera on a tripod and was able to film the door as I was gone. No drooling, no scratching at the door. She doesn't look happy of course, but we seem to be getting somewhere.
Poor Lupe, I didn't know that she stood at the door, cocking her head and listening for every little sound that might be me coming home :(
Here is the video. It's 25 minutes condensed to under 3 minutes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5cbxmJ9ykI

Further Info/Resources

The Shawshank Redemption

  • Excellent movie and book.  Not your typical Stephen King - no psychotic clowns or psychic prom queens drenched in blood, but it's not for the squeamish and definitely not for the human children.  More info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Shawshank_Redemption. Warning  - it summarizes the entire story :)


  • The barrier I use in front of my door is a 3 in 1 metal SuperYard.  It doesn't really stop the dogs from getting to the door but it does slow them down.  It can also be used as a playpen for smaller dogs or puppies. I purchased mine from Home Depot. See a Walmart Photo here

Separation Anxiety

  • No long, sorrowful goodbyes. No excited hellos. This can make SA worse.  Some dogs do better in a crate when they have SA.  Some do worse.  Start with short trips so your dog will know that you are returning.  Some people have said Dog Appeasing Pheromones have helped their dogs. Others say that some natural remedies like bach flower essences work.  I strongly caution against using psychotropic drugs unless you have fully exhausted all other avenues and the dog is about to hurt him/herself. These drugs can have negative affects on a dog's liver. Come to an SA Big Dawgs training session and talk to Jimmy for some great advice.
  • Great article on separation anxiety here. http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=2865.  It explains the excessive drooling. But I do caution strongly against the pyschotropic drugs (clomicalm, reconcile) unless 100% absolutely necessary.  Exhaust everything else first.