Separation Anxiety.

Submitted by Marleys Mom on Sun, 04/25/2010 - 03:54

Hello everyone!

I have a question for all you APBT lovers out there! My baby Marley is going to be a year old next month, and still suffers from severe separation anxiety. We've tried leaving the T.V on or the radio and that still doesn't help. Whenever one of us goes outside and leaves him inside, he watches out the window. We have to take him with us while we run to the store for something or he eats the whole house! If we leave him at a friends for a few minutes he attacks their bread and chip stash! We don't like leaving him at home, and it's usually not for more than half an hour if we do, but sometimes he just can't come with - and we don't want to leave him in a hot or cold car. We had a crate, but he chewed through it. Anybody have any tips on what we can do? When we're home he's the best behaved little guy on the face of the planet. He just doesn't like being without his mommy and daddy.

Chewed through the crate! That's a persistent little guy.

Get one of the metal crates, I would say.

Does he have chew toys? The best thing we ever did was get ours a Kong and fill it with a treat that's hard to get out.

I've heard the Kong toys are amazing. We tried a metal crate as well, but I guess the metal was pretty thin cause somehow he bent his way out of it. He's a strong little guy as well as persistent! If he doesn't fit somewhere, he tries to squeeze through! We've tried rawhide bones and such, but he goes through one of those in fifteen minutes usually. But, I'll definitely be getting him a Kong now! Thanks!

My pits love to play "treasure hunt" while I'm away. If you hide treats all over the house (and maybe a frozen bone) then they have something to do while you're gone that is not destructive and satisfies their need to be busy. The only thing is they get really good at it, so you have to be creative.

I've tried that as well, and he tends to just not look for them. :( I think he might be better if we had a companion for him. He's really well behaved when left alone with another little buddy. He just gets so bored so easily!

My oldest APBT had horrible seperation anxiety. he would chew anything that belonged to my husband and I. Shoes, coats, hats, you name it he would tear it up. So we thought maybe he needed more exercise nope that didnt work, so we got him a friend. Since we got Lollie he has only tore up one thing and well it was totally my fault. I left it out and should of known better. Needless to say my feather pillow is no more. =) As far as Kong's go my puppies have 4 of them and love them. You can even freeze them and make popsicles for your puppies!

Separation anxiety: I think it is Caesar Milan that said... If you are the pack leader, the pack leader can leave anytime and naturally, the pack will not be upset. I suggest you be more of a Pack Leader...don't let him do everything HE wants. Read up on it a little...he talks about simple things like.. you need to make sure YOU rather than the dog go out the door first, and back into the house first, he should eat AFTER you and lie down out of eyesight when you are eating, he needs walks where you are the leader and he has to follow. I made some small changes at first and they lead to others, nothing awful...just, how should I put it, a little "mean". It puts the dog in his place and makes you the Master/Owner, not just a Pal. This is an important concept and will give you more control should you need it. He needs to obey and understand that you get to do whatever YOU want not what HE wants you to do. After all you are the human!

i think dogs know who the "Pack Leader" is without being a little "mean".dogs are very smart,and without the "Pack Leader" there is no food,water or shelter. not only that,dogs want to please their owner. dogs do communicate its the owners that dont listen and if a dog is being bad its because hes trying to get your attention and tell you something. i have a chow thats 15 years old and a pit that is 6yrs. old they dont need to be put "in their place" because they know without me they dont survive! i even allow my pit to sleep with me. sometimes i think he's the boss!

I agree Christina!

Marley does know who's in charge, and has from day one! When we're home he even looks to us for permission sometimes! I really think he was just lonely, and that was what was causing him to act out so badly. So far the only thing he's done was chomp down a loaf of bread from the table while we were gone. But, he knew that was a no-no and only did that once now that he has buddies!

A "friend" for him is not the answer. Try Kongs, TV, radio, music, etc.

Sounds as though this dog is more bored than anything. How much DAILY exercise do you give him?

Actually, a friend was the answer. We're currently living with my husbands parents. They have a Brittany Spaniel and Marley does AWESOMELY with her. We can leave when-ever without him attacking their bread/food/couch!

Our family is big on outdoor activities. Marley and I go for 3 to 5 mile walks/runs a day. He also gets to play with other dogs now and runs in the yard with our horses. I understand that most people go automatically to thinking "oh they just don't exercise him enough!" But, that's not the case here. And, as the weather keeps getting increasingly better, he gets even more outside time. :)

Perhaps the britty was the alpha she needs.  APBT need stong discipline and structure from us as their alpha leaders.  This is tough for most to enact, although we THINK we are filling the role, often enough we fall far short.  What you need to do is provide this role that the brit has provided.  The britty is a bitch, and has strong personality, has more dominant traits and pack leader traits while your pit...imassuming whom is altered has a more submissive tendancy.  Its not just an avid dog-loving, and marathon and distance-runner, i have grown learn a few things.  Pits have an innate need for more HUMAN INTERACTION, DOG/CROSS-SPECIECES SOCIALIZIATION, and MORE AND MORE AND MORE AND MORE CONSITANT TRAINING....cant say it enough...TRAINING/SOCIALIZATION/TRAINING/SOCIALZIATION...AND PUBLIC AWARENESS...

BEST wishest..and keep us posted...



my pitbull(thor) was abandoned when he was approx. 1year old. a friend found him and gave him to me. he was so malnurished that his gums bled when i gave him a chew toy and his head was bigger than his body. thor suffered severe seperation anxiety.he chewed everything and even destroyed my couch! i took him for long walks in the woods and let him run so that he would get out his energy,i gave him chew toys i also had another dog so thor was not alone.ive had him 5 years and he does not chew anything.hes such a great dog! after a while he knew that i would never abandon him.i think thats what stopped the seperation anxiety was time. i know that is not the case with most dogs but dont forget yours is still a puppy. it sounds like you are doing everything a good dog owner can do. have you talked to a vet for suggestions or ideas? good luck!

I went through this with Dakota (now 21 months) very recently. As a puppy, she was fine. I crated her whenever I would leave and always gave her a chew toy and her teddy bear (which had a pulsing heartbeat) - at 6mos old she got very sick after coming home from an overnight vet stay in disgusting conditions.

My friends told me crating her would worsen her illness, so I began leaving her out. Dakota has never (ever) been destructive - never potty'd in the house, never chewed furniture or walls, never destroyed my belongings... or anything.... literally, ever!

This past December she started getting sick on car rides - even short rides to the store - every time! I still tried taking her on outings, but would leave her home now when I ran to the store or to a friends house.

One afternoon I came home and found her balled up in the corner shaking FRANTICALLY - at first I thought she had done something bad, but after searching the house I found nothing. This behavior continued - and it broke my heart to see her in this state literally EVERY time I came home. I did a lot of reading and even spoke to an applied animal behaviorist who specialized in separation anxiety. The advice I was given was to stop making my departures such a big deal.

Anytime I would leave the house, I would "baby" Dakota before I left. Seeing her trembling everytime I walked in the door was very upsetting to me, so I thought that by coddling her before I left she would start to learn that when I promised her I was coming back, I meant it. I was told to leave the house without saying a word or even looking at her. I tried that - but it made me feel bad - I had never left the house without telling her to be a good girl & that I love her and will be back soon. I stopped babying her, but I still say good-bye & tell her I will be back every time I leave.

The 2nd piece of advice I was given was about my arrival home - I used to walk in the door & go straight for Dakota, enthusiastically (to the point it was theatrical). I was told to walk in the door, put my keys away, take off my shoes, etc... and just let her come to me, naturally. And NEVER let scolding be the first contact upon arrival (even if the house is completely torn apart). I've never had to scold Dakota - but I began using this method of arrival (combined with giving her hugs & kisses & treats AFTER she has come to me) - and it worked very quickly.

For a week or so, I still found her in a corner when I came home, but the trembling had stopped. Finally, one day I came home and she was asleep on the couch - barely lifted her head when I walked in - and fell right back to sleep. She also doesn't get car sick anymore (that took alot of positive reinforcement!!!) so she gets to ride with me more often, but I think its good to leave them home sometimes and keep them used to you being gone.

Some other things I have tried are classical music cds, calming charms & oils and leaving a sweatshirt or blanket with my scent for her to sleep on. Just like us, each dog has their own unique personality, so what works for one may not be successful for another. I agree with the previous post that it takes time - but be persistent and he should be just fine.

Another thing I wanted to mention was about establishing the chain of command in the house. While yes, dogs are very intelligent - they don't "just know" who is alpha! If you ever try to introduce an alpha dog into a family with an existing alpha - you'll find this out right away. Dogs are pack animals - two dominant personalities will most times work out the order (in rare cases they can't work it out) - but it won't be worked out without combat to some degree. It is essential YOU establish this with your dog as well. This can be done without hitting or delivering negative punishment to your dog, but (ESPECIALLY with this breed) it is very important you stand firm with your dog and teach him that he is not the king of the castle. He will much better off and respect you more in the long run!

Marley doesn't get a big performance when we leave or return. Everything goes pretty smoothly. When we come home he just prances around like he's done nothing wrong. After 10 - 15 minutes we take him to whatever he's torn up, scold him and sometimes he gets a pat on the hiney. (you can say anything you want to about that but I know what works in discipline for my dog) After that's done, he gets a lot of love and our day finishes as normal. Music/TV hasn't worked. But thank you for your story!

No offense, that is really not the way to "punish" a dog - It shouldn't be done at all. You cannot punish a dog AFTER the fact, he has no idea what he's done. I would also be careful with leaving him alone unattended with another dog, or your parents dog as you stated.

I have to disagree with you, Marley knows when he's done something wrong. Give a dog more credit. I believe they have the capacity to reason just as a human does. Perhaps not as well, but they do. You're entitled to your opinion and I'm sure your philosophies on dog training have worked for you and your dog. However, our forms of punishment have worked. And, since this post, Marley is out of his seperation anxiety stage. Thanks to some suggestions that people have posted.

Our dog, also Marley, had the same problem with separation anxiety. One after leaving him for about an hour we came home to a destroyed leather couch.

While many here reference Caesar Millan, my husband and I, prefer the methods employed by Victoria Stilwell from "Its Me or the Dog." Repeatedly on her show she'd have this very issue to deal with with many dogs. Her method to "break the anxiety" was to desensitize the act of leaving. As other have said, don't make leaving such a big deal. Simply walk out. When you return, come in, do your thing, then greet the dog after a few minutes (if at all).

The first time we tried that, it didn't work. What we had to do to really break the behavior was to start with short periods of time and gradually increase them over time. Our first few days was repeatedly we'd walk out the door, and shut it behind us. He'd panic, scratch at the door, whine a little, and then head toward something to chew. As soon as we heard him leave the door, we'd re-enter and go sit down on the couch. No greeting, no praise, just go sit. The next time, we'd stay outside for a few minutes longer, and then longer, and longer. We'd do this multiple times per day until finally we could step out, run to the store, and return to a sleeping dog.

For longer periods of time, like when we were working we'd use a metal crate with his "blanket/bed" near items that carried our smell, like the laundry. Eventually, and I mean over two years later, we can finally leave him out while we're at work and most of the time he spends his days sleeping while we're away—be it short trips to the store, or while at work.

The key here is to be consistent, and repetitive. Most of all, take all ceremony out of leaving and coming home. No big hugs/kisses goodbye/hello. You have to let the dog know that its no big deal that you've left or come home.... its just what the 'owners' do.

In our house its become so low-key that he rarely wakes up in the morning when I leave for work, and i have to go wake him up for attention when i come home because he really doesn't get bothered anymore.

Treating Separation Anxiety in any dog is very tough, and I applaud your desire to fix the problem rather than just simply put the dog down, or get rid of him. The problem develops for three main reasons.

1) The most common is the dog fears you will never return. This is especially common in adopted and rescued dogs. When I got my Cutler, he had already passed through 3 owners before me (he is only 8 months old). In this case, the easiest solution is desensitization. Try leaving the dog in your bedroom with the door shut for a minute or so - if he whines or cries, ignore it. Go inside after the few minutes and give him an amazing treat, like steak or chicken. Once you can do this for several minutes, move up in time.

2) Another common cause is lack of leadership. In some cases separation anxiety is caused by a dog who does not want a pack leadership position stepping up into one. In nature the pack leader is the one who leaves, he is not left, that is why he gets destructive while you are gone. Out of panic.

3) Built up energy is the final common cause. Sometimes, you can solve separation anxiety by merely talking your dog for a 45 minute walk before you leave.

Until you've figured out the cause, you have to manage the problem.

Dog proof your home, use Fooey, and give plenty of durable toys. Frozen Kong Extremes with Peanut Butter in them are a great option. You could also look at the everlasting treat ball. Leave plenty of other toys they can play with.

Also, vary your routine before leaving. One morning brush your teeth last, the next brush them first, so on.

The most important and most difficult is to follow the no talk, no touch rule. 20 minutes prior to leaving, cut off all touch and talk with your dog. Do this when you get home as well, you want it to appear "business as usual" rather than making a big deal out of it.

Good luck :)

I am starting to encounter some mild seperation anxiety/boredom from my 1.5 yr old pit mix. My GF and I were home (unemployed) the first 5 months we had her, but now we both have jobs (yay) so she is alone for an extended period. at first she was fine but she now seems to be becoming more troublesome, peeing a couple times, ripping up shoes, etc. All these suggestion here are great, we bought her a kong, a new bone (and an enclosed shoe rack, lol).

My question is how long is acceptable to leave a dog alone in the house? in a crate?

Well I can feel you on the destorying everything lol. Everyone has differnt opinions on leaving them crated for amounts of time. My two are crated for about 7 hours aday Monday to Friday. I am able to go home for my lunch hour and let them out. I really don't recommend leaving them loose in the house simply because they are destructive and with seperation anxiety it's even worse. I personally also have a cat that if they got mad enough or irritated by her they could hurt her even if they were playing and got to rough. Kira my female would some times pee in her bed when I crated her and left but now that I don't let her have any bedding in her crate she stopped. I feel very gulity leaving them in their crates all day but I have no other choice right now because even daycare in my area for a couple of days a week is too much for me to afford. I also hate that they have nothing comfy to lay on but they should have thought about that before they destroyed it because they were mad. Yours will adapt eventually and if it doesn't get better talk to your vet about it and there are anxiety medications they can give for your dog. It takes some time before they start to work and they are not sedation meds don't think that they wont make your dog a zombie they just relax them so they don't get nervous and stuff for thunderstorms and seperation.


My pitmix who passed away earlier this year had horrible seperation anxiety. He chewed all my door james down to where the nails were sticking out. At the time I hated the idea of crateing my dog it was my boyfriend who finaly did it behind my back.

I had taken him to the vet and put him on medication for the anxiety and I saw no personality change in him. He just seemed less nervous when I left the house. Eventualy he became so adjusted to the crate I took him off the meds. I would just leave the door open and he would go in and out as he pleased while we were home. Some say a crate is not the answer to seperation anxiety, but luckily for me it worked out.

Since then we crate our shepherd and our pibble when we are not home. When we leave we say kennel and they run and will even push open the door. Then I take them each a couple doggy biscuits and walk out the door. I have had to leave my dog crated on some days for up to 10 hours (unfortunately being held over on unforseen mandatory interupts their day as well). I know sounds like an awful long time, but I noticed on the days I am off work they seem to sleep the same hours they would be crated. Each dog has a wire metal crate probly bigger then they need and I keep towels or dog bed in them. I also turnon the tv on for them when I go to work.
They seem to adjust just fine, esp if you are taking your dog out and excercising.

Amber I took away raisin's bed too cuz he was pooping in his crate after being in it for a couple hours. Then would take his bed drag it on top and sleep on it. He thought he was hiding it! Umm he forgot it smelled I guess. So he got demoted to towels. Luckily he doesn't chew them, its the only thing he doesn't chew.

My pitbull's name is Sypsy. She is now 6 yrs. old and we often leave her over the weekend when we go to Va. and have for a long time because she absolutely would not stay with anyone else. Do you know that we probably have the only pit that has never chewed anything in the house? When we come back, everything is as we left it and she is in her hiding spot upstairs waiting for the imaginary house robbers. She has a great personality and is extremely protective of my husband and myself. I only wish she would let us have another dog too but I know that she wouldn't go for that. We love Sypsy so much and am so glad that we finally got to experience a pitbull.

I recently got a pit bull. He is 3 years old. I think we are both adjusting to the new situation, but he has been a great dog so far! Never chewing up anything (knock on wood) and listening well, EXCEPT when it comes to bed time.. He thinks my bed is HIS now, and I have no clue how to get it through his head that he has his bed beside mine, and my bed is for me haha. What can I do to fix this little problem? I try and be firm with him and put him in his bed the best I can with a 80 lb dog, but he always jumps back up.

have u tried recording your voice saying his name, my pit would go crazy whenever i left untill i made a cd of me talking to him like i would usual lol. Im prolly the goofiest person youll meet but it worked. =) hope u find something that works.

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