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About the Dog:

  • ~3 years old
  • ~30lbs
  • Rescued Stray
  • Spayed
  • Finnish Spitz / Miniature Belgian Sheepdog / Mix

Background

First week I had her, I worked from home for house breaking, crate training, and bonding. She is not afraid of her crate, and is now (almost) house broken. She is intelligent enough to have learned her name, as well as sit, down, up, come, and paw in the first two weeks.

She is a curious dog and will follow whoever is active in the house. When there is no activity she will stay near me.

The Situation

She whines and barks when she thinks she's alone. This does't matter what the circumstance is. Examples:

  • I am in the bathroom making no noise (and the rest of the house is sleep or empty)
  • She is confined to an empty room in the house
  • She is confined to the crate and there there is activity upstairs (However the barking is not nearly as persistent)

If there is any sign that she is not alone, she generally stops barking and behaves well. This can be actual visual contact or noises around the house that indicate movement in her direction.

So, she has behaved well in these situations:

  • I come downstairs in the morning to let her out of the crate
  • I put her in the crate at night
  • Anyone is near the crate

I have found it difficult to reward "silence in absence" because approaching the crate (or door, or stairs, if confined to a part of the house), will cause her to stop and settle down.

I ignore any barking or whining when she's in her crate, and I never let her out or give treats when she's barking. I try to keep departures and arrivals as low-key as possible, so she's not waiting anxiously all day for an exciting return. I don't want to teach her that barking makes people appear, either.

How can I handle this situation?

Additional information:

  • Crate is in the lower-level of the home.
  • The crate is covered with a blanket.
  • A radio did not seem to help.
  • I will occasionally reward good behavior with treats while I am home and she is in the crate.
  • She will claw at the crate some, but otherwise is calm outside of whining and barking.
  • When she senses someone nearby, she will stop barking.
  • Barking lasts about 30mins from what I've been able to observe. She is quiet when I or anyone else gets home. I'm trying to solve that first 30 mins.
  • How long have you had her? What is her exercise regime before you leave the house? – Carin Mar 31 '18 at 19:59
  • Morning routine is kind of short because I try to keep her from getting too worked up; but I don't think it matters. On weekends I take her to the dog park in the morning for 2 hours. I take her home and she is clearly tired. I've then put her in the crate so I can do errands and she will still bark when I leave – andyjv May 4 '18 at 12:38
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This anxiety problems are very complex and usually involves a mix between how do you treat her, previous experiences and dogs personality and physical energy.

But you tried to be detailed about the problem so I will try to guide you too.

First of all. This a bonding issue. Coming from a shelter, we almost can assure she had a plethora of bad experiences. So have done so well on the first weeks, fixing the owner-dog bond. But this comes with a drawback. Their owners abandoned her. Probably a shelter employee made a bond with her and just disappeared. In any case, this dog suffer from separation anxiety.

How do we deal with this? As stated in the beginning of the answer, is a very complex topic. So we have to attack it from various points:

  • Exercise: You have a shepherd mix and this is not a suggestion. They need to be heavily trained and disciplined because they have a great stamina and determination (which can revolve against you in the manner of compulsive behaviors). She needs to be tired, physically and mentally. With these, we are making her mind "weak" and she will accept new commands and situations easily.

  • Wait order: Sit her. Go away. If she stays, call and reward her. You probably will fail badly at first. This is the first anxiety issue to domain. When the skill is learnt, do the same leaving the house.

  • Make her a place in your life: being a shepherd, you probably have a little smarty in your hands. Take it with you to the grocery store, or whatever. She will see you disappearing/reappearing constantly and soon will get used to.

  • Be a leader, not a mom: I can't put enough emphasis on this. We usually over protect rescued dogs, but that is The Wrong Way. Just be clear. Express happiness when something is ok, get mad when not. But be consistent. Over the time, she will be "corrected" just with your voice tone, not even your presence.

  • Break a little the bond: Kind of related with the last one. Too much care, too much love, can make a terrible damage to a dog, because it will forget how to be an independent being. No couches, no beds, no food outside the sketch.

This is hard. That's why anxiety problems are usually field of professionals, because you have to keep on hand a lot of things, and you can't fail in one or another. I hope you can find a way, if not in my answer, another.

  • She is a smart dog, and has even tricked me when I'm trying to put her in the crate. She will voluntarily sleep in the crate at night, with the door open, so she's not afraid of the crate, fortunately. She is also fairly obedient with basic commands at home. Sit, Come, Down, Jump, and No are all commands I have pretty good success with at home. I've recently started clicker training for more advanced commands and better obedience in general, but I still struggle with the separation anxiety. – andyjv May 4 '18 at 12:43

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