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I've read some posts on here related to this topic, but all of the tricks have already been used.

TL;DR: My mum rescued an abused pup with head trauma.

My mother has a rescue pup. He belonged to a neighbour for his first few months of life, and bonded with my mum over that period of time (neighbours didn't show him much love). She was (and still is) the owner of the pup's sister. The neighbour gave him away to a local mechanic who, we believe, severely abused him. He's terrified of men now, and winces if you move too fast near him. Based on his sudden seizures when she found and adopted him from a local rescue (he was found on the streets after being abandoned by the mechanic), we believe he had severe head trauma from the abuse.

He's a very good dog, but now he won't leave her alone.

If she heads to the bathroom, he's going too. If she goes to do laundry, he's coming. He is at her side non-stop, and if she ever dares to leave the house he will scream his face off. Even if she's just standing on the other side of a baby gate he will flip out. She owns two other dogs, one being his sister and the other being an elderly dog. She also owns a rabbit, and a cat, and millions of fun mind-game dog toys.

She has tried making her leaving the house a good experience with positive reinforcement. She has tried "calming dog music". She has tried leaving other people at home with him. She has tried puzzle toys. She has tried crating. She has tried absolutely everything with this boy.

The clingy behaviour is annoying, yes, but that's not even the biggest issue here. His seizures are, and they are caused by stress. He's on medication for it, but if he gets too stressed he will still have an epileptic episode.

If he isn't by her side all constantly, there's a very good chance he'll have a seizure - and could very likely die. Every seizure is one step closer to him possibly passing away, and there seems to be nothing she can do except just stay at home with him 24/7.

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The first thing to say, sadly, is that depending on your mum's situation she may not be able to take care of a pup that requires constant company.

Also, this kind of dangerously severe anxiety requires a professional trainer.

That said: generally if a dog is stressed by something, calmly lead them just far enough away from that thing that the anxiety abates - but hopefully close enough it is still in view - and then reward them; treats, attention, or time with a toy.

As to the specific triggers you've mentioned, they are more complicated, but the goal is to build new associations between things that currently make the dog anxious, and "good stuff". Not simply to distract.

Your mum can go into the bathroom, only just inside, then get the dog to settle outside the door for a second or two and reward him. After some time she may be able to settle the dog, close the door for a moment, then reward him. In time, hopefully she can go in alone and for long enough to do what needs to be done!

Anxiety over your mum leaving will probably start before she even gets to the door. She should grab her coat and keys, then settle the pup, and reward him. After a while grab coat and keys, go to the door, settle the pup and reward him. Grab coat, keys, go just outside the door, settle the dog inside, and reward. Then as above but close the door for a moment. Then for just a few minutes. And on and on with gradual escalation. It might be wise to have someone else with the pup to abort the exercise if he freaks out.

A comfy bed scattered with treats in the room she's spending some time in (ie: when doing the laundry), that he is slowly trained to associate with reward and attention, might be something he can learn to relax in.

Also, dogs generally like to gnaw to relieve stress. Find what your dog likes to gnaw. Antlers, certain kinds of wood (always from a pet shop), tough hide chews, or the horrifying pizzle sticks!

The very best of luck to the both of them.

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  • Thank you for all the tips! I've tried convincing her to look into possible other homes for him since he is quite a handful, but she's very stubborn haha. On top of that, there's a very good chance he would just end up being put down because of all of the work he requires. He's an expensive boy with all the meds, and the clingy behaviour really doesn't help his case. We've tried lots of those positive reinforcement exercises for the past 6-7 months or so, with no luck yet. Fingers crossed it finally starts kicking in for him. Thank you for your answers and your wishes of luck! – Sky Nov 21 '19 at 18:10
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In addition to Grim's answer, I suggest training "stay" with him.

You can make the training fun and rewarding for him by training "stay, then get the treat" or "stay, then catch the toy", depending on what your dog responds best to. You must train this several times daily and work your way up from just a second to longer times. Incorporate the training into his daily life by making him wait for things like being allowed to hop onto the couch or to cross the threshold to go on a walk.

This is supposed to teach him impulse control.

His brain currently is so hardwired on ALWAYS being close to your mom that any tiny disruption causes a lot of stress for him. If he learns that he doesn't have to satisfy his impulses immediately, he hopefully learns to stay relaxed when he's separated from your mom for a short while.

In a few weeks, when he (hopefully) grasped the concept of "stay" and that he will be rewarded for waiting, you can ramp up the training:

  • Stand on one side of an open door
  • Make him "stay" on the other side
  • Close the door for a second
  • Open the door and reward him

Again, work your way up from just a second to longer times. If he starts whining or scratching on the door, you made him wait for too long. Continue the training with a shorter waiting time until your dog is more comfortable to wait longer.

Bonus points if the layout of your house lets you walk around him. Tell him to "stay" and close the door. If he's waiting calmly and obediently, open the door and reward him. If he whines or scratches the door, go through the other rooms of your flat and reappear behind him. That teaches him that scratching the door won't successfully make you open the door.

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With severe anxiety, it is difficult for a dog to learn new skills in situations that are at all stressful. I recommend seeking out a vet that specializes in behavior. They can prescribe medications that will help with the anxiety and allow the dog to learn new coping skills. These are generally inexpensive and may be temporary depending on how the dog responds to training.

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