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My dog:

  • Sex: Female
  • Breed: Chihuahua/French Poodle
  • Age: 9
  • Had surgery for a breast tumor a year and a half ago. No further sign of tumors.

Previous Location:

  • Mother's home
  • 4 bedrooms (3 residents)
  • Well water
  • Large yard

Current Location:

  • Rental House
  • 5 bedroom (6 residents)
  • City Water
  • Backyard

Background:

I have lived with my dog for her entire life with the exception of the past two years, when I went across state to attend college, during this time, my mother and sister had been watching her. I am the person she has always preferred to come to for food, to play or to go walking with, even during the time that I was visiting and not living there. I have recently moved to a location near my college that allows dogs. However I've noticed my dog has had issues adjusting .

Issue:

The first day (about two weeks ago) she was scared, as I expected she might be moving to a new home, and since we've moved in I have done everything I can to help her adjust. She always has food and water available to her in my room, I take her for a walk once a day in the nearby park, and I take her to the backyard whenever she needs to do her business or wants to play.

  1. I am currently not employed and in between semesters so I don't leave the house much or for very long, but when I do she begins to howl while I'm away. I've tried leaving her in my room with food, water and toys, and I've also tried letting her roam the house while I'm away but she insists on howling. My roommates say she goes around the house as though she is looking for me even though she saw me walk out the front door. I figure that she thinks I've left for a long period of time since the most she's seen of me the past two years is when I would visit once every month or two for a week. I am not sure how to handle her separation anxiety. Suggestions or insight would be appreciated.
  2. Just this week I have noticed that my dog has begun to lose weight, it hasn't become apparent visually but I've noticed when I pet her and I'm becoming concerned. I want to stop it before it becomes a problem. I have read that weight loss in dogs can be linked to stress, right now that is what I believe it is, but I know I could be wrong and I'm wondering what other things weight loss is a symptom of. Either way, I do not know what to do about this. I am planning on taking her to a vet this week, but for now I plan on feeding her some pasta without butter or sauce. Again, suggestions or insight are welcome.
  3. My dog is becoming less interested in playing. She has not been playing with the toys that she had always used to play (stuffed animal dog toy, fake bone, chasing the laser pointer). She still loves going for walks though. Not sure what to think of this. Not sure if it is stress related. Suggestions or insight?

My Current Plan:

As I said, I plan on taking her to the vet this week with these questions. I plan on getting her on worm medication, just in case. And I plan on taking her on two walks a day instead of one since she doesn't want to play with toys anymore. If anymore information is needed or might help, I will gladly provide it.

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I had this same issue with our dog. It sounds like separation anxiety. We solved the issue by using counter conditioning. Basically, you want to make the thing she fears (your leaving) associated with something she loves. For our dog, it was a treat in a Kong. It takes our dog about 20 minutes to get the treat out of a Kong. When we left, we gave her the Kong with a treat in it. After a while, she associated our leaving with getting the treat in a Kong. She still doesn't prefer that we go, but now when we do, she gets excited for her treat.

It is not an overnight fix. You may want to take a few smaller trips as well so that she learns that you will come back and it will help get the association with the thing she loves established as well.

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The answer about using a Kong is good. Since you have the time to do this now it is best if you follow a specific routine when leaving and always leave her in the same area. Using a crate is best because it provides her with a clear answer of where to be and what to do while you are away.

Put her the crate with the Kong full of goodies or a fresh butcher bone and leave the room for a couple minutes. As soon as you hear her settle down and start chewing give her a minute then go back in the room, let her out of the crate and put the chew toy/bone away for next time. Repeat this several times a day gradually leaving her for longer periods.

What this does is gives her the answer for how this new home works. She doesn't have to worry that you are gone because you always come back to let her out of the crate.

Also make sure that you do NOT make a big deal about leaving or coming back. Making a bunch of excited noises just gets her riled up and anxious. When you come back in yo let her out just open the crate and go about your business. When she settles down then give her a nice calm cuddle so she understands that you want her to be calm and comfortable.

The extra exercise will really help too. A tired dog is a happy healthy dog.

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