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My boyfriend and I broke up a while ago (we're totally fine with it) and I've moved into a new apartment with Misha. We used to live in a kind of cottage residence where we had our own small yard and didn't share walls with the landlord. But now I share walls with all my neighbors. The move to a new place seemed to trigger Misha's insecurities. He's always had a tendency for SA but it was fairly manageable. But the move coupled with covid (it was rare for both me and the boyfriend to be gone at the same time) has caused Misha to want to scream and howl when I leave. I've been working with him on this a lot lately and I thought it might be good to talk about some of my methods in case others are experiencing similar issues.

Firstly, I try to always leave Misha in his pen when I leave. His pen is where he's used to settling down and he is accustomed to confinement in it. Leaving him out of the pen seemed to cause him more distress.

Second, I started leaving him alone in the middle of the day when I figured the neighbors would be least bothered by the whining. I would wait just outside the door until he was quiet and then I would come in and praise him. Doing this a few times would result in him not crying when I left for short periods of time like to take out the trash. But I still was having major issues when I would leave for longer trips like to go to the grocery store. Sometimes I would get back and he would be wailing.

So I've been working on a new approach and I'm seeing greater success with it. His pen is in a location where he cannot see the door. So he assumes I've left whenever he hears the door open and close. So I've started going through the "leaving routine" but not actually leaving. I jingle the keys, put on my sandals, open and close the door, lock it, and then just quietly sit down. At first he would start wailing before long. But at the first sign of more than a whimper, I would reveal myself and correct him and ask him to settle. Then I would repeat the procedure. If he could remain quiet for a little while, I would reveal myself and treat and praise him. First 30 seconds, then 60 seconds. Now we've moved on to longer periods of time like 5 minutes, and I'm no longer rewarding him if he is making even a small whimper. He needs to be quiet and settled.

I am hoping this technique will work by making him unsure if I've ever actually left, and therefore eliminating his anxiety about being alone.

I know verbal correction for whining is not generally recommended, but for him it seems to really work. The whining itself seems to be self reinforcing for him and creates a positive feedback loop. If I can cut it off immediately, it interrupts the behavior pattern. And so far he doesn't seem to feel that my correction is a reward.

We will see...
 

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Sounds like you are making good progress with Misha.. Your plan is very good. Continue what you are doing, it all sounds right.
 

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I think of those verbal corrections as interruptions more than anything. Definitely useful in some circumstances and you know your boy best.

Hope you'll keep us posted on your progress! Shared walls can be challenging in both directions—not only do you not want your dog disturbing the neighbours, you don't want your neighbours disturbing your dog once he's finally settled!

Does TV or music help at all? We used to leave our iPad streaming classical music for Gracie when we left, to act as white noise. Peggy gets the Food Network.
 

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Have you had conversations or left a heads up note with your neighbors?

They will most likely be really kind about it and you will feel less stressed when it happens.

Like, "Hey Neighbor, sorry in advance.. We're working through separation anxiety with Misha and it's a work in progress. If you see us out and about feel free to ask for free pets. Thanks X"
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I think of those verbal corrections as interruptions more than anything. Definitely useful in some circumstances and you know your boy best.

Hope you'll keep us posted on your progress! Shared walls can be challenging in both directions—not only do you not want your dog disturbing the neighbours, you don't want your neighbours disturbing your dog once he's finally settled!

Does TV or music help at all? We used to leave our iPad streaming classical music for Gracie when we left, to act as white noise. Peggy gets the Food Network.
I think you are right about interrupting him. The music is a good idea. I don't usually play music but something like that could help to distract him.
 

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Have you had conversations or left a heads up note with your neighbors?

They will most likely be really kind about it and you will feel less stressed when it happens.

Like, "Hey Neighbor, sorry in advance.. We're working through separation anxiety with Misha and it's a work in progress. If you see us out and about feel free to ask for free pets. Thanks X"
Not all of them, though the ones I have met I've mentioned we are working on it. But it's a good idea. I'm always very nervous talking to people I don't know yet.
 

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I admire your approach; it seems like a good one. One of my friends used a white noise machine for her dog as a means of bringing something familiar to an unfamiliar location (training club, trial site).
 

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I've been through this with 2 dogs. It's great that you are really trying to find what works for Misha.

My little guy lived in a home until he was around 6, and was fine with being alone in the home, but when I tried to move him to an apartment, he experienced a lot of anxiety. I tried so many different methods, and when I worked with a local trainer through a class, she advised that I keep him in his enclosure. Things only got worse. I didn't know he was howling, barking, and crying when I left for work for work at 6:45 in the morning until my neighbors had complained multiple times (I wasn't told about their complaints initially). By that time, it was too late. I had to send him to live with my parents. I definitely agree with continuing to communicate with your neighbors and letting them know how hard you are working on this.

One thing that I never tried with him (wish I had) was giving him run of the apartment and also trying OTC calming supplements. When I got Miracle, I was ready to try anything different to finally have a dog in the apartment. She also howled being in an enclosure, and did best when I gave her run of the apartment. I tried gating her in one room, but she jumped the gate. Initially, I had to leave all the doors in the apartment open so she could look for me. I recorded her and watched her behavior, and observed that she would play with her toys for about 30 minutes and then rest in her favorite chair. I also used a white noise machine in the living room and kept the radio playing in the bedroom. I got her to the point where she could do well with a routine; she still struggled if I had to come home and then leave for whatever reason.

Keep us updated on how Misha does with his training.
 

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I've been through this with 2 dogs. It's great that you are really trying to find what works for Misha.

My little guy lived in a home until he was around 6, and was fine with being alone in the home, but when I tried to move him to an apartment, he experienced a lot of anxiety. I tried so many different methods, and when I worked with a local trainer through a class, she advised that I keep him in his enclosure. Things only got worse. I didn't know he was howling, barking, and crying when I left for work for work at 6:45 in the morning until my neighbors had complained multiple times (I wasn't told about their complaints initially). By that time, it was too late. I had to send him to live with my parents. I definitely agree with continuing to communicate with your neighbors and letting them know how hard you are working on this.

One thing that I never tried with him (wish I had) was giving him run of the apartment and also trying OTC calming supplements. When I got Miracle, I was ready to try anything different to finally have a dog in the apartment. She also howled being in an enclosure, too, and did best when I gave her run the apartment. I tried gating her in one room, but she jumped the gate. Initially, I had to leave all the doors in the apartment open so she could look for me. I recorded her and watched her behavior, and observed that she would play with her toys for about 30 minutes and then rest in her favorite chair. I also used a white noise machine in the living room and kept the radio playing in the bedroom. I got her to the point where she could do well with a routine; she still struggled if I had to come home and then leave for whatever reason.

Keep us updated on how Misha does with his training.
Great tips! Thank you
 

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Following! We're in the same position with the combination of separation anxiety + apartment living + puppy rarely ever alone by himself in the past. Definitely understand your frustration but excited for your progress!
 

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My long and convoluted and occasionally overwrought attempt to get Annie past separation anxiety after moving back into an apartment ais documented here:


I found keeping her under threshold and being very very patient was pretty critical. The tinier I made the steps, the faster the progress.

Contrary to the normal advice I found adding a cue, instead of trying to sneak out was much better. She seemed to need the 'promise' that I would be back quickly and she was not to follow me (which is her default behaviour). I also had to let her free roam and still worry about her in a crate for longer than an hour or so.
 

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She seemed to need the 'promise' that I would be back quickly and she was not to follow me (which is her default behaviour).
This is a really good perspective. I think a lot of us have little shadows who could be confused when fulfilling their "job" is suddenly made impossible by a pesky closed door. I don't make a big deal of it, but I do softly say something like, "You be a good girl."

This is something I've always done casually and organically, not really sure if it made a difference, but then I noticed Peggy would just stand at the door, confused, when my husband would abruptly leave or lock her out of the bathroom. She actually started trying to race through whatever doorway he was approaching, to beat the closing door. So I got him onboard with saying a calm goodbye and the change in her was immediate. She was like, "Okay, I'm free to focus on something else now."
 

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My long and convoluted and occasionally overwrought attempt to get Annie past separation anxiety after moving back into an apartment ais documented here:


I found keeping her under threshold and being very very patient was pretty critical. The tinier I made the steps, the faster the progress.

Contrary to the normal advice I found adding a cue, instead of trying to sneak out was much better. She seemed to need the 'promise' that I would be back quickly and she was not to follow me (which is her default behaviour). I also had to let her free roam and still worry about her in a crate for longer than an hour or so.
Thank you I will read this!

I tried using cues with Misha for a while but I was afraid this was triggering his anxiety like an announcement that I would be gone. I feel like I'm just experimenting until hopefully something works.
 

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I think you’re doing a good job, break it down to small times alone and build up to longer.

A small cue that you are leaving is fine, something low key. They recognize routine, you get dressed, get your keys and bag etc so they already know. The worst is to make a big fuss as that increases insecurity.
 
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I have always used a cue to tell the dogs that this time they can't come with me - "Stay and be good!" as I am getting ready lets them know there is nom point in getting excited.
 

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This is a really good perspective. I think a lot of us have little shadows who could be confused when fulfilling their "job" is suddenly made impossible by a pesky closed door. I don't make a big deal of it, but I do softly say something like, "You be a good girl."

This is something I've always done casually and organically, not really sure if it made a difference, but then I noticed Peggy would just stand at the door, confused, when my husband would abruptly leave or lock her out of the bathroom. She actually started trying to race through whatever doorway he was approaching, to beat the closing door. So I got him onboard with saying a calm goodbye and the change in her was immediate. She was like, "Okay, I'm free to focus on something else now."
A similar technique worked for my late Papillon. But my almost 4-month-old mini-poodle Topper is a different animal. He cries, yips, jumps and barks when I put him in his ex-pen or if I leave the gated area. I knew he was a people-pup when I got him (per his puppy aptitude test) but wasn't prepared for his level of objection. I am not-so-secretly hoping that he will outgrow this as he gains self-confidence and learns to trust that I always will come back. We have had him for six weeks.
 

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My older dog (not a poodle) has struggle with this in the past. She was even becoming anorexic due to her food being a predictor of me leaving. I found that she did a lot better with the run of the house rather than in a crate, pen, or even a room. She also did better with a cue for me leaving. We still struggle leaving if she's in an excited state. For example, we can't leave if she has just come back from a walk, she needs time to settle down.

I'm pretty sure we are going to have problems with our poodle puppy Maeby😑. Because of the pandemic and her broken leg, she is never really left alone. Even if we leave the room or are not sitting right in front of her crate, she will cry. I've heard that your approach @Raindrops is the one that is recommended these days. You want to do it super slowly just increasing the time away by seconds sometimes. Letting them cry it out isn't recommended anymore. When I have the courage to start this with Maeby, I will let you guys know. But, I feel like I'm so behind on all of her other training and socialization I'm too overwhelmed to even begin!
 
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