Help! DC Dog Whisperers Needed

Caged, the taxi dog is all depression and disappointment

Caged, the Taxi Dog is all depression and disappointment

In May we adopted Taxi from the Washington Animal Rescue League, where she’d languished for three months after her previous owner returned her (1).

Usually she is a very happy dog. She loves to run at the now-closed Clark School and she even loves Dog Beach, but she hates to be alone. When we leave the house she goes into fits of separation anxiety that are heart-wrenching. Just watch her freak out when I left for a mid-day meeting:

Seeing that 15 minutes of emotional pain, I never want to cage her, but we must. Left out she’ll tear up the house and leave us “gifts”. So we cage her and have tired everything to calm her and have the cage be positive, without success.


Help me cheer up Taxi Dog when whe is caged

Help me cheer up Taxi Dog when whe is caged

She’s happy to be fed and get treats in the cage, and she’ll even sleep in it every so often, with the door open. We’ve tried to leave for short periods of time to desensitize, and keep the return excitement to a minimum. Yet still she cries and thrashes about the cage for 10-15 minutes when we leave.

As you can see, she also tears up any bedding in the cage in fits of frustration that we’ve left without her. She’s also damaging her teeth with her violent biting of the cage and water bottle.

So before I have even more guilt in leaving her alone, can you help? What might relax Taxi Dog and calm her when we leave? How can we cure her separation anxiety? Is there a DC dog whisperer that can help?

(1) The Washington Animal Rescue League has a return policy I’ve never seen before. They welcome back any adopted pet, no questions asked, which I think is great. They also claim that you have the follow the adoption contract you sign when you get your pet or they can take it back, which is great in theory, but would be crazy-hard to enforce in reality.

Married, mortgaged, and soon to be a father, Wayan Vota is in the fast lane to mid-life respectability – until the day his brood finds his intimate journal of global traveling and curses him with the ever-eternal reply “I’m gonna be just like you, Dad!”

18 thoughts on “Help! DC Dog Whisperers Needed

  1. You might try filling a kong with peanut butter and giving it to her in the crate before leaving. Theoretically she will be so distracted by the joy of PB that she won’t even notice you left. That’s what I did to prevent my puppy from developing separation anxiety – not sure how it will work on a dog that already has it but it’s work a shot. After a while my dog would see the toy and literally run into the crate. He is a glutton.

  2. Taxi runs into the cage when we put a kong + treat in there, but will drop it the second we head to the door. Yelping starts as we close the door, kong ignored until we come home. Then she’ll get it and eat it like we never left.

  3. I’d try giving her ONE room- a 1/2 bath maybe- where she can be when you are gone. Fill it with treats and the like to keep her busy. It’s also really important for me to do my best to tire out my dog every morning, so she’ll sleep throughout most of the day. I try to have her run around off leash, preferably with other dogs, for a minimum of 30 minutes every morning.

  4. Hi Wayan,

    A client of mine sent me your post. I’d be happy to help you with Taxi. Feel free to contact me if you have questions or if you want to schedule a lesson.

  5. I second the kong idea or at least something to do (chew) while she’s in there. She’s probably a smart dog judging by her good looks, so she just needs some stimulation to make the anxiety a little less… lengthy. Is it also possible to give her a good long walk every day? Like at least 45 minutes if she’s healthy enough?

  6. Tom & Megan,

    I do my best to tire her out before the cage. She gets about about an hour of off-leash running, ball chasing, and playing with me and with other dogs. When I work from home, this is enough to have her sleep all day.

    I like the 1/2 bath idea, though I know she’ll claw at the door for a while, meaning I’ll have to replace it over time.

  7. I read a suggestion online, and I swear I am not making this up, from a woman who throws a handful of cooked macaroni into her dog’s food when she feeds the dog before leaving the house. The extra carbs make the dog sleepy and relaxed. Carb coma to beat separation anxiety. I have no idea if this would work for Taxi or not, but it seems like trying it a few times couldn’t hurt.

  8. Looks like your dog is part beagle. Our male beagle flips out until my wife gets home. Even if I am there, he whines and whines. I can empathize with how you feel. As Cesar Milan would say, “Remember you are the pack leader” and “chhht!” That seems to work. They feed off of your energy. My wife feels anxious around him when coming home or leaving and that is why he flips out. Try not to project your feelings around them. Be confident. Don’t think of Taxi as a person or this problem will persist.

  9. Have you tried leaving a radio/tv on in the room where the crate is? Our dog *which we also got from WARL* used to be a disaster in the crate while we were gone, but we started leaving the radio tuned to WTOP and it’s been much better since.

  10. She is a beagle mix. We leave the radio on- with classical music. I put a fresh bone in the crate most days which she won’t touch until we get home…. we try to act like its no big deal when we put her in the crate and try not to give her too much attention when we first let her out. I know I treat her like a person instead of a dog, but I can’t help myself- I guess I am practicing for the new addition to the family that will be arriving in the next few weeks.

  11. There actually *is* a DC Dog Whisperer; a client of mine was just talking about him yesterday. I think he’s based somewhere in Georgetown and apparently it’s $150 a night–with no definite end-date. The dog comes back when s/he is pronounced fit by the trainer.

    Lots of dogs suffer from separation anxiety, but this sound like a particularly severe case. It’s really important to make sure that her health is in order. Hyperthyroidism is just one example of a condition that, if left untreated, causes extreme levels of stress.

    There are many herbal calming remedies on the market, and some of them do help certain dogs. Most are in pill form, but there are even aromatherapy sprays that you can get (I’ve heard that they actually work for some dogs). And, of course, there’s always Prozac. It’s completely turned around the lives of some dogs and owners that I know, but it doesn’t work out for others. If you and your vet decide that Prozac is a viable option for your dog, remember that it (and this is true of some of the herbal remedies as well) takes at least six weeks to see results.

    Also, Ms. Rachel Jones of K9 Divine is awesome!

  12. I also adopted a dog in March that had separation anxiety. Same issues you described. Also adopted a “sister” dog in May, and the situation became out of control. However, then I read Cesar Millan’s “Be the Pack Leader” and it really really helped. I strongly recommend the book (will also help you with juggling a dog and baby), but in a nutshell– tire that dog out! With walks of at least 45 minutes per day (sometimes with doggie backpacks to add an extra challenge) and a treat every time they go in their crates, my dogs behave fantastically now. They go willingly to their crates, and don’t bark or cry when we leave. Your dog may just naturally be anxious and need more time than the 5 months you’ve had together to trust you and understand that you will always come back. You can solve this! Don’t give up!

  13. To whom it may concern, I am the Training and Behavior specialist at the Washington Animal Rescue League and would strongly recommend you get help from a qualified dog training professional as soon as possible. Please call me at your earliest convenience (WARL number plus my extension #222) and we will discuss Taxi. It is very important to us that our adopters receive the best help available and I am happy to refer you to someone who can provide that. We have a trainer on staff and provide follow-up care to all our adopters. Sincerely, Sabine Hentrich, Certified Pet Dog Trainer

  14. Friends of mine had this problem with their beagle, too. They had a trainer come and work with them and they determined that it was, in fact, a pack leader thing … this was before everyone had heard of Cesar Millan and his plan. It sounds crazy, but basically they were told that because Clemson believed she was the pack leader she could not understand why the others would leave without her or how they could take care of themselves without her guidance. They made subtle changes to how they treated her and it went away pretty quickly. For example, they never let her go through the front door first, and when they went on walks she was to walk beside or behind them … but never in front. It totally worked for them, but of course every case is different.

  15. I sure hope that Wayan got some real help instead of every Tom, Dick, and Harry’s .02 cents on a blog. The Cesar crap is particularly aggravating. So, if your kids are acting psycho or you’re having serious marital issues, people, who do you consult? Dr. Phil? Oprah? Twitter? Americans, you need a reality check.