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> Help Needed Please
rachelleigh73
post 14th Nov 2017, 8:34 pm
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Hi all - my first post here - really hoping for some positive and helpful feedback. I have a 6 year old male Jack Russell cross (Toby) who had been badly treated before he came to me at around 7 months old. He has always displayed symptoms of separation anxiety. Recently he has shown an increased level of anxiety around my 2 year old niece (my sister and I live together) and we have experienced a number of bites, which have been distressing to all concerned. We are lucky that these bites have not been puncture wounds and have been limited to my niece's hands. We have made several changes around the house - use of child gates etc. We have tried various medications without success, and had a behaviourist on board. Her approach was a desensitization separation anxiety programme with the aim of helping Toby to be kept separated without distressing him (he barks, howls, defecates). However - I feel this approach hasn't worked - we are months down the line without improvement. I feel we are running out of options - our vet raised rehoming/euthanasia routes during our last visit. I don't feel ready to give up (though I realise I may have to). This post feels like a last roll of the dice - a plea for help. Can anyone contribute anything that we haven't thought of/tried? A behaviourist with a different approach? An unconventional therapy with a proven success rate? A medication route that the vet might not be aware of? All help appreciated - thanks so much for reading.
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kimw
post 14th Nov 2017, 11:53 pm
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Welcome to DP... I didn't want to just read and leave... I am sure there will be others far more knowledgeable along soon. I hope you are able to find solutions that work for you all as this sounds very stressful for everyone... human and furry!
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lolbeck
post 15th Nov 2017, 7:37 am
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I don't feel qualified or experienced enough to offer advice but wanted to give you a hug.gif and ask if you are on Facebook.

If so there is a very active and supportive group called Reactive Dogs (UK) which would be worth joining.

I do hope you find a way to bring peace and happiness to your whole family - Toby is lucky to have you on his side. flowers.gif
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Carolynleah
post 15th Nov 2017, 8:15 am
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I have no advice either, but wonder if you could give more details of the circumstances that lead up to these bites? Are there certain triggers that set Toby off? I hope someone knowledgeable comes along soon and more details may help.
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nikirushka
post 15th Nov 2017, 9:14 am
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Can you explain exactly what you have done so far in terms of the separation issue? And medication?
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rachelleigh73
post 15th Nov 2017, 3:40 pm
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Thank you so much for the kind supportive replies. Will look at the facebook link.

In terms of medication tried so far - fluoxetine, Clomicalm and zylkene.

The behaviourist recommended an approach which should have desensitized Toby to departure cues. He is rewarded for remaining on his training mat - but he is an exceptionally reactive dog. During training sometimes he will stay there when I leave the room, most of the time he follows. My regular departures and arrivals are kept low key etc. He won't eat if he's alone - a Kong filled with fresh chicken is untouched and no distraction.

He is very sociable and loves to be in on the action but is very defensive around the little one. Known bite risk situations mostly seem to involve 'personal space' issues - eg when my niece is running through the house, when she is trying to pass him in a hallway (even calmly), when there is food around, when he is separated by a barrier and she is close to it. Recently just being calmly in the same room has seen him rush at her from across the room and nip her fingers. I'm not clear what triggered that particular bite - perhaps he was anticipating my niece invading his space and responded preemptively. At the moment I'm making sure they are not in the same space together - but it's not easy in a busy family home. I hope the extra info helps - and thanks again for taking the trouble.
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daftdog
post 15th Nov 2017, 7:21 pm
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This is only from personal experience. I have 2 Jack Russells, one of whom is nervy, nippy, bossy and thinks everything belongs to her. My daughter came back home to live with my grandson who was one at the time. Baby gates were put on every door way. They were not allowed to be in the same room as him if he was on the floor, whether crawling or walking as he got older, in fact they weren't allowed in the room if he was playing till he was roughly 4 and he could understand what we were saying to him about the dogs behaviour in the house. We always took them for walks together and when he could run they would all run together but Roxy would be on an extending lead and watched like a hawk. I would say while she is so young, pick her up if needs be while passing your dog and keep her well away from the baby gates, this us how we did it, it takes a while to get used to then it becomes second nature. My grandson can now play with them both fine but they are still all watched closely.
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nikirushka
post 16th Nov 2017, 12:45 pm
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QUOTE(rachelleigh73 @ 15th Nov 2017, 3:40 pm) *

Thank you so much for the kind supportive replies. Will look at the facebook link.

In terms of medication tried so far - fluoxetine, Clomicalm and zylkene.

How long were these given before stopping them?

The behaviourist recommended an approach which should have desensitized Toby to departure cues. He is rewarded for remaining on his training mat - but he is an exceptionally reactive dog. During training sometimes he will stay there when I leave the room, most of the time he follows. My regular departures and arrivals are kept low key etc. He won't eat if he's alone - a Kong filled with fresh chicken is untouched and no distraction.

I think you would benefit from doing more work indoors on getting him settled, and on absences while you are still in the house, before returning to the leaving side of things.

A good relaxed down/stay would be a decent start; have a look at Karen Overall's 'relaxation protocol', starting with him in a relaxed down position (down with hips to one side, you can lure him into this position if need be) then working through the exercises. Build on that - you can include basically anything your imagination can provide, whether it's simple steps away and back to him, up to running around, waving your arms, whooping and cheering, singing, star jumps, clapping your hands... so on and so forth. Two rules: 1) if he stays put, he gets a reward, placed on the floor between his front paws (encourages him to stay there) and 2) if he moves, you've gone too fast, so do a lesser version of whatever you just did that caused him to move, and build it up. You can also include leaving the room, again by building it up. Include a stairgate in this and don't just go straight through it: build it up. So when you include it you might walk up to it and back; walk up to it and touch it and go back; unlock it, lock it and go back; unlock it, open it without going through, lock it and go back; and so on. Also, I find that varying what you do helps, so don't just work on the stairgate but do that, then do two or three repetitions with other activities, then try the stairgate again.

Going that way you should be able to build up absences with you on the other side of the gate, going through for gradually increasing amounts of time (and the increases may need to be tiny to start with - one or two seconds). Start in sight, then when he can cope with that for a few minutes, start to pop out of sight for a few seconds and build that side up.

When he can cope with you being absent and out of sight, but in the house, for around half an hour, *then* I would go back to building up the time leaving. Same process as above, just with going out the front door. When I was working through this with my own dogs, I found it beneficial to not worry too much about every step of the leaving routine, but to reduce that to minimal: so I would have my jacket on, keys with me, phone ready to go with timer so I could keep my absences precisely measured; and I would sit with the dogs until they settled down, then begin, with a good minute or two between attempts so they stayed as calm as possible. Using that approach, I did not then need to desensitise them to all the various cues as they became able to cope with me leaving, which of course is the main issue.


He is very sociable and loves to be in on the action but is very defensive around the little one. Known bite risk situations mostly seem to involve 'personal space' issues - eg when my niece is running through the house, when she is trying to pass him in a hallway (even calmly), when there is food around, when he is separated by a barrier and she is close to it. Recently just being calmly in the same room has seen him rush at her from across the room and nip her fingers. I'm not clear what triggered that particular bite - perhaps he was anticipating my niece invading his space and responded preemptively. At the moment I'm making sure they are not in the same space together - but it's not easy in a busy family home. I hope the extra info helps - and thanks again for taking the trouble.

Honestly, I would not have him in the same area at all. He may like to be in on the action but he clearly struggles to then cope with it (not at all uncommon, in reactive dogs) so it's safer for all concerned if he is not put in that situation. In the above incident, it may simply have been that the stress of the situation and her presence crept up until he hit threshold and reacted without any specific trigger. I would also be working on making her presence a pleasant thing for him as best you can, in these situations; stay near to him and if she comes near the gate, he gets something yummy. Also reward good responses - if he remains calm, reward it. If she comes a little near and he doesn't kick off, reward it. Really, really well. But I would be physically handing him treats, not throwing them to him as that is likely to trigger a reaction in a guardy dog. Also, I would train a marker word or use a clicker, so you can click the moment he does well, then if she's nearby, you've got a second to move her away before you reward him as the clicker bridges that gap between telling the dog they've done what you want and them getting the reward. Remember as well that some dogs simply cannot be around children, so this may not be an issue that can be permanently fixed.


Above all of this if there is any way to avoid him being left alone at all, that would be of huge benefit because when dealing with separation anxiety, every single time the dog is left, the anxiety increases and any training is eroded.
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daftdog
post 16th Nov 2017, 4:32 pm
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I should have mentioned on my last post that my grandson is now 5 so what we did was not a fast fix but it did mean that everyone was more relaxed in the home which helped. When my grandson started understanding more we had him making the dogs sit and giving them bones and he also puts their food bowls down for them. But as nikiruska said some dogs are really not happy being around children err.gif
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