Helping Kobe Cope

Yesterday we celebrated two lucky dogs who were pulled by Bully Paws and are excelling outside of the shelter. I now want to share with you how Kobe’s story is progressing! Remember Kobe? He was the lucky brown “pit bull” dog who made it out of the shelter with Jasmine’s House after four months of waiting:

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Kobe was luckier than we realized when he left with Jasmine’s House that day.  The shelter took quite a toll on Kobe, and he developed severe anxiety by the time he got out. At his foster home he made it clear how much he hated being alone by doing some pretty serious damage the first day his foster parents left for work (anyone with dogs that have separation anxiety can relate to this, I’m sure).

Jasmine’s House and Kobe’s fosters immediately put a plan into action to combat his separation anxiety. It quickly became evident that Kobe didn’t need just the usual tricks to help his anxiety, he needed rehabilitation.  This would require lots of time, patience and dedication – which is exactly what his fosters & Jasmine’s House gave him.

Every day Kobe’s foster drops him off at Heather’s house (the foster coordinator for Jasmine’s House) before they go to work at 6:30 am. Kobe spends the day with Heather, and then gets picked up on his foster dad’s way home. Heather also happens to be Joanie’s foster! It turns out that those two are perfect for each other, and after spending a few days across baby gates and on parallel walks, they are now almost inseparable.

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Another doggy friend can really help dogs with separation anxiety – though it often doesn’t completely cure it. The regimen for Kobe is an intensive one, starting out with trips into the crate for only one minute or less. The point is to slowly build him up to where he can tolerate being alone for five minutes, and then thirty minutes, and then hours. This process can be very slow going, but it is essential for a dog who needs to learn that being alone is not the end of the world. For a more detailed description of crate training/combatting separation anxiety, I recommend reading Patricia McConnell’s book I’ll Be Home Soon.

Heather emailed me with a milestone just the other week: she went to walk one of her dogs for 40 minutes and when she returned, Kobe was fast asleep on his bed (next to Joanie in her crate). Then, I received another update that Kobe had been left alone for four hours and again, he was totally fine.  These are huge, huge victories for dogs like Kobe with such severe anxiety, and they were accomplished with consistency, patience and lots of hard work.

Kobe is no where close to anxiety-free yet, but he has come leaps and bounds in just a few short weeks.  He still does not like to be crated when left alone, and doesn’t appreciate tie-downs either – so he might be a dog who just won’t be able to stay in a crate. There are plenty of non-crate trained dogs out there; that’s not super important. But what is important is that Kobe doesn’t feel like he needs to totally lose his marbles when his humans leave – which it seems like he is learning.

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When he is not practicing being anxiety-free, Kobe is working towards his CGC!  Kobe participates in CGC class at Canine Lifestyle Academy, and he is quickly excelling with the help of his loving and dedicated foster parents.

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He lives with another female dog and six cats, who I hear he is getting along well with! So even as Kobe works on getting his ducks in a row in terms of anxiety, he continues to be the darling dog we know and love.  He is lucky to have so many dedicated people in his life willing to work with him instead of just throwing in the towel and saying he is too difficult. He is going to make a family very happy one day!

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Joanie, the little black pup, is available for adoption through Jasmine’s House rescue! Kobe is not available just yet, but he will be one day. If you’re interested in either, head to the Jasmine’s House website and fill out an application.


It’s Always Better When We’re Together

. . . or is it?

To me, separation anxiety is one of the most intimidating behavior issues to deal with. The fact that it manifests itself when you’re not around makes it seem like a daunting challenge to overcome. Thanks to the brains of the dog behavior geniuses I’m surrounded by, I do at least know some arsenal in combating separation anxiety, should I ever have to face it.

So when I agreed to foster Baxter and was warned of possible separation issues, I braced myself for the worst. Some of you may remember over the summer when Baxter was at the Jasmine’s House farm and ate a leash, resulting in multiple surgeries to remove the impassible object. No one was sure what triggered the leash eating, but it was anyone’s best guess that it was due to separation anxiety. I knew at the very least I would have to be super diligent in observing Baxter’s behavior and anxiety to prevent another “leash incident”.

We knew that if his anxiety got bad when he came to us, our one saving grace would be that he was already used to spending time in his crate.  He was sleeping on a Kuranda bed at the time because we were afraid when he was alone in his crate that he would eat the bedding (which is something he did at the vet recovering from his first surgery).  When he first came into my home my eyes were on him at all times, and if I wasn’t around then he was in the crate.

Well, it ended up that Baxter’s separation anxiety never really did show itself. The first few weeks when we would put him in his crate he would bark a little at first, but now – thanks to keeping a routine – he knows when bed time is and happily trots into his bed and goes to sleep, sans any woofing or whimpering.

Under supervision, the leash eating issue has also basically disappeared. While we still take precautions to make sure he isn’t put in a situation where he can swallow something inedible, I do trust him to not be around me all the time. In his crate he has even graduated to a mattress instead of the Kuranda bed, which he absolutely LOVES – shown by the fact that he chooses to sleep there on his own accord throughout the day.

Even though my Dad works from home so someone is usually always around, Baxter would stay in a crate if I was out. I didn’t want my Dad to feel pressured to watch him closely (when we were still being paranoid and diligent about preventing him from eating things) when he needed to be working.  After a few weeks though, we were able to set up a “Baxter proof” space; essentially just two hallways with all the room doors shut, connected by a set of stairs. No access to any rooms, anything on the floor, or anything else dangerous.

He gets two beds, and he can access my Dad’s office. He stays there now when I’m not home but my Dad is, and it works perfectly. It took him maybe three or four times to get used to it and not look for me for the first ten minutes, and now he settles down as soon as I close the door. I put his bed by the window so he can sleep looking out the window. Pulling into the driveway and seeing this little man waiting for me is the best feeling : -)

Additionally, Baxter is not one of those suction cup dogs when you are home together with him. He doesn’t sit outside the bathroom door waiting for me, he doesn’t spring up when I move rooms, and he doesn’t whine if there is a door between us. I’ve had a few dogs like this, and I’m not at all saying it’s bad if a dog acts “clingy” – but I can definitely say I appreciate the space a little. Plus he balances it out perfectly when he trots around the house looking for me if he hasn’t seen me in a while.

So all in all, we got really lucky with Mr. Bax that he turned out to be such an easy keeper. I’m so happy that he has been able to settle down with us to the point of little to no anxiety. We still treat him to kongs or bully sticks when we’re not around, and mental puzzles when we are home just to tire him out – but my mind is at ease when we are out of the house.

We are lucky that Baxter didn’t need much work to get to this point, but people whose dogs are suffering from separation anxiety should know that there are lots of resources for your worried pooches. Patricia McConnell, a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, has some great books out there about behavior issues, including separation anxiety, that I would highly recommend. Even the smallest things that you would never think of can help your dog get past their distress. Being educated about the triggers and causes of your dog’s anxiety can help worlds in treating and curing it.

So, in case his adorable brown eyes haven’t won you over in the “Adoptability” category, his easy going nature is a no-brainer. He is your little buddy when you’re around, but doesn’t freak when you’re not. Win, win!

For more information on adopting Comeback Kid Baxter, click here or email peacelovefoster@gmail.com.


Dog Swap Thursdays.

Zabora is spending the holiday at her other fostermom’s house, so I’m going to do a little switch up and talk about another sweet pup in my life. Stay tuned to Love and a Six-Foot Leash for updates on Z!  Don’t worry, I miss her just as much as you do.

No more than twelve hours after dropping Zabora off, I picked up Mandy (think I have problems with being dog-less?). Like I mention in my Past Paw Prints, Mandy is a dog I dog-sit often. She is a beagle/sheltie mix, which is where she gets the sweetest puppy eyes you’ve ever seen in an eight year old dog.

Mandy actually was adopted from the Montgomery County Humane Society many years ago. She is a true testament to how you can find a wonderful family dog at an animal shelter.

Like many other perfect dogs, Mandy does have a small fault. She recently developed pretty severe separation anxiety, for reasons we will probably never know. Developing this anxiety late in life and out of the blue is surprisingly not uncommon in dogs.

Unfortunately, separation anxiety can be a pretty daunting issue to overcome. Luckily Mandy’s owners are wonderful and willing to work with her on it. A lot of it comes down to both stimulation and distraction, and requires action when you are and are not around. Here is a brief article on separation anxiety that I think covers some key points. Internet articles, books, and professional behaviorists are great resources for learning about separation anxiety. Background knowledge on the issue is crucial to addressing it.

Lucky for Mandy, she is easy enough for me to bring almost anywhere. She frequents my dinner dates with friends, loves coming on car rides, and is probably happiest sleeping on the floor at work with me all day.  She is a joy to have around, and she is absolutely adorable… wouldn’t you agree?