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Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Alleviating an anxious dog

My dad recently acquired a one-year-old castrated Patterdale Terrier cross. When left on his own he chews anything he can get his paws on! I'm currently training to be a veterinary nurse, and spend my lunches and time off walking the dog and trying to keep him mentally stimulated with toys and other games that can puzzle him throughout the day. However his chewing hasn't subsided. My dad is very “old fashioned” in his training methods and punishes the dog when he arrives home and finds evidence of chewing, to the point of our dog running around the house urinating and hiding. I explain to my dad that this is not going to help his behaviour and will probably worsen the chewing because of the anxiety the dog will feel on my dad's return home. It's starting to become a big issue which I'm finding hard to monitor as I don't live with my dad and I'm only there for parts of the day. I'm looking for other advice on how to stop him chewing and possible reading material to get my dad out of his old fashioned ways and build a really good relationship with our dog, where both are happy. So far we have tried toys to keep him occupied throughout the day and a deterent spray but to no avail. Any help will be greatly appreciated. Our dog Barry lives with two other dogs (another crossbreed and a Great Dane), we have had him for almost a year and he is on his own during a normal day for between four and six hours.

Thank you.

Miss H Melia, by email


  1. Gosh this sounds a recipe for disaster as your dad's attitude is really not going to help the dog. I haven't read it myself by James O'Heare has written a book called Separation Distress in Dogs. I have his Canine Aggression Workbook which is excellent. The book which really opened my eyes was The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson which I also lent to some friends who had trouble leaving a rescue dog and had been told it was because the dog was dominant!!??! They said that the book changed their views as well. Also anything by Ian Dunbar or you could look at the Dog Da Vinci Code by John Rogerson. It does sound as though you may need the help of a good behaviourist though. Most of them will need a referral from your vet to confirm that the dog does not have any underlying medical problems. You could try the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors who have a website. I am not qualified in dog behaviour and am just an ordinary pet dog owner but it does sound as though this was a poorly matched piece of rehoming. Hopefully more qualified readers will pick this up and can give you more advice.

  2. Reading between the lines it sounds as if your dad may be a bit stubborn as well as set in his ways...? If so I wonder whether he would find the time & interest to read & digest a book.
    If you have several Dogs Today Mags you are sure to find articles on leaving dogs alone & on dogs with separation anxiety which will put him right without mountains of reading. Also he needs to know that a rehomed dog will very often chew as it's a great stress reliever. I believe he thinks the dog is being 'bad'.

    I'm a bit confused at this bit:

    "Our dog Barry lives with two other dogs (another crossbreed and a Great Dane), we have had him for almost a year and he is on his own during a normal day for between four and six hours."

    I take it you're referring to your own dogs as you don't live at home & your dad has only recently acquired the dog?

    You don't say where your dad's dog came from, was it a rescue or acquired from a friend or something else? Also how long is he left?

    Have you tried stuffing a Kong or a Busy Buddy or two? You will need to ensure this is his main meal given like that or he'll put on lots of weight.

    A crate could be very useful for short periods gradually increased. Introduce the crate slowly & carefully, feeding the dog in there & leaving him in there with the door open with a chew for a short time, building up to closing the door briefly only letting him out when he's quiet so he doesn't think whining was what brought about the release 'reward'.

    I think we need lots more info really to offer more intensive help.

    [No expert, just ordinary dog owner]

  3. please don't leave him alone and then crate him as well. Poor dog will be even more confused. If your dad has 'old fashioned views' as you say, the crate will end up being used as a punishment too!How long is he left? It doesn't really sound as if your dad has got enough time for this poor lad does it?

  4. Christine Bailey25 March 2011 at 06:26

    Oh dear! This is only going to get worse unless something changes. I too would recommend The Culture Clash - if anyone is only going to read one doggie book, that's the one! But really is doesn't sound as though this is a match made in heaven. The poor dog is obviously terrified. Your dad needs help to build a relationship based on trust, and to very gradually build up the length of time the dog is left - and this will need to start with a minute or two! He also needs chew toys of his own and to be directed to them, with anything that can be damaged out of reach; it sounds like this behaviour could be why he was re-homed. Is it possible for you to take the dog to work with you if your dad will be out? I think it's worth looking for a really good trainer who can show your dad modern reward-based training methods, too.