Is this Separation Anxiety?

Dear WOOF:

I have a 5-1/2 year old greyhound we have had for 1-1/2 years and on Jan. 4 we adopted a whippet from Whippet Rescue. He is also 5-1/2 years old. I was a stay at home mom until Jan. 12 when I got a new job.

The problem - our poor whippet was with his owners for 5-1/2 years when they gave him up, then he went to whippet foster for one month and then we got him. The foster never had any problems with him, but she was home all the time. During the week I was home, I left for a 1/2 hour and he pooped on the floor. We decided to crate him while we are gone, but as soon as we leave him out of the crate and leave we get either poop or urine. If he urinates, I am sure my grey will mark over it. I don't have the leisure of leaving for 10 minutes and coming back, leaving for 20 minutes and coming back and so on.

Do you think he will get used to us leaving once he feels more at home and sure we're not going to give him up? He's a wonderful guy and I'm not giving up on him, but I get these cartoons in my head that as soon as we leave our grey is doing the "ha ha dance" to him. Someone suggested a belly band. Any other ideas????

Thanks for any help you may offer!


Hi:

I have good news : ) There are many indications that lead me to not make an assessment of "canine separation anxiety" as the reason that your dog is pooing in the house when you are gone.  Unless you are leaving out a significant amount of detail in your email, you are not dealing with a separation anxiety disorder, you are dealing with a simple housetraining problem! Sadly, many people like yourself are misinformed by well-intending, but uneducated people, who will "diagnose" problems inaccurately like this. The result is more frustration for the human, as the suggestions given on how to treat the problem are not effective because the real problem (as determined by a qualified behavioral professional) is never addressed.

That said, just because this dog is 5-1/2 years old, does not mean that he's ever fully learned that there's only one place to potty, and that's outside. From the sounds of it, he was not left alone too often indeed, but when he was, he was probably crated. This is more than likely why you see the trouble only when you're gone. If his former guardians were constantly home with him, and he was crated (actively prevented from pottying in the house) in their absence, he's simply never learned that he should hold it (while home alone and out of his confinement) until someone comes home to let him out to relieve himself. Additionally, he was probably let out frequently enough to prevent housesoiling while they were home.

Prevention is the key here, as it is with all problem behaviors. Put simply, each time he goes in the house because of a lack of prevention (crating!), you're training him to continue. Since you don't mention any problem with confinement to the crate while you are absent, just commit yourself to continuing to do so for now.

In a few weeks or so (after a period of complete prevention/crating during you're absences, no matter how long), you may again try leaving him out of his crate in a single room, like the kitchen with a baby gate up - as you leave for very short periods. Only do this when you're sure that he's completely voided both #1 and #2! You're not doing these short duration absences in an attempt to treat a separation disorder (not the case here thankfully!) you're doing this to make sure that he learns to "hold it" while you're gone while he's
out of confinement, which is the whole point of housetraining - right?!

I hope that you find this helpful. If you need further help, please feel free to contact me directly.

Good Luck!
Lisa Patrona,  Dip. CBST, CPDT-KA, ACDBC, AABP-CDT