As I wrote in my last post, Ferguson has suddenly had some setbacks in alone-time that have since gotten rapidly worse, faster than what I can keep up with. When I first got him, I worked diligently for months practicing desensitization, repetition, increased time, etc. which did and does work, but takes a lot of time and patience. He did get it eventually, and while he never LOVED being left, he tolerated it, and would actually sleep while I was gone, even up to 6 hours.
Unfortunately, since we've moved, I didn't take the same baby steps to get him as comfortable as I should have, and we're now seeing the repercussions. He had seemed well adjusted enough, but in the past few weeks, he's:
-Suddenly become very tense while in his crate, even if I'm in the same room. He'll stress pant and completely ignore any amazing tasty toy I put in there with him...at least until I let him out, and he instantly goes back in the crate to grab it out and enjoy it (which I in turn, remove, since super awesome amazing tasty toys are only to be enjoyed in the crate).
-Become increasingly attached to Eric, to the point where he jumped up to look outside the bathroom window on the other side of the house to see him in the back yard while they were messing with the broken lawn mower...still in sight.
-Gotten more clingy than usual. I know enough to ignore this behavior and to only try to pay attention to him when he's being calm or when I am the one beckoning his attention, but it has certainly increased to a noticeable amount.
-Whimpered when he's left without it leveling off. I only know this because I recorded him out of curiosity to see if it really was worse than before; sadly, my suspensions were correct. In the past, even a month ago, he'd only complain for a few seconds before making a "HUMPH" noise, and settling down for a nap. *sighs*
While our schedules have still been in transition, my routine for leaving Ferguson is fairly formulaic: 1. Exercise (at least 30 minutes, as well as sprinting), 2. Super amazing tasty stuffed treat, 3. Thundershirt, 4. DAP plug in (though, in retrospect, ours did recently run out. I ordered another, just in case this is the one thing he is missing), 5. Music (more recently, K9 lullabies), 6. Ignoring for 20 minutes before I leave and after I return. Because I've been doing this pretty consistently (though not always on consistent days or times), I felt a bit overwhelmed at what else I could be doing for him, and confused at how fast it seemed to be getting worse.
When I took Ferguson to work with me today, it was only 30 minutes before he was brought right back over with a bloody paw again. What might have started out as a fun game with a neighbor has escalated into an anxious behavior, and a dangerous one at that (he didn't have neighbor's today). We headed to one of the doctor's who bandaged him up, and then asked me several questions about his background and what might be causing this. We agreed that the moving is likely what set it off, and of course, the fact that he is a greyhound and was not used to being left alone during his "critical period" of puppyhood, meaning only that it is unnatural to him and resurfaces in sudden transitions. I asked him what I should do, besides obvious increase in behavior modification at home. He discussed the option of medication specifically for dogs with SA that works along with a behavior modification program to help the dog's mind be more open to alone training, and helps condition their mental state to be favorable eventually on it's own. I felt apprehensive, but the concept was one I've read about before with greyhounds specifically. Ultimately, I agreed to give it a try, simply because the medicine: a) has few side effects and does not sedate him in any way (they've found that SA dogs who are sedated are still running a mile a minute in their minds), b) would help decrease the amount of stress he will have to deal with (I love my dog, and hate to see him miserable like this), and c) would most certainly be temporary. If he's still on it in 6 months with no results, we'll have to figure something else out.
Until then though, I'm going to hold my breath and stay optimistic, thinking it will work. I know behavior modification has worked for him in the past (over several months), so I know we will get there...hopefully just a bit quicker and less painfully this time. Luckily, the wound was not too bad this time and won't require severe bed rest as before...just cleaning and covering it with my liquid bandage stuff, and a boot when we go outside. But what to do about daycare? We discussed that one too. Dr. B asked if there were any dogs he could buddy up with in a double run when I needed to bring him, to see if that might work for him while he's in daycare. I thought for a moment and remembered my co-worker had been on vacation for the weekend and left her mellow submissive and sweet beagle mix at our facility. I promptly texted her and explained the situation, and then we gave it a try...
It was a match made in heaven. The instant he was left with Lily, he was calm, and 20 minutes later I peaked in on them to find them laying close to each other. At the end of the night, Ferguson was laying on his side with Lily curled up next to him, fitting perfectly between his front and back legs. Everyone was happy. Luckily, Hilary and my other co-workers said they'd happily lend their dogs (the calm mellow ones) to be Ferguson's daycare buddies.
At least the day had a happy ending.
Ferguson will need to hang in there though until at least next year when we can even think about getting a second dog...