Separation Anxiety?

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Reina's picture
Joined: 2014-06-15

So Dozer has been with us for two weeks today and he's adapted really well for the most part. There are were a few issues here and there so this is going to be one long post about all of them and any and all advice would be much appreciated!

1) I know that a Doberman is a people dog and they should never be isolated however there are obviously times when you have to go to work. My work schedule is random so someitmes I will be home with him all day and sometimes he will be home alone for 4-6 hours until the boyfriend comes home. What I'm wondering is if he's posibly suffering from Separation Anxiety and how to go about it until he feels comfortable. His crate is in our bedroom so if I'm leaving for a long period of time I enclose him in our bedroom so he can walk around or go in his crate or play but not run to the door and bark which would bother the neighbors. I also have to lead him into the bedroom and quickly close the door because otherwise he wont let me leave, he will follow me around and even sit in front of the door so that I cant get out. But he will follow either my boyfriend and I continously, even going so far as pushing the bathroom door open to sit at our feet. How should I go about it so he feels ok being left alone when I have to go to work? 

2) Another thing I noticed is he hates being forced to be separated from us or if his movement is restricted. He has a yard leash that we use whenever going to our parents homes, more for his safety than ours, it allows him to roam without getting into some of the plants that they have hat could make him sick if he were to nibble on them (and he loves to stick his face into plants), or to come too close to the pools, but whenever he is attached to the yard leash he because almost aggresive. He starts to bark, jump at us with his teeth bared, almost like he's warning that he will bite. ( I bruise like a peach and have many bruises from his teeth on my forearms even though he has never bitten down) but as soon as we unleash him, he lies at our feet and calms down and becomes the docile darling that we love. Is this part of the separation anxiety? and why does he get so aggresive?

3) In conjunction to #2, the teeth, I dont understand this behaviour of lunging at our arms with his mouth open, you think he wants to play, and next thing you know, he's pressing down with his teeth on your skin or nibbling at your skin and it can be completely random like taking off his leash or petting him or while walking him,  I've tried to look for any common factors or tell-tale signs and maybe its just me but I didnt notice anything.

4)His barking used to be a problem, but not so much anymore, we've been using a mixture of putting him in his crate for a 5-10 minute time out and sometimes using a metal can full of pennies as a rattle. Its gotten mixed results, is it because the form of "punishment" isnt consistent? Is there a better way? However when we try to get him to stop barking, #3 happens and he'll "attack" our hands/arms.

5) We have been consistently working on basic commands with Dozer (sit, down, come, stay) and he only listens and does half the time, I feel like its him being stubborn if that doesnt sound crazy? The problem is we take him often to the dog parks so he can run around but I worry that something might happen when he doesnt always listen to our commands. For example, at the dog park, if I call for him, he won't come, he's having too much fun. Is there a way to train him to respond better to us? We have used treats but we try to use them very sporadically so he doesnt do things because he is expecting the treats. 


So far, this is all that comes to mind, for the most part he behaves wonderfully but these are the biggest issues. We want to train it out of him as soon as possible because we dont want to be condoning his behaviors. So, sorry for the novel-length post but we could really use some good advice!

Thanks in advance!

Oz Dobe's picture
Joined: 2014-03-24

Hi Reina,

It doesnt sound like Dozer has seperation anxiety. Seperation anxiety causes behaviors that the dog cant control. If you left a Doberman in a bedroom with seperation anxiety for 10mins there'd be nothing to sleep on or in that night. You would see shivering, drooling, panting, sweaty paws etc - all the physical manifestations of fear in a dog, along with the destructive behaviors that can also injure a dog.

I'm sure he misses you, and would rather that you didnt leave him, but it doesnt sound like seperation anxiety. Dozer may not have been left on his own much in his previous home, and he just needs to adjust to your life style. Dobermans following you around the house is totally normal behavior anyway, so trying to 'gaurd' the door so you dont leave is not much of a stretch.

What to do about it? The recommended method is to leave for short periods at first. Even 10 mins at a time and gradually extend it. When you leave and when you come back, dont make a big deal about it. He will gradually get used to the longer periods over time. Some ppl use a radio, or calming music in the background but you have to be careful the music is on quite a bit of the time or it will become just another ritual of your departure. If your a naturally quiet household, the music probably wont help. Leave kongs with dog food frozen inside, toys that dispense treats remotely (like the kong with hole in it that the dog has to push around to roll a treat out) if you have space for the toy to be played with. Dozer should gradually get used to you leaving and see the frozen kong time as something to look forward to (if you only dispense the frozen toys when you leave).

Dozer doesnt like being restrained. On the good side when Dozer bites he may be bruising but he's not breaking the skin. Thats a very good sign. He has bite inhibition (hooray) and thats fantastic in any dog, let alone a dobe. It needs to be developed more by you yelping and ignoring him when he does do his nipping and mouthing on you. Basically follow advice re puppys play biting and you will teach him to be more gentle around you.

The problem he has with restraint is possibly caused by negative experiences being restrained. Maybe every time his collar was grabbed, he was taken inside, or he had his collar shook as punishment, or other negatives occured as a way of attempting to stop some unwanted behavior. It could also be that he has not built a strong enough bond with you yet, and here comes some person theyre not yet sure about trying to restrain them.

As far as the restraint with a rope (or whatever it is you use) goes, that sounds like its something new to him that he needs to be introduced to gradually. You can start at home, but it will need to be generalised in other places before he is fully adjusted to other homes. I would maybe start with putting a restraint on him while he eats his dinner, if he can handle that ok. Be careful he doesnt freak out, because you dont want to make eating a bad thing associated with the restraint. Only do this if he loves his dinner and he doesnt care about a restraint on him. Maybe start with a leash. If he's not up for this with dinner, try taking him outside and give him treats while on a rope and let him trail the rope around (under supervision), maybe try some simple obedience while he's trailing the restraint around with him.When you take the leash/restraint off, play something he really likes with him. The important thing is to get him to associate good things when he's on a rope, and that he gets to play and run around (supervised) when is released. Practicing calming techniques while on a leash might help too.

How is it that Dozer is trying to mouth you when you try to stop him barking? Are you doing the holding the collar and getting him to look you in the eyes thing? If so, see above. Dozer doesnt like restraint at the moment, but you can teach him that its ok. You can practise an excercise that will help him adjust to his collar being held. Hold his collar and treat. Release with 'go play' and let him have some play time. Hold his collar and put him in a sit and release as above. Do this with the down also. He will quickly learn that his collar being held is a good thing, and that its the pre curser to fun times. Looking in a dogs eyes is threatening behavior in the dog world. I would be careful doing this (especially while using restraint) IF you are using this to stop him barking.

Barking is a big issue with all dogs, all over the world and mine is no different. If you cant be there to supervise Dozer I would keep him inside with you. When your with him if he barks, about all you can do is divert him with play, obedience, frozen kongs, etc. Barking is natural for dogs and its self rewarding, so you cant really 'train' it out of them. Time outs, penny cans, etc (punishments) are just a negative form of diverting the behavior, but they wont always work, all the time in my experience.

Its early days with you yet and obeying commands might take a little time. Asking a dog to come at a dog park is really tough for any dog. Your talking maximum excitement and fun versus getting on a leash and going home. Practising the collar restraint exercise above is good at the dog park. When he comes to you always throw a party. Dont leave right after you've called him to you. Praise him and release him for more play. Do this often. Let him know that coming to you doesnt mean the parties over. When he's good at that, hold the leash in your hand and praise and release. You get the picture. If your dog park has trees or bushes. Hide and seek is the bomb for teaching your dog to keep an eye on you. Hide behind something and wait for him to come looking for you. Alternate with calling his name. I've found this works beautifully with Storm.

Theres lots of cool advice on the forum, and I'm sure others will reply with more, this is just the stuff I would do if I needed to, or I have done that works for me.

I hope it may be of some help to you :)