Friday, June 3, 2011

Separation Anxiety

As you may have noticed, G is a pit bull. Bullies are notorious for being loyal and ridiculously attached to their humans. G is no exception to this and has developed separation anxiety from me when I leave my apartment.

From the time G was a tiny little pup, I crate trained her. She actually came from the Mayor's Alliance with one of those huge metal folding crates and was in it when i was out of the apartment from the time she was six weeks old. For the first year and a half of her life, she also slept in her crate at night as well (she wasn't reliably house broken).

I remember the first time I noticed that she was yelping in her crate when I left her when I lived on 52nd Street in Midtown East. The building was a five story, pre-war walk up and G and I were on the top floor. I started hearing her yelp when I put her in her crate, especially if I had to go and run an errand, in the evening. A neighbor once remarked to me, "Man, she's a screamer, eh?" But I didn't put the pieces together. What's more, there was no one living in the apartment below us for our entirely tenancy, so no one ever mentioned a thing.

When I decided to move to Battery Park City to be closer to work. I moved into a post-war building (yuck) and Gert continued to go into her crate when I left for work. One of the first questions I asked when I rented that apartment (aside from "Can I get Fios here?") was how thick the walls were and how noisy in general were the buildings. Well, like a true rental agent, the guy completely lied and said "Oh, you can't hear a thing!" and I bought it hook, line and sinker.

One night, I had decided to come home from work, let G out and then go meet up with some friends on the Lower East Side. When I arrived back at the apartment, I could hear her yelping (screaming, really) in her crate the moment I stepped off the elevator. I ran to get her and hoped no one had heard her.

Not a half hour later, a security guard knocked at my door and told me that I had 2 noise complaints called in that evening. Let the panic attacks begin!

I freaked out, couldn't eat and didn't know what to do to keep her quiet. I wasn't home during the day and couldn't quit my job to be home with her, so I literally didn't know how I could control the yelping when I physically wasn't there. I sought out the advice of everyone I knew and paid hundreds to a top behaviorist to help with the issue. G was prescribed sedated medications and behavior modification training.

As it turned out, for me the logical step became paying for her to go to daycare at Biscuits and Bath in Tribeca. That way, I knew 100% that she wasn't at home yelping during the day. Luckily for me, I live in a city where dog daycares are everywhere and usually easy to get to, so walking her back and forth each day wasn't a huge hassle (although my pocket book took a hit!).

From April 2010 to April 2011 G went to daycare between 3-5 days a week at various establishments. When I moved to the UWS, I enrolled her at Yuppie Puppy on 86th Street and simply loved it. It was bare bones in terms of the typical doggie daycare accoutrements, but was so calm and peaceful - G absolutely love it there.

As you may have noticed, I was lucky enough to be able to ship G off to daycare and never had to deal with the fact that she was still yelping when left alone. Essentially, I had bandaid-ed the issue and had not dealt with the underlying anxiety - leaving me anxiety ridden when I had to leave her.

On April 15, 2011, I arrived at daycare to pick up G and found a notice that after 25 years, Yuppie Puppy was closing its doors on the UWS and moving to Midtown West. It would reopen at some point over the summer. Let the panic attacks (v 2.0) begin anew!

I had no choice, she was going to have to stay home again during the day and I was going to have to figure out how to keep her happy and quiet during that time. Here's how I did it: I ditched the crate (okay, I gave it back to the Mayor's Alliance). Believe it or not (and I'm a believer in crate training), I think that may have been 60% of the issue. Second, I purchased a citronella collar on the recommendation of my mom, and lo and behold she responded immediately. The collar releases a gentle spritz of citronella if it picks up any barking or whining noise when turned on. Pups (especially G) don't care for the scent and stop barking to avoid being sprayed.

It was and continues to be my secret weapon and my fail-safe in the fight against separation anxiety. I cannot recommend more highly.

Finally, G now has a dog walker who walks her 3 days a week for 45 minutes. It breaks up the day and she gets to blow off some much needed steam.

Here's a photo of her this morning, fat-necking it all over the place with her cit collar and ready for a busy day of snoozing in the sun:

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