Small Problem #2 My Dogs Have Separation Anxiety

My beautiful Puppers adore us so much they can’t bear to be separated from us.

We have two pups; one chocolate Labrador named Pudding who is now 2 years old, and a black Labrador named Treacle who is 1. Pudding is very tightly wound whereas Treacle goes with the flow but is a bit of a copycat.

Pudding was very poorly when she was young and after lots of testing we established that she was intolerant to almost all standard dog foods. During this time it was absolutely impossible to toilet train her as she had absolutely no control over when or where she went, and with all of the building work mentioned in my last post, by the time we got her on to a suitable allergy food and started making progress, we had to start putting her on a lead to let her out. We also had strange people coming to our house and into her territory throughout the day so she started to get very anxious about protecting the house and being left on her own. She’d also lost her companion shortly after we got her so she went from being a pack to being solo and she didn’t cope with this well so we got Treacle, a pup of her own that she could bond with in the hope that she would feel more at ease knowing the safety of the family was completely on her shoulders.

Over time, and particularly with the break in building work, the two of them have bonded really well – they adore each other – and Puddings toilet training issues (at least) are resolved. This was, however, a very stressful time for me. I come from a family that has always had dogs, of various breeds, and I went into this feeling like I knew exactly what needed to happen to get them trained and none of it went the way I planned. I completely exhausted my natural ability to problem solve and was left in this place where I could see no way of dealing with the problem.

I’m a very pragmatic person generally, but I’ve learned very recently that it’s my own unachievable expectations that I am constantly holding myself up to with no hope of meeting them. At the time this was all happening I was unaware of this and was feeling like an absolute failure. ‘You should be able to handle this…. This is what you do – you fix things, you make it work in the end…’ I just couldn’t see my next move and I felt like the worst person in the world, like I was letting my husband and my dogs down because I couldn’t help them.

We’re still having problems but I’ve stopped trying to fix everything overnight. Pudding is still very chewy when she gets anxious. The difficulty is that Treacle has grown up in an environment where we couldn’t tell Pudding off for her behaviour without making her condition worse so we just had to ignore it, clean it all up and reward her when she wasn’t doing anything bad. Treacle has learned its okay to do what Pudding is doing. So between the two of them, over the course of a few weeks, they completely destroyed a 3 piece leather sofa. I mean completely. We’ve since replaced the sofa but instead of trying to control the dogs when we go out by setting up a run, we now put the run around the stuff we don’t want them to eat. We have to dismantle it when we get home, and put it back up when we pop out but it’s a sacrifice we’re willing to make and they’re happier for it. They have however moved onto other things. Such as laundry, their own bed, cushions… oh and the bottom step of our staircase. That no longer has carpet. Or wood.

And on to small problem #3.