May 24, 2012

Weapon of Mass Destruction

What I didn’t know when I came home from dinner last night was that Connor had virtually destroyed my bedroom and work room windows. Or rather, he’d torn down the curtains in my bedroom and chewed off the windowsill, which, luckily, came off in two large pieces. He pulled down the curtains with such zeal that the curtain rods were bent and broken.

In the workroom, where I have a bamboo blind, he’d completely torn that up, and knocked everything off the shelves in front of the window, scattering them around the room.I was really too distraught to take any pictures, and in addition, I was totally freaked out, since I had received a text during dinner, which I hadn’t seen until I was driving home. It was from my neighbour telling me that she could see Connor frantically clawing at the windows and barking. We’re heading to the vet, and I have ordered something called Composure, which comes highly recommended by Halas and his mom and dad. Honestly, I am at the end of my rope. I can’t not go out, and I can’t leave Connor home alone. I don’t want to put him in day care, since this mostly happens in the evenings. We do have a walker who comes at random times during the week. I can’t be constantly worried about how he’s torn my house apart, what damage there is, and whether he’s hurt. I have too much else to worry about right now.

And I can’t give him away.

89 comments:

  1. Treat him like a kid and get a babysitter? Poor guy really loves you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is a good idea, but so much of what I do, like the dinner with David the other night, is very spur of the moment... a text at 5, and dinner at 7. And the Saturday night dinner, while long-planned, took place on the most perfect evening. Not a cloud in the sky, cool, gorgeous. Not the kind of weather that usually triggers a response.

      Delete
  2. Oh Meg. I had a cat once with some destructive behaviors but not at all like this. I am so sorry for you and Connor.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. it's amazing what kind of damage a 65 lb. lab can do.

      Delete
  3. Has he ever been crate trained? It really worked with my labrador. I hope this stuff works because I am afraid he will hurt himself or worse get out again. Fingers crossed. MB

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. MB, as far as i know, he's never been crate-trained. i got him when he was 4-6 years old, so don't know his past history. i do know that it took the shelter 3 people to get him in his pen at the shelter.

      Delete
  4. We have used crates for several dogs and it is great. They are safe and so is your house. They regard the crate as a safe place and use it all the time themselves, not just when we lock them in.

    Sandra

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. we did try the crate when i first moved into this house, but he refused to go in it.

      Delete
  5. Composure is a start..A darkened safe crate may keep him safe too. I wonder why he has gotten so much worse since the move? Are you on a different schedule? Can you work with practice leaves, in which you leave for 5 minutes, then 10 minutes and so on, and him in a crate for that time, then treats and walk when you "return", and maybe good surprises in the crate so that the whole thing becomes a series of treats and games, working towards longer good times, in which he is safe and less anxious? Of course you can't give him away, but it may take some real time commitment to retrain him to be alone safely.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. balsamfir... i suspect it also has something to do with the weather. he was pretty good all fall and winter. although, saturday night was perfectly clear. i am on the same schedule, but actually shorter, because my commute is not as long.

      Delete
  6. My DIL and son have two doxies who love their crates. They have their toys and comfy beds inside and blankets folded on top so they are like a haven. Henry and Lucy climb in and lay down even when they aren't locked in. If you do it gradually and he might go for it.

    I feel so badly for you both...

    xoxo
    Karena

    Art by Karena

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. didn't work so well the last time we tried it, his motto is "don't fence me in!"

      Delete
  7. I can see I'm in the minority here but truly you wonder if he needs a country home. He does seem to have something in mind about trying to get back to where you lived before but country...wide open spaces...maybe he's a country dog at heart.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. compared to where we lived before, this is the country! maybe it's too quiet here!

      Delete
    2. Well, maybe the idea of getting a companion dog. At first I thought, you're letting yourself in for double trouble but maybe that would be just the ticket and it would make Connor really happy to have company all the time. Unless the new dog wants to go back to that old neighborhood too ha!

      Delete
  8. I was wondering about a pet sitter when you are out at night. The crate idea sounds like it could work too. Don't know what else to suggest Meg. So sorry for you both, it's heartbreaking. Of course you can't give him away, you love him and he obviously loves you. The composure might just work.
    Di
    X

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. it's usually so spur of the moment, that i don't have a lot of lead time.

      are you going to watch the torch run tomorrow?

      Delete
  9. I know of a great dog trainer out in Warranton VA if you want me to pass along the info. You drop him off for a couple/few weeks and when he comes home you won't recognize him (and the guy is honest if he cannot work his magic). Both my sister and my parents use him. Now that their dogs have graduated they can board them there when they are way. When they take the dogs out there to be borded the dogs HOWL in the last mile or so they are so excited about what is to come. It is a doggie heaven.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. i am going to look at a local person first, but i love the idea of him going to warrenton for boarding!

      Delete
  10. Is there a critter that comes into the house from the attic or roof while you are gone? Chipmunk, raccoon...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. good lord! i hope not... i haven't seen any evidence.

      Delete
    2. Even a cat that comes and sits at the corner of the roof? Sounds like he's trying to get after something. Squirrels, mice.. I have a choc lab 5 years old and I keep him in a dog run by the back door for his protection. He wants to take the front door down to get at the squirrels and chipmunks that go up the bird feeder. What a wreck!! He doesn't have any distractions, that he can see, at the back door.

      Delete
    3. AC... we have rabbits, foxes, cats, etc. here, and he could care less. he watches the rabbits in the garden next door and is not at all interested.

      Delete
    4. Poor Conner, just unpacking his bags I guess! Have a nice Holiday Weekend and good luck.

      Delete
  11. I have to agree with many of the previous posters. You may want to try a large crate for him to be in while you are gone. My brother's English Setter still uses her crate for her "safe house" so it has remained in their kitchen since they put it there when she was a puppy. She is now five years old.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. he's 11-ish, and i am not sure that he'd be happy there.

      Delete
  12. Oh Meg, what a tough spot he's put you in. We had a beagle with terrible separation anxiety who was extremely destructive. Our last 2 dogs have been crate trained, now we don't even have to shut the door. It may be more difficult to crate train an older dog, but I would definitely give it a try. Maybe a trainer could help you with that. Also, if it's anxiety, you might consider a Thunder Shirt. Our local humane society uses them to calm dogs who are new to the shelter. Good luck. I'll be thinking of you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mary... did not like the crate at.all.

      Delete
  13. I would recommend crating him. It may seem like a cage to you, but, for most dogs, it feels like a safe and comforting place.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. i've always said that his favourite song is the jimmy buffet one with the line, "i wish i was somewhere other than here..." but maybe not the part about sipping on a beer.

      Delete
  14. I think I've commented before that my dog had similar behaviors in her later life. My one regret now that she's gone is that I didn't put her on drugs to help her anxiety, but there were so many other health issues. And yes, everyone, she was crate trained, but she would have seriously injured herself trying to get out of the crate. This was a mental health issue, not a training problem. Start with Composure, but don't be afraid to put him on something stronger.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. i am waiting for the drugs to arrive via fedex.

      Delete
  15. Meg, so sorry to hear about Connor there is a great book by Patricia McConnell "I Will Be Home Soon" Lab Rescue of LRCP highly recommends this book as we have taken in several dogs that have separation issues. I also have a good trainer behaviorist that I used for my dogs they don't have separation issues they have leash aggression issues.

    You can email me and I can put you touch with my trainer. Lab Rescue has a facebook page where lab owners post al kinds of questions about their labs. Everyone has been through something with their labs and it is a great resource.

    Glad he was ok and did not hurt himself.

    http://www.patriciamcconnell.com/product/dog-separation-anxiety

    Take care,
    Mary

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. mary... i will look for that book. it sounds very interesting. and i will check the lab rescue page. is it the LRCP one?

      thanks!

      Delete
    2. Yes it is the LRCP. https://www.facebook.com/groups/labrescuelrcp/. Lab Rescue re-homed 902 labs last year so the organization has come across all kinds of dog issues.

      Besides trying to help with Connor, Love the blog read it everyday.

      Take care.

      Delete
  16. ditto with the crating. From what I understand about crating, for a dog their crate is their "home," a place where they feel secure and comfortable. You could even make a cute cover for the crate: http://www.cratecoversandmore.com/. Seriously though, from a human point of few crating may seem awful, but perhaps from a dog's view of the world the crate wouldn't be so hideous.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. i could certainly whip up a great cover for a crate!

      Delete
  17. Of course you can't give him up! I used to think crates were like jail, but after doing a lot of reading I realized that they are safe havens for dog and owner. You have so much good advice here Meg! I even learned something reading these responses!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. tried the crate. i would have kept trying, but was very worried about him trying to chew his way out. he's just that willful.

      Delete
  18. Oh Meg, I have nothing to share but my compassion and understanding of the need to keep him with you. He's family and that's that.

    Sending a big hug and hoping you stay cool during this HOT weekend ahead. We don't even have our air conditioners down from the attic yet!

    xo Jane

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks jane! we're going to put the a/c on this weekend. it's the humidity that's killer.

      Delete
  19. Exactly what flwrjane said. I know you will find a solution for this, though.

    Sending a big hug to you.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Hi Meg, Just a thought: when I adopted my son's bichon he was in a terrible state. I was referred to a dog "whisperer"--I did not end up needing to go that route because with a few pointers that he gave me, I was able to handle the behavior problems. But dog intuitives really do work and they do manage to figure out exactly what is troubling each animal (so long as they are the real deal). Just a thought--drugs are not a bad idea. Sending love, Mary ---I don't think that a crate will work for Connor as he is too old to train like a puppy and I think that he would think he was in jail.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. my motto is "better living through chemicals!"

      Delete
  21. When we travel and don't have our kennel (crate) with us, we leave the dog in the bathroom (dog-proofed first). I don't think there is too much trouble they can get into in there, and it is some place they would willingly walk into. You could leave him a Kong filled with a treat and some peanut butter, and a dental chew -- we use Virbac -- takes them a while to chew through. Brother-in-law is a vet so I had some help through the formative years. Also, you could try placing a Gentle-Leader on him (the kind you use for going for a walk, but without attaching a leash) -- I find that my dog immediately calms down when she has her gentle leader on -- they may not like it so much (my dog will rub her nose like it is itchy), but it does not hurt them. You could also try leaving the radio on when you leave -- it might be comforting and mask any disturbing noises. Good luck!

    p.s. I hear there is a new Dog channel on tv in California that is for dogs to watch -- I will be interested when that gets here. Also big article in the Washington Post a few days ago about pet acupuncture, which some people use for helping their pet's anxiety (have never tried it, but it is interesting what people will do to help their pets).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. we do have a gentle leader, which connor tolerates. i also leave the radio on - NPR, so it's educational... I will check for the Wash Post article.

      Delete
  22. Dear Auntie Meg: G & I love Connor, and we love you, too! Sorry you guys are having to go through with this.

    Does Connor act badly when he has his doggie friends around? I'm wondering if having another dog at your house would give him some other focus other than...whatever it is that's causing this problem. Clearly, the situation is becoming more serious each time, so a serious intervention of some type is necessary. Having a second dog adds greatly to your workload, but if having a pal gives Connor peace, then maybe have a second dog might be the answer.

    It's odd that w/all the issues at your last house, he didn't have these major problems. There must be something about the solitude and lack of people around that really unnerve him. In his early life, maybe he was left alone for many hours at a time in solitude, which is why he panics....????

    Hugs to you both during this incredibly challenging time.

    Miss M.A.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. M.A... i wonder if it's because we have so many more windows, hence, opportunities!

      Delete
  23. M...I had a dog like this 15 tears ago. Katy was a beautiful English Springer. As she aged, she developed separation anxiety. I never knew what I was going to come home to. One night we went out and left a video camera on a table in the living room (she liked to sit on the sofa and look out the window there), and when we returned all my living room curtains were down and destroyed....ah ha! we now had the evidence...........NEVER do this, it was awful to watch the poor thing pace and whine and gradually sink into a depression , and then rage (against the curtains), and for 4 hours she never once calmed down or let up...I will never forget it. We put her on an anxiety medicine, and that helped (a little), but she wasn't the same.
    We have two Parson Russell terriers now (thought it would help them to have a friend) There have been no problems...(except terrier things! ) ...and I still have no living room curtains.....k
    p.s......good luck

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kathy... just the idea of what he's done to do the destruction is bad enough for me. I could never, ever watch it. My neighbour had texted me about it, and luckily (or not), I didn't see it until I was on the way home - and boy, did I break a lot of speed limits!

      Delete
  24. I hope the Composure helps. My vets (a husband and wife team) have several dogs, all rescues, they entertain each other while Mom and Dad are at work or out. Just a thought, insane but a thought.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am really helping that the Composure does the same for Connor as it does for Halas.

      Delete
  25. Maybe he would be less freaked out if you put him into a cozy little cage while you were away? With his favorite toy and a ticking clock? This must be so hard on you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. better i go in the cage, and he has the run of the house... it's killing me!

      Delete
  26. My vote is for the dog trainer in Warrenton as I think you really need someone to find out what it is that sets Connor off to be so destructive. I used to think that crates sounded so cruel, but the comments confirm that crates obviously work well for a lot of dogs, and it may not be the answer for you. But again, until you find the cause, I don't think you'll find the cure, and a really good pet professional should be able to help, particularly if he has time to try his behavior under several different situations and observe him over a considerable time span.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A friend sent me the name of someone local, so I am going to try that.

      Delete
  27. Crate him! It's better than drugging. He's such a sweet dog
    except for this little behavior tic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks... but he's a "don't fence me in" kind of guy. i think it would be a challenge to him to get out, and not in a good way.

      Delete
  28. Poor Connor! I hope the medications help him. I like the babysitter idea. Do you have any preteen or young teen boys or girls in your neighborhood who might be interested in befriending him? My children would have loved a job like that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have a great guy at the end of our lane who walks Connor, and Connor loves him. I might make more use of him.

      Delete
  29. OMG- a problem-there is always a solution rolling around out there. A Thunder Shirt was the answer for a client who had similar problems, Lola is fine now. Hopefully the composure will work also. You can order a Thunder Shirt over the INTERNET..$30 I think(The shirt doesn't hurt them in anyway & it is easy to put on them). Poor baby, Connor he loves his mommy + you are such a good mommy! Good luck Meg & Connor. xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Peggy... the Thundershirt is on my list.

      Have a great weekend!

      Delete
  30. One more thought. Our dogs loved their crate. Our collie would retreat to hers to get away from the kid, who just followed her in with a book! Patient dog. Our son's visiting dog however has destroyed a big wire crate. I hesitated to suggest it, but I see others mentioned a companion dog.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I might start thinking about a companion for connor.

      Delete
  31. It sounds to me like he is really crate-averse for some reason. (Maybe left in a crate for too long in his past, or crated and punished there?) I'm with you, I don't think crate-training is the answer. Our Mudd Bay pet store here carries the Thunder Shirt, and I know at least one family (with three big dogs) that swears by it for one of theirs. Also have a friend who took her miniature Dachshund to acupuncture and that helped. The dog whisperer sounds promising.
    Good luck to you! These animals are so precious to us, but so are our homes. We need to figure out how to keep BOTH safe and sound.
    Warmly,
    Kay

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The biggest issue is that I didn't get Connor until he was 5-ish, so don't know his past history. But I do know that the shelter staff had a hell of a time getting him back into his pen at the shelter.

      Delete
  32. Meg,
    You have so many suggestions I am only offering my good wishes for finding something that works well for you both. He looks so happy in his photos it is hard to believe he freaks out the way he does. I will say
    that maybe a sitter would be the best
    bet at first. At least it will give you
    first hand info on what happens.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks for your good wishes. it kills me that he's so unhappy.

      Delete
  33. Poor baby. Did you have storms while you were out? Let's us know how he does ont he compsure.
    -Wendy & Ellie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. wendy... we did one night, or at least some disturbance in the atmosphere, and the other night was clear and 70's. perfect weather. and another incident happened at 9:30 on a sunny morning. who can tell?

      xo

      Delete
  34. Daughter and SIL had a "doggy jail." It was a 4x4x6 foot enclosure housed in the corner of the laundry room in front of a window that allowed in plenty of light, but dog did not have direct access to window. The metal enclosure consisted of metal bars spaced like the spindles of a baby crib -- wide enough that you could interact with him, but narrow enough so he wouldn't get his head caught. It was open at the top and it did look like a jail cell. Plenty of room to move around in, but not enclosed like a crate. It is such a frustrating problem. SIL searched online for it. Good luck. Mary Kay

    ReplyDelete
  35. Meg, reading your replies, I don't think you've gone about the crate correctly. You don't just put him in it and expect him to like it. First you make it a fun thing, with the door open, hide food or new toys or something under pillows in it and leave the door open, for a week or two... its the "crate game time", so that he starts to want to play "crate" with you. Then you work on closing the door for 30 seconds, then treat and get out, some of the time(randomly), then when he gets that, then you work on longer times, 2 minutes say... It doesn't happen right away. You stay with him in the crate, and when he calms, you treat him and let him out. Eventually, say in 6 months, its a good place, and he's happy for longer times. You use the drugs to help you with this, so that his anxiety is lower while you're training. A good trainer (that you feel Connor likes) will be able to help or have tricks to make this smoother. My dog trainer also had me hiding treats all over the house when I first started leaving my dog alone outside the crate. He would have to sit and wait in another room, until the treats were hidden, then he could come hunt for them. By the time he'd found the treats, he'd forgotten about being upset that he was alone. This doesn't keep him entirely out of trouble, but he is a lot smaller than Connor, so all the things he gets into have been put out of reach for him. Its the idea that it starts as a pleasant thing, for you and Connor that you both enjoy; never a punishment, or something to stress him out more. I find that it helps when the treats are particularly desirable(leftover meat) Sorry to write books here, but we're all such fans of Connor.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I didn't realize that it was this detailed. Thanks for the advice. Maybe we'll start over.

      Delete
  36. hi meg. so sorry and empathetic to your situation. i have a basenji and have similar issues with him. i agree with some of the others...crating is a fabulous way to assure a safe and sound connor...and a in tact home!
    good luck!
    MM

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks so much... it's a work in progress!

      Delete
  37. I suggest you take him in the car with you - it has worked for a friend of mine - good luck
    jan 'downunder'

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. jan.. i take him when i can, but it's summer here now, and it's just too hot to do it. at all.

      Delete
  38. I can feel your distress, it's a really upsetting situation. At least now you have a plan of action and can work with your vet and you mentioned contacting a local trainer. Good luck! I know you'll keep us posted

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. it really pains me to know that he's so distressed. and i will keep you posted!

      Delete
  39. He's hearing something, or seeing something out the upper story windows, that triggers some PTSD behavior, I guess. While I like the gradual crating idea, maybe limiting the free reign of the house can be a starting point. Along with the Composure, Bach's Rescue Remedy might help with the anxiety (and for you,too!!). Thundershirts are supposedly a bit like swaddling a baby, although Connor would have use of his legs, and mouth, so maybe not so much, but the "squeeze" effect also might help feel a bit like a hug. Have you ever had Hala over for the two of them to fly solo, no humans? You could test that out to see if Connor does need a companion...unless he teaches the new recruit to destruct, too. You've got some really good suggestions from friends here on your blog...praying that something works soon, for both of your sakes. Best wishes!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. the oddest thing is that the people who lived here before me, must have shut their dog in the downstairs loo, because the trim around the door is torn to pieces.

      when halas is here, i think they distract each other, but we haven't tried it in bad weather.

      Delete
  40. Sorry Meg if this is a repeat but the way I trained my puppy to love his crate was to always feed him in it. Put the bowl all the way in the back of the crate and he will go in after the food but do not close the door. Soon he will associate the crate with good (food). Also during the day put his toy pig in there and toss kibble in for him to find. My puppy would end up just wondering in during the day to sleep. It is a much slower process with older dogs but they can come to love it because it makes them feel safe.

    ReplyDelete
  41. First of all, I have to say I'm totally amazed at how many times you've had to repeat that Connor is an adult dog who does not like crates. Nobody is, apparently, listening to you. They are too busy trying to validate their shoving a dog in a box so they can take him out when they want him. People who get large dogs and then put them in a box when they're not around are selfish prats. Dogs need a place to run, fresh air, and good training... they are not toys to be put away when we're too busy to deal with them.

    You're on the right track with finding a local trainer. And make sure you're willing to take whatever time you have to in order to learn with him, to be there to help him through this. If you find that you can't, then love him enough to let him go to someone who can. It's just cruel otherwise, to both of you.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Meg, I agree with balsamfir and marybeth. Our dog hated to be closed up in the crate.But we needed to do something with her when we went out so she wouldn't eat any more mattresses or curtains. We put her food in the back and feed her there everyday. At night we threw a frozen Kong, with low fat cream cheese in it, to the back of the crate. She would go in and get it and bring it out but eventually she would go in the crate and stay there. We have never closed the door 'cause she still hates that and freaks out. This all took about 4 months of training every day. She loves her crate now and when we go out she has the run of the house and there is no chewing or distruction. We do use a dog calming collar that has fermones in it and my husband downloaded some dog calming music that we play for her when we go out. He'll make a CD for you if you want. Good Luck!

    ReplyDelete
  43. I think it is time for a dog psychic. They say they can communicate with dogs and find out their problems. There must be one in the greater DC/Baltimore area that would have some answers for you. The playing around the crate might be a start also. Do you think he really needs to See out? or Get out? Maybe you could have a dog sitting co-op where you could drop him off with a friend, or take their dog when they go out. I would try borrowing a dog he knows to come visit from time to time to see if he is lonely. Good luck, poor Connor. Of course you can't give him away. A nanny cam might be good during the day - a friend could watch it for you, to get some clues. Ann mother of Cody and Hazel, chocolate labs.

    ReplyDelete
  44. We've had some luck with Happy Traveler treats in upsetting situations.....harder for you perhaps than for him since you are anticipating problems and he really can't.....

    Best wishes,

    Cecilia

    ReplyDelete
  45. Meg,

    I have ben out of town for the weekend and missed this post! Oh Connor...poor little guy. And you, how distressing!

    I absolutely feel your pain, our pup Munchen is having terrible anxiety attacks over the last two years. We tried putting her in a crate and we came home and the crate was upside down, blanket ripped to shreds.

    As she already is on meds for Cushings disease we do not want to put her on anxiety meds but I feel like you do. I am anxious to see how your plan works.

    Take care, Elizabeth

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for reading and commenting on Pigtown*Design. I read each and every comment and try to reply if I have your e-mail address.