Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is a common problem with Weimaraners that can have many precluding factors, including but not limited: to genetics, litter rearing, dominance, submission and boredom or stress. The causes of separation anxiety are not nearly as important as is the need to overcome the behavioral manifestations of the condition. Below is an ever-growing inventory of suggestions on dealing with these behaviors.

The safest confinement methods must be used to prevent the dog from seriously injuring itself or doing severe property damage, often in the thousands of dollars. The crate should become a ritual part of the pet's day, consistently use the crate at scheduled times and often when you are home. If the crate is not an integral part of the dog's day, the crate will soon become associated with separation. A strong crate of the correct size is an important factor in helping anxiety prone dogs. Invest in a quality crate with sturdy welds; sometimes even a high quality plastic or wire crate may need further fortification depending on the dog, and there are various methods for reinforcing both types.

Many pets prefer the plastic kennels to the wire, as they afford a greater sense of security. In selecting a kennel, the height should measure taller than the dog can arch his back, and make certain you feel no give when you try to shake the door; the dog will frantically attempt escape through any areas it can feel movement. 
Position the crate in either the activity center of the home, the owner's bedroom, or even have one in each area. The dog should not feel isolated; if you wouldn't go there to sit and read a book, your Weim doesn't want to be there either.

Treats used in training should only be given outside the kennel; all other feeding, including regular daily meals and especially all extra treats are given within the crate.
When kenneling the dog, use a specific command in a quiet, firm, authoritative voice; if you say "Aww, come on, you gotta get into your bed now…" the dog will become reluctant and refuse to go in his crate, as you sound as if you don't really want him in there at all. If the dog won't enter the crate willingly, physically put him into the crate without any delay or coaxing.

When you prepare to leave home, complete at least three ritual behaviors before he enters the crate: the dog goes outside, comes in, does a short down stay, gets a treat for the correct behavior, and is then kenneled at least 15 minutes before you go. 

He should be left in the crate for five to ten minutes after you return home, and after you've had time to observe three ritual behaviors: take off your shoes, listen to messages, and pour a glass of wine, for example. Ignore all unwanted behaviors he exhibits in his crate just as if he was invisible and you were deaf. 

Then, if the dog is not barking, he is allowed out of his cage; if you are beginning training, a treat can be given to quiet him. After he is out of the crate, he should then be ignored for two full minutes; if he refuses to be ignored and doesn't remain composed, put the dog on a leash and stand on it where it hits the ground to limit his actions. Invest in a chain leash should the dog try to chew on it to get your attention.

Never clean the kennel of his saliva or waste in his presence, as you will seem submissive. For bedding, use cheap blankets cut into quarters; if the dog destroys the blanket, little is lost. The dog should always have a blanket in his crate, even if he destroys it every day. The only exception is if the dog actually will ingest the blanket. 

Try to wear the dog out physically and mentally before he is to be left alone; a 15-minute walk or out to go potty is not nearly enough. At least 20 minutes of real exercising or running, along with a 10-minute obedience drill works wonders on the dog's attitude before you leave. 

Weimaraners are very intelligent dogs and need outlets for their capabilities. Enroll him in some type of classes, or give him a hobby such as: obedience, agility, hunting or therapy dog work. If Weims don't have mental stimulation, they get overly fixated on their owners, often in such an unhealthy way as to create separation anxiety. Many of these dogs can benefit from doggie day care. 

When the dog is to be left alone in his kennel, several things can be done that may help thwart anxiety:
- You can put on your shoes and coat out of sight of the dog. 
- Go out a door where the dog isn't sure if you actually left. 
- Try playing a radio or covering the crate with a blanket. 
- Give the dog a Kong toy frozen with peanut butter or cheese whiz for a pacifier.
- Sometimes herbal remedies, flower essences, homeopathic, or even using prescription medications such as Clomicalm may help reduce the anxiety level. 

Many Weims have personality traits common to dogs suffering from separation anxiety; often it is an issue of owner management than as to degree. When your dog knows what to expect from you and what your expectations of him are, he will have the greatest security, and at the same time unwanted behaviors are depleted.

Separation Anxiety Help:
Go to groups@yahoogroups.com and sign in to the k9sepanx group; there is a wealth of information in the archives.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/k9sepanx/ 

K9 Pet Supply makes crates that will hold wild animals (Empire series) 
http://www.k9petsupply.net/premca.html

*Another good link is http://www.schnauzerama.org/sa_weim.htm(attached article is also on this site)

* Try to go to a lower protein food. Some people go as low as 10% while working on the SA.

* Lots and lots of exercise and training 

* Get these two excellent books by Dr. Patricia McConnell: "Leader of the Pack" and "I'll Be Home Soon." The first will help establish a better relationship between you and your dog and he will be calmer when he really understands his position; and the second deals with both preventing and curing SA. You can get them from Dr. McConnell's website: http://www.dogsbestfriend.com or from Amazon.com 

* Another good read is "The Dog Who Loved Too Much" by Dr. Nicholas Dodman

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Integrating Cats and Dogs

Dogs and cats have been part of family lives for thousands of years. The dog came first, about 10,000 or more years ago, and the cat followed about 5000 years ago, when Egyptians enticed him to dine on rodents that ate the grains stored in silos.

Both have played major roles in the development of civilization: the dog as willing helper, companion, and guardian; the cat as roommate, mouser extraordinaire, and enigma. Dogs earn such descriptions as faithful, affectionate, and courageous; cats are aloof, elegant, and often devilish. Dogs are pack animals, cats are loners, but each species touches something in humans that is unreachable by the other. 

Physical differences are obvious. All domestic cats are cut from a similar cloth. Although there are variations in coat type, head and body shape, and size, cats lack the depth and breadth of differences found in dog breeds. The tiny Chihuahua with its smooth or long coat and big, pointed ears is as much a dog as the huge Great Dane, but a child unfamiliar with either may not recognize them as the same species. Cats don't fool anyone - at least with their appearance. 

Are they enemies? 
The idea that dogs hate cats may have been born because dogs chase cats, and grew because cartoons depicted ongoing battles between the two species. Or it may have been generated because some dog people strongly dislike cats and some cat people disdain dogs. However, dogs and cats can live peaceably as long as owners understand the behaviors of each. 

Both dogs and cats are predators. Cats pounce on anything that moves - mice, butterflies, birds, grasshoppers, and feathery toys waved on the end of a stick. Dogs chase anything that moves, especially if it squeals, hisses, or otherwise mouths off. If the cat triggers the dog's prey drive, the dog will chase. If a medium-to-large dog catches the cat, it can easily kill it by grabbing and shaking. Kittens and young cats practice their hunting skills on people feet, curtains, bedspreads, plants, and dog tails. They hide under chairs and tables, dart at the "prey" hissing and spitting and clawing, and hurry away, sometimes with jerky jack-knife movements or agile leaps and bounds, sometimes with breathtaking grace and beauty. 

Dogs often bristle at such challenges, leading to a merry chase through the house or yard. Households with both species of pets can solve this problem by keeping them separated if necessary. In some cases, a resident cat will isolate itself when a puppy is added to the family. In other cases, cats and dogs never get used to each other. In still other cases, cat or kitten and dog or puppy play together and build a friendship that finds them curled up together in a crate or bed and drinking out of the same bowl. The type of relationship developed in each household depends on the personality of the animals and the understanding of the owners.

Behavior Differences: 
Cats are independent creatures. The least independent cat is more independent than the most independent dog. Cats exude an aura of self-confidence, of mastery over their territory and its inhabitants. Most cats do not deign to obey commands, and if they do, pleasing a human is probably the last thing on their minds. Fido is driven to fit into a family hierarchy; Felix could care less as long as his basic needs are met. Cats are physically and mentally capable of exploring their surroundings in great detail. Dogs are physically clumsy in comparison, for their bodies are not as agile and they are mentally tuned to different stations - they concentrate on dominance and submission, play, and keeping track of the people in their lives instead of exploration. As pets they can complement each other well for those families that need or want the independence of a cat combined with the faithfulness of a dog. 

Integrating Cats and Dogs: 
Always supervise cats and dogs until you know they will get along. Some adult dogs will carry kittens around, and young kittens will accept this attention, but it's probably best to gently take the kitten away from the dog to avoid injury. If you have more than one dog, do not allow them to gang up on the cat. Two dogs make a small pack; the cat may look like quarry to one and he may entice the other into a hunt. It's best to introduce the cat to one dog at a time so that each dog understands that the cat is part of the family, not an object of play or prey.

Make sure the dog does not have access to the cat's litter box. Sooner or later, unless you can check the box several times a day and clean it immediately, Fido will eat the cat droppings. Some owners handle this problem by placing the litter box in a room accessible by a cat door so the dog can't get in. 

Separate cats and dogs at mealtime. As complete carnivores, cats need a diet that includes the amino acid taurine; if the dog eats the cat's food and all the cat gets is leavings in the dog bowl, the cat might develop a dietary deficiency. In addition, a dog that guards his food could attack the cat or gulp his meals too quickly and develop digestive problems. Don't leave thawing meat, cooling desserts, or any other food or scraps where a cat can get them. Not only will the cat jump to the table or counter or even spill the waste- basket, he will either drop things on the floor for the dog or send the dog into a frenzy of frustrated whining and barking. Some dogs will bark whenever a cat leaps or climbs to a surface used for food. 

If your dog has a high prey drive, make sure to teach the command "leave it" so you can control his chase impulse. It's best to prevent the pursuit, because once the chase sequence starts, the dog will likely be deaf to instructions. Make sure the cat gets plenty of opportunity to stalk and pounce on things other than the dog's tail. Pay attention to both pets as often as possible. You can tell Fido to "down-stay" while you hold the kitten in your lap and tell him matter-of-factly that this newcomer is now part of the family and you will accept no rough stuff. Often the attitude and attention of the owner is enough to prevent serious rivalries or hostilities from developing. For details on introducing a kitten to a high-prey-drive dog, see "Making peace between dogs and cats" by Vicki DeGruy.

- Norma Bennett Woolf