Q: We have a 3-year-old male fox terrier named Otie that vacations with us in our condo in Daytona Beach. He travels fine in the car and likes to enjoy the sun and long walks we take in Florida.
Our problem is that he will not stay in the room without carrying on and barking like a lunatic. My husband and I cannot go anywhere unless the dog comes along. This means no walks on the beach, no restaurants, no nothing.
We always joke about our vacations “BO” Before Otie. Same thing with the car. If we leave him in the car — he goes totally crazy and starts this piercing barking immediately.
Since vacation season is quickly approaching, now would be the perfect time for any suggestions.
— M.B. Stow
A: Before I make any recommendations, I have a few questions.
It sounds like this only occurs at the condo in Daytona Beach and in the car in Florida. Does that mean when left alone at home or in the car in Ohio you know he shows no signs of panic?
To ensure that he is not showing mild symptoms (pacing, panting, drooling, vocalizing, for example) you should webcam or video tape him when alone here in Ohio to determine what he is actually doing.
Have you tried to give Otie something awesomely delicious to do with his mouth when alone — both in Ohio and in Florida?
If he will eat then we have something we can do to create an alone experience that is amazing and will help Otie begin to want to be alone.
I recommend giving lick-able items as they take longer to eat which makes the reinforcement experience last longer during the alone time. Suggestions include smearing the inside of a bowl with something delicious (such as canned dog food, spray cheese or peanut butter) or using enrichment toys like the Kong and Twist & Treat.
Finally, it can also be helpful to create a departure routine that is low drama (meaning I would ignore him during your exit) as well as making sure he is eating before you walk out. If Otie refuses to eat things like meat or cheese when alone then his anxiety is too great and you need something to decrease anxiety directly.
Items that can help do this are pheromone products (Adaptil), anxiety-reducing outfits (Thundershirt can be very helpful when fitted snug over the chest area), diets such as Royal Canin’s CALM Diet, nutraceuticals (such as Anxitane, an extract from green tea leaves) and medications (such as anti-anxiety daily medications and/or crisis busters that would be used just when leaving Otie alone). These products may be found through your local veterinary clinic or at my clinic’s online store: www.TheBehaviorClinic.com.
I strongly encourage you to try the above recommendations, watch him when alone and then call to get a consultation with a behavior professional.
This is not an unusual problem and a professional can help your family get back to “BO” types of vacations while keeping Otie coming down to enjoy those sunny Florida walks as well.
— Dr. Elizabeth Feltes, Animal Behavior of Northeast Ohio LLC.
Please send questions about your pet to Kathy Antoniotti at the Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640; or send me an email to email@example.com. Please include your full name and address and a daytime phone number where you can be reached. I will forward your questions to the expert I think is best suited to answer your particular problem. Phoned-in messages will not be taken.