It’s not all fluffy beds and happy tails

It turns out Snickerdoodle has trouble being alone.

The first night in our home, he cleverly broke his way out of his wire dog crate. When we entered his room to  greet him in the morning, the crate was totally intact and standing in the center of the room — about six feet away from the corner where we had left it and him. And the Dude was peacefully sleeping on the sofa, not a furrowed brow on him. He yawned,  stretched, crossing his paws across each other, and looked at us with those big amber eyes as though to say “Good morning, friends!”

We secured his crate with zip ties to prevent further escapes, but the poor little guy couldn’t resist the urge to continue his Houdini ways, through various creative means.  In two more days our crate waved its white flag and surrendered. Seeing how much stress and anxiety confinement was causing him, we thought we’d try leaving him uncrated in a room. After all, he had slept the whole rest of the first night on the sofa without so much as ruffling a feather in the sofa pillows.


For several days, Dude slept happily on our bed while we came and went, never causing more damage than an innocent little puddle of drool from his happy, heavy slumber.

And then just as we were feeling quite confident in his easygoing nature, he reminded us why we don’t give foster dogs too much freedom too quickly. Foster mom left for the gym one evening, and foster dad came home an hour and a half later to a wide-eyed Dude sitting on the bed with a mound of sawdust on the pillows and a shredded wood headboard.


Such are the trials of dog fostering, we told ourselves. We’re amazed that we’ve churned through eight foster dogs with no damage of any kind. It just figures that the first sign of destruction would come from one of our most gentle, docile, sweet fosters of all. Right now we’re feeling luckier than ever that he and the Chick get along so well — a dog with serious separation anxiety would be much harder to work with if he and our own picky, grumpy Chick had to be separated at all times.

A more food-motivated dog might be entertained by a challenging puzzle that keeps him busy long enough to forget about the trauma of being left behind — but not our Doodlebug. Snickerdoodle barely eats, and although he is getting better, he is not nearly interested enough in snacks to be distracted from our goings and comings.

We’re off to the pharmacy to pick up some anxiety meds, and will be trying a slow introduction to a different crate. It could be a long journey ahead for Snickerdoodle, but we’re up to the challenge — we love the little dude, and we’ll work with him for as long as it takes.

61 responses

  1. Poor Snickerdoodle. He knows it’s the way of the universe for people to work with their dogs all day. He can’t figure out why the universe isn’t cooperating.

    I assume you’re practicing leaving and coming back so that he learns he can count on you. Of course that’s really tough to do with a regular work schedule.

    I felt terrible after leaving our foster puppy on Monday knowing I had such a short time to get him acclimated to being left alone.

    Maybe someday we’ll get foster dog leave just like we have family medical leave. 🙂

    • Poor guy and such a sweet face too! Just like having a kid! I like to refer to our dog as my “third son” lol. I’m sure Snickerdoodle will do fine after a while. One can tell he is in good hands. You know, maybe there should be a pet leave law for pet owners! 🙂

  2. This reminds me soooooo much of our Paulie when we first got him (and even now). He’s eaten door frames, window seat pillows, seatbelts in the car, and all sorts of other things…..5 years later, we love him dearly, but worry what we’ll find eaten next. Good luck darling Snickerdoodle!

  3. He is so lucky to have you! Havi has some serious separation anxiety, but is usually comforted by her crate, thank goodness for her foster parents who taught her to love it! Im sure that Snickerdoodle will grow to love it!

  4. Maisie has major separation anxiety and nothing – nothing helps. she’s on Clomicalm and I give her a delicious frozen Kong in her crate (including liquid tryptophan) AND I have a DAP plugged in right next to her but I come home to a puddle of drool and shredded crate blankets every single time. when I leave her out of the crate, she destroys furniture too. *sigh*

    • Interesting! We have a dog on Reconcile (Clomicalm is the next option for us) and we adopted a second dog. He is SO much better now, but we still find items eaten. He has terrible crate anxiety as well, so that’s not an option for us. Was your Maisie always okay with the crate? (I tried the DAP and that did nothing for us.)

    • Hey! Check out my post further down!! My Izzy had the same symptoms as your dog and we found something that worked!! 🙂

  5. Isn’t it funny how they lure us in, leave us feeling safe and comfortable with them doing X… and then as soon as we’ve left them alone, they destroy things? Fae has gone through two nice beds, because she won’t stay in her crate without a superfluffy bed.. but if we leave her in there when she’s not absolutely wiped out, she eats them.

    Good luck with the anxiety stuff!

  6. Snickerdoodle is lucky to have such loving and patient foster parents. My Chloe is not food motivated either – although I will say she loves working on her Kong – digging out her mini-Snausages draped in peanut butter. Hope the new style crate helps with his anxiety (and saves your furniture). By the way, is that a Sirius Republic collar he has on? Whatever it is, I love it!

  7. I’m interested to see how he adjusts! My dog that I adopted two months ago has some major separation anxiety. I was dumbfounded to come home from work and find her out of her crate and chewed up door frames….She’s gotten better, but I have used carabiners to lock everything shut. Good luck!!

  8. So sorry you have to go through this! We have a dog with major separation anxiety. For the first three months, we would come home to a dozen piles of poop (literally) and just as many pee spots. He would also tear down the curtains every single time we left the house. His crate anxiety was off the charts, and we cried the day we came home and found him cut up, bleeding and covered in poop in his crate. We started fostering at that point to give him a buddy to hang out with and it worked! It wasn’t 100% perfect with a foster, so we added Reconcile to the mix and we saw a huge change within the first three days. It’s a year later and we adopted another dog, and his anxiety is much better. We still find the occasional accident and they still chew up things (chair legs, the coffee table, etc.), but since we incorporated a morning run into their routine, things have gotten even better. Best of luck to you!

    Do you think if he was left alone with another dog, or put in a crate in the same room as Chick … would it help?

  9. Separation anxiety has to be one of the hardest things to deal with – especially when you have a Houdini dog! It sounds like his isn’t too bad though if he doesn’t regularly destroy things when you’re gone. Hopefully a super slow introduction to a new crate will do the trick (and I think it will!) 🙂

  10. Oh! I know a LOT about this! I have a super separation anxiety ridden doggie! When I first got Izzy she HATED the kennel. I tried everything… pheromone collars, all natural anxiety medications, calming dog music, stuffed and frozen Kongs, the Thundershirt… and it goes on and on. I even got a special trainer to work on “desensitizing” her to the kennel. I even tried letting her just stay in the closed room… I came home to chewed up door frames. Nothing helped. Finally, close to $1,000 later, I went to my vet completely defeated. As a last resort, we put her on something called Fluoxetine and it works wonders!! Izzy is about 55 pounds, so she gets a 20mg pill each day. We also have 10mg pills we can give to her if we decide to grab dinner later at night. Seriously… I was so against putting her on meds but it makes such a huge difference in her life! I get our pills from Wal-Mart and it costs me less than $20 for a three month supply of the generic! We do still give her a frozen peanut butter Kong every day just as a special “kennel only treat”, and she does like the radio on. She currently has a wire kennel and we reinforce the door closures with karabiners!! They work great! I’d love to see a dog Houdini out of that!  We recently got another dog and it seems he’s also helping her calm down. Dexter has NO kennel issues, and really seems to get Izzy to chill out. Maybe in a few months I’ll try taking her off the meds to see how she does.

    • Hey- interesting, that’s what our vet put us on too. Fluoxetine is the generic name for Prozac! Do you remember how long it took to start working? Our vet said about 2 weeks, and we’re anxiously waiting for it to start kicking it. In the meantime, I’m trying to gradually work with him on the kennel issue, not leave him alone much, and get him nice and tired — although with his heartworm, it’s a challenge.

      Poor guy.

      • Java the Mutt was on Prozac for a while. Unfortunately, it never helped after a two-month trial. Her separation anxiety comes and goes, but she decided when she was just a 25-pound puppy (I found her at 5 or 6 months) that she did not believe in crates under any circumstances and destroyed her first. She’s gotten out of (or just plain through) another 8 in the almost 10 years I’ve had her. I wish you luck.

    • I just looked it up and Fluoxetine is the generic version of Reconcile! Good gracious I’m spending like $50 a month right now, I really need to ask my vet about the generic version because if that’s the case, we’re switching!

      We give him 48 mg. (he’s 50 lbs.) a day.

      Aleks, we saw a difference within 3 days. Our guy was able to start doing things that used to make him anxious (like going through doorways, walking up and down our basement stairs, going through hallways without running and slipping, etc.) I would say it took about 3 weeks and a foster dog to see the full results.

      Brittany, have you ever talked about weaning Izzy off the meds in the future?

      • Through our grocery store pharmacy’s discount card program, we are getting a 90-day supply for $10 — and I believe that Reconcile and Prozac are the same (both Fluoxetine). 48mg is a big dose, no? Our vet recommended 20, and said that dogs in the 35-70 pound range always get 20 . . .

  11. I feel like you just wrote a post describing our girl McMuffin. We have been dealing with crate issues as well. She fought her way out of two crates reinforced with carabiners and a heavy duty kennel (she actually broke through the welded wires). We felt terrible because she got cuts all over her nose and lips escaping. She was clearly panicked from all the drool puddles on the floor. After escaping the crates, she went straight for the doors and windows to get out. Like Snickerdoodle, she isn’t food motivated so Kongs with peanut butter and any other special treats did nothing to ease the anxiety. We tried all kinds of routines to get her used to it (leaving for short periods of time and returning, keeping her in a crate with our other dog in the room, etc) and nothing seemed to work. We spoke with a dog behaviorist who told us 50% of her cases for separation anxiety actually turn out to be a phobia of being confined. Long story short we took a leap of faith and let her roam the house while we were gone (we had hints that in her previous homes she was able to handle this without major issues). We started out with 5 minutes and built our way up to longer periods. We are still working things out but, fingers crossed, it has been working so far. She calmly naps on the couch until we return and is much more relaxed. Calm music seems to help as well. Obviously this can’t work for all cases but thought I would share. Good luck and keep us posted with the progress! Anything you learn now will certainly help us get through issues with future fosters …

  12. My cat Toby is on Prozac for his separation anxiety. Toby refused to take a pill, so his prescription is actually transdermal so we rub it in the inside of his ear. I can definitely tell you it has made a tremendous difference!! He’s much less anxious and knock-on-wood his episodes of urinary tract disease, which is triggered by stress, have been less and less frequent. Don’t know if they make happy pheromones products for dogs like Feliway, but if so that also may be a good option for Snickerdoodle. I know he’s not really food motivated, but it might be worth trying those “calming treats” that have a similar affect to Camomile tea. Good luck!

  13. That’s so tough. Poor little Snickerdoodle. He just wants to be out exploring!

    Crate-training and food toys saved our butts with our dog’s separation anxiety, I don’t know what we would have done if those two options failed. That’s a real challenge! But I know the two of you are up for the task and will find the best way to help him relax when you are not alone.

  14. Poor guy.

    The list of things my LuLu has destroyed is too long – thankfully she now loves her crate and actually goes in there on her own to seek refuge from the overly spunky cat, but there were many days when I would come home from work and she would be in her crate in a cloud of fluff that had been a dog bed in the a.m. -she never broke out though. Roaming wasn’t an option, and still isnt if she has gone a few days without a LONG walk. She will eat something-shoes, camera’s, blankets, sofa’s (a fav).

    Once thing that helped her was going for a LONG walk then coming home and speeding time in the crate with me in the room – I started with 5min and added time always letting her out before she had had enough. When that was ok -then I would go out side and come right back and so on. So the crate wasn’t a bad place just a place.

    I hope you find what works for this little guy – he looks like a luv-bug for sure!

  15. Poor boy! Separation anxiety can be really rough (duh).

    And he has heartworm too? I don’t know how I missed that post. He really hit the lottery with you guys.

    Good luck with the crate re-introduction. I’ve heard that there are resources for “crate games” that really help some people in crating their dogs. We did not/do not crate Elka, so I’m only passing it along.

  16. What do you think of anxiety meds for other issues? Leche doesn’t have any separation anxiety but she does about other things- large delivery trucks, high winds, etc, etc. We’ve tried desensitizing her but she’s always so anxious that I wonder if meds would help. I’m generally against meds but truly wonder if that’s the way to go.

    • Have you tried a thundershirt? Prozac is really meant for long-duration anxiety issues and dog-dog aggression (Doodlebug does NOT have this). For things that are quick-and-random, it doesn’t work as well, apparently.

  17. I’ve seen that you mentioned the Thunder Shirt above, which I was going to recommend. It helped with our Siberian Husky’s separation a lot for the first few months (then he started to get nervous when seeing it, so we stopped but by then he was much better with being alone). There are also some great books out there that helped us, for example “I’ll be Home Soon!: How to Prevent and Treat Separation Anxiety” by Patricia B. McConnell (a very short, but extremely informative and helpful read) and “Don’t Leave Me! Step-by-Step Help for Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety” by Nicole Wilde (Haven’t read this one yet but it was also recommended by our trainer and is on the To Read List). Working through separation issues takes a lot of work and patience but when they finally get better, everyone feels better all around! Good Luck, hope the books can offer some help!

    • You might also want to try to video tape him when you’re gone to see if there is anything triggering the behavior (for example, the noise of garbage trucks outside, etc). and see if that factor can be easily taken away! But be warned that watching a tape of your dog destroying things is a bit hard to stomach sometimes!

  18. My rescue whippet wrote his own book on separation anxiety. Had I only known about a neat thing called the “Anxiety Wrap,” which we were introduced to less than 2 years ago when we added a 3rd dog to our menagerie. Here’s a web site to check out: AND if you aren’t familiar with essential oils?

    Lavender is wonderful for de-stressing dogs. You warm a few drops in the palm of your hand, and then massage the dog’s ears, starting at the base and moving your fingers up to the ear tips; you can also massage the dog’s entire body. Just make sure you get a quality product.

  19. Aw bless! He’s adorable though. My dog, Meka, did the same when we first got her, my guitar and 2 antique chairs now have lovely bitemarks in them! She calmed down when we put her in a smaller room though, apparently she didn’t appreciate the space. This blog is great, makes me miss Meka even more though! I wish you could have pets in university halls 😦

  20. That sounds like the Bilbo and his crate. When I tried zip ties he just chewed them off. Luckily he’s very food motivated, and he grew out of the urge to destroy non-food-related items pretty quickly (if there’s the tiniest possibility it’s hiding some food an object is fair game). The only other destruction I’ve had was the recent door incident when I was on vacation.

  21. What a gorgeous dog! I just came across your blog (my mother actually sent it to me) and really love how you came to start it. I would love to foster some day but live in a condo with 2 cats and a dog currently so it’s definitely not an ideal situation. It is my plan though when I finally get a house of my own. I admire what you are doing for this great breed and wish you all the best. I will definitely be following your blog 🙂

  22. Oh my goodness. What adorable photos! As a painter of animal portraits, I realllllly appreciate photos which capture the mood and character of their canine subjects. Great job with your camera and your big heart!

  23. Oh Noes! It’s always the quiet ones…
    Sending you good thoughts to deal with Snick’s anxiety issues.

  24. Ahhhh he’s adorable.

    My Staffy is a bit like that. Not really food motivated. It makes them much harder to train and to entertain.

    Luckily I have only lost a few pairs of old Vans and had some table legs chewed.

    Good luck!

  25. You are so amazing! I love that you are so willing to help this darling dog-you know Ziggy was never treat/food motivated until we realized she had food allergies-I know you are dealing with all the other issues but I thought I would mention that once we realized the Zigster’s food issues she now is Very treat motivated!!
    XOXO J

    • Hi Gillian! It’s what Snickerdoodle is deal with for sure. I’ve never heard that pit bull dogs are more known for separation issues and anxiety-related destruction than other dogs. Doodlebug is my 9th fostered pit bull type dog, and the first one who has had any issues of the sort. Thanks for the lucky wishes!

      • It’s funny you say that, because I was warned about their separation issues when I fostered for Misunderstood Pitbull Rescue. I’ve found it to be hit or miss. My male pit, Floyd, used to have major separation issues until we adopted Bella. Now, because he has company, he’s okay. Bella is fine on her own.

        In my personal experience, pits with anxiety will chew because it is a soothing behavior. The problem is they’re pits with the ability to tear apart just about anything so that makes them more destructive by default. Have you heard about the Goughnuts products? They might help channel the doodlebug. Jason, over at Pitbull Lovers Gazette highly recommend them. My dogs don’t like toys (go figure?) so I haven’t tried them myself.

        Take care…

  26. I’ve been thinking about your situation for the last couple days. My pittie, Victoria, definitely had her moments of destruction as well as peeing. I’ve had her for almost 10 years and, I’m sad to say, they are not completely over with. Peeing is her number one offense. I had to laugh at your headboard (sorry), but I have the corner of a dresser chewed off from one such anxiety episode, so I can relate to coming home to wood chips on the bed. 🙂 I found that she displayed destructive behaviors mainly in the winter when she would refuse to walk in the cold Chicago winters. So since you have to keep Snickerdoodle a bit inactive due to heartworms, this may get much better once his exercise can be increased. A big change in her routine is usually the other culprit, so if we tend to be gone more often than usual (like around the holidays going to numerous evening parties and gone longer than usual), we were more likely to come home to an unwanted surprise. So, since he is just settling in, he may begin to adjust to your routine and relax a bit.

    One other thought. I have a Chow mix who has had a couple random chewing episodes (both times gnawing on wood doors), and we are pretty certain it was driven by an annoying noise. He HATES the sound my phone makes when I get a text msg or have a voice msg waiting. I believe on both of his chewing bends that my phone had inadvertently been left behind at home. So there could be an external factor that sent him on this tear. Maybe not, but it might be something you might want to watch out for.

    Best of luck – I’m sure it will get better with time! 🙂

    • I’ve been meaning to write and say thank you, Trish, for this thoughtful note. We are still trying to figure it out. We had a scary episode that landed us at the emergency vet with him and revealed that his heartworm is much more advanced than we had realized — so we had to speed along treatment, and now his activity has to be SUPER EXTRA restricted. This is a tough combo with his anxiety and lack of food motivation, but we are working on it. So far so good. Thanks again for writing.

      • I feel so bad for that lovely boy (and for his doting caregivers!). I know how scary this must be for you. But when I see his photos, I see a beautiful, strong dog – so I’m hoping (and expecting) that he’ll come through with flying colors. I look forward to following his story and wish you all the best.

  27. this blog brought tears to my eyes!!!!! I am sooooo happy to see people care so much about pit bulls, regardless of all the bad publicity they have gotten! My boyfriend and I also saved a pit, he was 5 months old. DIAMONDS IN A RUFF found him in a very small kennel; his back legs were extremely weak. He’s almost two years old now -healthy and hyper! We named him Butters. :] Anyways I just want to thank you for all the positive energy your giving to the world and help open hearts for both owners and the dogs. ❤ xoxo

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  29. Hi! I love the photos of Snickerdoodle, he’s gorgeous! About 3 years ago my family adopted a Golden Retriever, and she has anxiety issues when we leave her at home. She has the companionship of our other Goldie, but when we first left her she would break out through our electric fence and through paddock after paddock in her fear (we live on a farm). We started giving her Neurvatona and have to keep her in the garage when we leave… with the cars removed, since she scratched my Dad’s car to pieces!
    But, slowly, three years later she is such a huge, beautiful part of the family I don’t know what we did before she came. I hope you’re able to keep your Snickerdoodle, and I’m sure he’ll be such a happier dog living with you.

  30. Pingback: How’s that crate training going? « Love and a Six-Foot Leash

  31. Love these photos! I used to barricade Louise in the kitchen by moving the refrigerator in front of the doorway and “securing” it with a panel divider and baby gate. One day I returned from a walk and Louise was staring out the front window, like an apparition. She had somehow moved the refrigerator and then chewed through the divider and jumped through. Whoa! Very impressive. Anyway, Doodle is so lucky to have you guys.

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