I would love to hear from anyone who has dealt with this. The mom from the litter I am fostering suffers from this and I am so worn out from having to deal with this. Please share any experiences and solutions. Thanks.
The desensitization exercises DO work, but you have to be extremely diligent about doing them, and for the dog to not backslide, it has to never be alone for longer than it can handle during the time that the behavior mod is taking place. You probably know all of this. You probably also have a life, so it is probably impossible to never leave mom dog alone for longer than she can handle.
That said, my understanding is that anti-anxiety meds like the ones Solo is on can be helpful for dealing with separation anxiety. In this case the dog would be on the meds for the period of behavior mod and then weaned off once she was normal for a certain period of time. If she relapses, then lather, rinse, repeat. Amitriptyline (generic Elavil) is very cheap and widely used for this purpose. It helps the dog keep her panic under control so you can get your foot in the door and start teaching. A dog who can't be alone at all might be able to handle a couple of hours, and you can work with that. That kind of thing.
When I first got Solo, I couldn't leave him alone at all. So I didn't. He came everywhere with me, including to class (this was when he was so shut down that no one could tell he had any aggression issues). This went on for about three weeks. During this time I practiced leaving and coming back and leaving and coming back and leaving and coming back every chance I got. Also during this time, he started on the meds because he was a total basket case in pretty much every respect, and they started having an effect in a few weeks.

Together, they allowed him to work his way up to about an hour without howling, as long as he was crated (he was never destructive, but he was calmer if he was crated, and I always left a treat with him, although he almost never touched it). I can't say he was really comfortable being alone, though, until a few months of the leaving and coming back and leaving and coming back had gone by. In the meantime he'd worked up to being able to be alone for a few hours without howling, but he wasn't comfortable with it and I would always find him glassy-eyed in a puddle of drool when I got back and let him out of his crate.

After a couple more months he became comfortable with being left in his crate with yummies (no more puddles of drool or totally untouched marrow bones), and I started leaving him loose. We went back to the puddle of drool phase for a while, but I backed up and did the leaving and coming back thing again and he eventually became OK with being alone loose too. The first time I came home and he wasn't parked right in front of the door in a puddle of drool was a very happy day.
Since then, having another dog around seems to have totally eliminated any hint of ever having had separation anxiety. Even during the period he was off his meds, he was pretty much OK when I left the house but of course Fly was always with him. Of course, because he's just generally wacko, he'll probably be on the meds for life, so I doubt he'd ever relapse to the point he was when I first had him, but he does tend to be a bit less blase these days about being alone if I take Fly and leave him at home (he doesn't always empty the treat balls, although he doesn't cry or howl). Does having another dog around help mama dog at all?

I understand how frustrated you must be. I remember daydreaming about being able to go around the corner to buy milk. The only way I could buy groceries was if I went to a sidewalk market so I could bring Solo with me. It was terrible. The worst part was that Solo would freak out whenever I left, even if there were other people that he LIKED in the room with him, so it was kind of like being a prisoner. But, you know, he did eventually get over it. It can happen!

Melanie Lee Chang > Form ever follows function. Departments of Anthropology and Biology >
University of Pennsylvania > Louis Sullivan (Email Removed) >
Thanks very much Melanie. The pups have been masking her anxiety. She has been fine in my absence as long as she could be with them. But now that I am keeping her from them, (she wouldn't wean them and they are sucking her dry), and she is less interested in them, her symptoms are really coming to the surface. She is also an escape artist so this is a trying experience.
The worst part was that Solo would freak out whenever I left, even if there were other people that he ... it was kind of like being a prisoner. But, you know, he did eventually get over it. It can happen!

Lola was like this, she'd sit at the window crying for me if i walked to the store, even with SO sitting there, petting her. she'd refuse treats, and not touch the ones we left in her crate.
This did get better when Manu came along, though she still cries at the window if he's outside and she's in. and she only eats her treats if her crate is situated so that she can see Manu eating his.

there was a time, however, when i literally had to use earplugs to get any sleep at night.
-kelly
I would love to hear from anyone who has dealt with this. The mom from the litter I am fostering suffers from this and I am so worn out from having to deal with this. Please share any experiences and solutions. Thanks.

I can't add much to what Melanie said, but our lab mix did have separation anxiety and has pretty much gotten over it. She could escape too - got out of a midwest wire crate - through the bottom!

Thankfully, DH works at home so she really didn't need to be left alone much at all. A frozen kong stuffed with peanutbutter helped (kept her busy and her mind off of us being gone). We did agility and training to improve her confidence. But what really helped was getting our second dog - a dog who is totally confident, with no fears that anyone would ever leave her (how could they, she's so cute). That really settled Molly down.

I don't think Molly's case was really that bad. If it had been worse, or if we hadn't been able to manage it, I think we would have considered the anti-anxiety drugs.
Mary