Separation anxiety and leash reactivity tips

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Hi everyone!

We adopted our dog about two months ago. He has some leash reactivity, but has gotten a lot better with some training — now, he's fine with dogs his size and if we can catch him early and have him sit for a treat, lets most bigger dogs pass by calmly (except for a few breeds that he just seems to hate). With those dogs, he'll start pulling and barking at them, sometimes standing on his hind legs or spinning around in circles. He recently started going to the dog park, and loves playing with small dogs his own size (and getting treats from the other owners), but will still bark at big dogs that come too close to the fence from their side of the park.

At home, he's an angel – very cuddly and loving, and maybe barks 4-5x a day if he hears something very loud (truck honking, motorcycle, the dreaded garbage truck). He's definitely a velcro dog – follows us around most of the time, and likes to be in the room with at least one of us (even if we're ignoring him and working). When he first came to us, he was totally fine with us leaving (and would use that opportunity to eat any food we accidentally left out). Now, if we leave him in the living room (where the front door is), he'll spend the whole time scratching at the door, and crying/whimpering. So we started putting him in the bedroom when we leave, and closing the bedroom door. He's a little better there – still cries on and off, but doesn't scratch. We give him a food puzzle. with hot dog pieces (the only time he gets the puzzle and hot dogs) – before, he used to not even eat the hot dog pieces, but now, he'll at least eat the hot dog pieces and be quiet for a few minutes afterwards.

When we come home, we saw that we're not supposed to immediately let him out of the room – so we usually wait 5-10 minutes, but he gets even sadder/louder when he realizes we're home and not letting him out. He's crate-trained for the night (it's right next to our bed), but he hates going in there during the day – especially if we're leaving him home alone. The rescue organization says he was chained up, and had a flight response — so we're not sure if it's separation anxiety, or more that he feels trapped? We usually take him for a walk right before, so he's well-exercised (walks 3-4 miles per day for a small dog, plus lots of indoor play).

Would love any tips with managing him with bigger dogs, and how to help him not cry the whole time that we're gone. I tried reading about separation anxiety, but most tips seemed geared to dogs who are destructive — he just gets very sad and cries. Does this get better?

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