I have a year old border collie mix who has separation anxiety. She barks constantly and is destructive when we aren’t home. We are getting complaints from the neighbors. We have used muzzles, vibrating collars, and pharamone treatments to get her to stop and she still isn’t. We also have resorted to crating her. Any advice?
Crating the dog is a good start. It won’t help cure the separation anxiety, but it will prevent the dog from continuing to destory your belongings. A few of the following suggestions can be used alone or in conjunction with each other:
1) Place the dog in the crate while you are at home for short periods of time. Let the dog see that you are still there. However, do not pay any attention to the dog. If the dog barks, ignore it. Don’t talk or yell at the dog. After the dog has stopped barking, walk over and without saying a word or showing any affection, let the dog out of the crate. The point of this exercise is to untrain the dog from knowing “I will bark and they will come”.
2) If ignoring the dog in the crate doesn’t help, and the dog continues to bark and bark and bark, another alternative is to use a loud noise to deter the dog from barking. This was the tactic that ended up working for me. Place the dog in the crate while you are at home. Everytime the dog begins to bark, you want to use something to make a loud noise. (The noise should NOT be you yelling or speaking with the dog – the dog wins when it hears your voice). I recommend putting some pennies in an empty soda can and placing a piece of tape on the opening. When shaken, the noise is obnoxiously loud, and should stop your dog from barking. With the dog in the crate, every time the dog begins to bark, without saying a word, shake the can of pennies loudly for ten or so seconds. If the dog starts barking again, repeat. Repeat, repeat, repeat. This should help with the barking problem.
3) Your routine. Dogs are extremely perceptive and will pick up on your pre-departure routine. For example, my dogs see me pick up a pair of shoes and they know that I (and they hope them) will be leaving the house. Chances are your dog’s anxiety kicks in long before you walk out the door. Placing the dog in the crate before you perform the act (e.g., putting on shoes, grabbing keys, etc.) that triggers the “my owner is leaving me” anxiety should help. One thing that might help distract the dog as you leave in the morning is a Kong toy. The Kong toys are hollow and can be filled with treats that the dog will have to work to remove from the toy. This should help distract your dog while you slip out of the house in the morning.
4) Homecoming – When you get home, the first thing you should do is NOT let the the dog out. Go get a glass of water, read through the mail. Let the dog see you. If the dog is barking, DO NOT let the dog out of the crate. Wait until the dog calms down or use the penny-can to stop the dog from barking. Then let the dog out. Do not fawn over the dog, do not lavish attention on the dog, do not touch the dog. The goal here is to show the dog that your homecoming is not an event. It is a daily occurrence, nothing special. Lavishing attention on the dog when you get home will only add to the dog’s anticipation and anxiety when you are away. After fifteen or so minutes of being home, give the dog the attention you want. The key is to disassociate your attention and your homecoming from each other.
4) Exercise. Border collies are working dogs. They are very intelligent and need to put that intelligence to use. They need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation. A lot of the times destructive behavior is the result of not only separation anxiety, but also boredom and pent up energy.
The muzzles, collars and medication will not cure separation anxiety, they are short term solutions. Stop the muzzle, stop the collars or the medication and the dog will pick up right where he/she left off.
on: 13th September 06