Does your Border Collie turn into a destructive dervish whenever you leave it at home alone? Does everything your border collie can get its teeth and paws into or on get destroyed beyond recognition by the time you get home?
Is you mild mannered, well-behaved border collie turning into a nightmare every time you leave home?....
It is possible your Border Collie is suffering from separation anxiety. This is quite common among many border collies and it is part of its instinct to remain with the pack. It is a behaviour disorder, very much like an anxiety disorder in human beings. Separation anxiety is when your Border Collie develops an exaggerated fear of being separated from you. Put simply, it is the fear of being left alone.
Do not mistake separation anxiety with boredom as the signs can be similar – digging, chewing, and general bad behaviour. A border collie with separation anxiety panics the minute you leave, where it takes a few hours for a bored border collie to go looking for something destructive to do.
Puppies naturally show symptoms of separation anxiety and grow out of them as they get older and used to spending time alone. Symptoms of separation anxiety in your Border Collie include:
Some Border Collie’s can be left alone for a few minutes, others longer, before they start displaying signs of a panic attack.
A lot of things can cause or trigger separation anxiety in your Border Collie. Working border collies are more prone to separation anxiety
Sometimes your border collie becomes fearful of being alone when there is a change in schedule and it is left alone longer than usual. Other changes can trigger separation anxiety in older border collies and this is often mistaken as senility.
What is essentially going through your border collie’s head when you go out without them is that you are never coming back and it is losing you. Your border collie starts obsessing on this and it triggers a cycle of separation anxiety.
In some border collies separation anxiety stems from puppy hood when they do not lose their fear of being deserted. It is hard to know why, but they may have been removed from their mothers too young, or their mother’s deserted them or died. In some border collies separation anxiety is genetic and may come from lines where the border collies are prone to anxiety.
Others are border collies that have re-homed more than once, and in this you can understand the fear. Human beings have taught them the fear is well justified.
Other reasons Border Collies develop separation anxiety can include:
Your personality as the pack leader can play a large role in your border collie’s separation anxiety. Your border collie will have good and bad days, some need help to cope, and others seem to just get over it.
If your Border Collie is getting older then when you move home, a new baby or new pets join the household, a change in the pack (family) structure, and new lifestyles can trigger attacks.
If you think your Border Collie has separation anxiety talk to your vet for advice, who will suggest many strategies to help you. There is a high success rate with the use of natural ways, but you have to be consistent.
The first thing you can try is positive reinforcement to teach your border collie it does not need to fear being left alone. Remember, always ignore undesirable behaviour and reward the behaviour you want.
Here are some practical ways to help your border collie fear less being left alone.
Do basic border collie obedience with your border collie and teach it as many commands as you can such as sit, drop, stay, come, settle, and relax. Join a local border collie obedience group for obedience classes.
Make sure everyone in your household is consistent with your Border Collie’s training as well. This includes training, feeding, and house rules. There is no point you training your border collie to stay, and one of the children takes great delight in doing just the opposite. Inconsistencies in training only confuse your border collie.
Everyone needs to take charge of your border collie as they are higher in the pecking order than your Border Collie.
When your Border Collie displays the behaviour you want (relaxed and happy), reward and praise.
Designate a safe place in your house, and make sure there is nothing around for your Border Collie to destroy. Put your border collie’s favourite toys in the room and leave it in the room, alone. Spend a few minutes playing with your puppy or border collie, before leaving it alone. Then leave quickly and shut the door.
Only leave your border collie there for a few minutes at first. When you come back, give your Border Collie praise and a treat. Keep repeating this and leave your border collie alone for longer each time. Leave the television or radio playing; just make sure the electrical is out of reach.
Another strategy is to leave the house for 10 minutes at a time and return and gradually increase the time you are away to teach your border collie that no matter how long you are gone, you are coming home.
Do not think you can trick your border collie. You Border Collie will know when you are even thinking of going out. It can tell because of how you dress, when you put on your shoes, pick up your bag or the car keys.
You can desensitise your border collie to these clues by doing these actions for no reason at all, even when you are not going out. Do it often and reward your border collie when it behaves appropriately, for example, does not get excited and run for the door or go hide in a corner and refuse to come out.
When your border collie improves leave your border collie at home with minimum fuss and quickly.
You may be able to reduce your Border Collie’s dependence on you by setting a training period of 3 months, for example. This means no sleeping on the bed, in the bedroom, on the couch, less verbal praise, affection, eye contact, fewer commands, and less scolding.
Never reward your border collie’s unwanted behaviour by telling it off, causing a scene, or interacting with your Border Collie in any way. Be relaxed, and your border collie will take your cue and be more relaxed, and it will be more self-reliant.
When going out, ignore your border collie for 10 minute before you leave. And, when you leave, do not make a fuss. Put your border collie outside or wherever it will be while you are away, give it a quick pack, turn around and leave. Do the same when you get home. Do not make a fuss over your Border Collie. Wait until at least 10 minutes after you get home to make a big fuss of your border collie.
Make sure your border collie has plenty to keep it occupied while you are out. Have a toy like a Kong stuffed full of treats it has to work for and a variety of other toys to keep it occupied. Have a sand pit in the backyard with treats and toys buried in it to distract your border collie’s attention from your absence.
Be happy with small improvements and be consistent. Reward the behaviour you want and ignore the behaviour you do not want. Your Border Collie is smart and will soon learn what gets rewarded and what does not.
Make sure you leave your anger behind when helping your Border Collie through separation anxiety. If you don’t, your border collie will soon learn to associate punishment with you coming home. This will not help the situation, and can only make it worse. You do not want your border collie to fear you; this will only escalate the separation anxiety. The best demeanor to use with your Border Collie is to be calm and assertive.
Do not expect a change in your border collie’s behaviour too soon. Some border collies will get it quicker than others. There are two keys: consistency and patience.
Remember, you are modifying your border collie’s behaviour and it can take up to 6 weeks to start seeing success.
If you are not successful with these strategies, seek help from your vet, a border collie trainer, or even from your local border collie obedience club. All these people can work with you and your border collie to achieve a well-balanced family member that does not destroy your home every time you go out.