Rough collies, or long-haired collies, often fear being left alone. Because of this, a typically mild-mannered collie may turn destructive when left home by himself. If this sounds familiar, your best friend may be showing the signs of separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety is very common in collies and is the second most common reason why dogs are sent the shelter or euthanized. You may think you have a "bad dog," but it's very likely his poor behavior is because of anxiety. Separation anxiety is a nervous or fearful feeling that your dog gets when you prepare to leave the house and when you're gone. When you're away, he struggles to control his anxiety, which often results in the destruction of household items, hours of howling or barking and possibly urinating or defecating on the floor. His instincts are to remain close to his pack, and when his pack (your family) is gone, he gets extremely anxious.
Causes of Anxiety
Your collie could have anxiety for a number of reasons. If you adopted your collie, it's likely he has anxiety because he was abandoned or given away before. He doesn't want you to leave because he fears you'll leave him forever. If your collie has been in your family since puppy-hood, his anxiety could stem from the loss of a family member or any change in the family dynamic. Even something as small as a change in routine, such as your work schedule, could confuse your pet and make him anxious.
Nearly all cases of separation anxiety in collies can be treated over time. Work with your collie by leaving for short amounts of time at first. Start by leaving the house for five minutes, then ten minutes and so on, until you can leave for hours. Your collie will start to understand that you always eventually do come home. Since collies are extremely high-energy dogs, always wear him out with exercise before you leave. Leave him with a bowl of food and a big bowl of water, so he can relax and sleep for some of the time you're away.
It's No Big Deal
If you return home to a chewed couch, or your neighbor saying your dog barked all day, don't punish him. He didn't do any of this to make you or your neighbor upset. A negative reaction when you come home, such as punishment, will only make him more fearful the next time you prepare to leave. Don't greet your collie for the first five minutes after you walk in the door. Instead of greeting him with a big hello, act like it's no big deal that you were gone. Eventually he'll start to feel like it's no big deal too.
Courtney McCaffrey graduated from the College of Charleston in 2008 with a B.A. in media studies. She has served as an editor for Blooming Twig Books and the MADA Writing Services publishing company. She is now a writer on various outdoor sports such as snowboarding, skiing, surfing and bodysurfing.