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Separation Anxiety in Nova Scotia Duck Toller

separation anxiety A Nova Scotia Duck-Tolling Retriever at the World Dog Show in Poznan, PolandWe adopted a one-year-old Nova Scotia Toll. We knew she would be a handful, but never expected the issues we have inherited. The big one is separation anxiety. She has really bonded with my husband and she gets totally stressed when he leaves. We’ve tried crating her when he leaves. Not successful, she howls and is foaming at the month from the anxiety. We left her in our garage, and have ended up with some major destruction. We cannot leave alone for fear of what destruction she will cause.


Dear Barbara,

Dogs were not designed for the lifestyles we now subject them to and some dogs end up sending that message loud and clear. We used to go to work and they’d go to work right along with us and each day had its physical and mental challenges. These are not areas that a dog can just turn off. Over the years our life styles may have changed but the way our dogs are wired has not.

Whether you have two legs or four, if you don’t meet the mind and the body’s needs sooner or later it, in one way or another it turns in on itself. Anxiety is one of the ways. It’s worse in some dogs than others and risk is greater in some breeds than others but all are susceptible.

The chance that you’ll end up with a dog with anxiety problems is really increased when it’s early life entailed ongoing contact with people and/or dogs and its later life is not. When the anxiety is based on this imprinting it’s almost always impossible to fix.

When we’re lucky there are things that might help an anxious dog cope better. A copious amount of exercise is one. Obedience training is another and by obedience I don’t mean “Stay put for a second while I reach for your cookie.” Something more in keeping with what the dog was bred to do. You may not want to take up hunting but teaching your dog to do a proper retrieve, recall, stay to the standard that would allow you to would be the goal. Chewing on a bone before you leave helps some.

I’ve recently started teaching what I call Nosey Dogs classes which seems to be having an affect on the anxious dogs in the class. After a while they aren’t anxious at all. However, it’s too early to say whether it will help extreme cases like yours. I have hopes though. Unlike obedience training it’s completely non-judgmental, there’s no need for special equipment and dog owners don’t need to be physically fit to do it. Basically all I’m doing is bit-by-bit teaching the dogs to harness the power of their nose to find stuff in ever increasing novel locations. Using their noses is natural and probably the biggest part of where they take pleasure in life and through these classes I’m beginning to realize just how well it gets their minds off their troubles. What I’m shooting for is to equip the dog owners with sufficient skill so they can start the game at home. Taught correctly sending a dog out on a “search” not only builds confidence but also it tires their minds out big time. I’m hoping that in the end, dog owners with anxiety ridden dogs will relax the dog by setting up a few searches before the dog must be left behind. That combined with exercise and obedience training might just take enough of the edge off to bring some peace of mind.

Pawsitively yours,

John Wade

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