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Canine Behavior/GWP can't be left alone

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Question
Watson (GWP) is not 2.5 years old.  I love the pooch and he loves me, maybe too much!  He is a fantastic hunting dog, performs superbly on both waterfowl and upland birds.  I've trained him myself, having some years of experience, and frankly he's about perfect: hunts close, is voice, hand, and whistle trained and can go all day.  My problem:  I can't leave him alone when I work all day.  When I come home, we exercise strenuoulsy for about 15-20 minutes, with me throwing a ball for him to catch, retrieve, and or hunt (I throw it where he can't see and he has to track it).  After that, he's fed and is good for the evening, basically lying around quietly in the house, til it's time for his evening "duties".  But...BUT...he's a nutcase when I go to work.  If I crate him up all day, he..uh...defecates all over the porta-kennel and himself but if I leave him loose, he's apt to eat things, like 2 pairs of my shoes in the last several days.  I hate to think about getting rid of him but I'm at my wit's end.  What, if anything, can I do?

Answer
Hi Jack -

Sorry you are having trouble with your pup.  It sounds like Watson is suffering from a lack of exercise and separation anxiety.  GWP are very energetic, loyal, family oriented dogs.  I am not sure how long your work day is, but, it sounds like if he's not hunting that he doesn't get much exercise.  Dogs are related to wolves and it is in their nature to roam.  These days with the popularity of electric fence, many people forget the importance of actual walking. New sights, sounds, and scents are important to keep your dog mentally fit and stimulated.  If possible try to take your dog for a walk prior to leaving for work which will burn off some of that excess energy and relieve boredom.  There are a variety of options available to dog owners these days such as hiring a dog walker for mid-day playtime and exercise or dropping him off at doggy daycare while you are at work if he has been socialized and is friendly with other dogs.
As for separation anxiety...you will have to start doing "mock" departures. Get your keys, jacket, shoes, etc so it looks like you're going to leave and then go sit down and watch tv or have coffee.  The idea is to get the dog desensitized to you leaving.  You can also leave, drive around the block and come back home. You want to mix it up (yes they learn your work routine) so he doesn't get anxious thinking he will be alone for hours and hours.  By doing mock departures he will never know when you are actually leaving and he won't get anxious when he hears the keys or sees you put on your shoes.
You can also speak to your veterinarian regarding his anxiety. They have several wonderful pheromone collars, diffusers, and medications (herbal like Rescue Remedy, or anti-depressants like Prozac) which can help your dog cope while you are gone.  Be patient. Sometimes it takes trial and error to figure out the right combination that works for your dog.  You can consult a local dog trainer to help give you more advice.  Don't give up on Watson. He's obviously a good dog and I'm sure you will be able to find a solution in time. Best of luck with him.  Keep me posted...

Canine Behavior

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Jennifer Ganser, LMT, ABCDT

Expertise

For canines I can answer questions related to behavior, obedience training, health and massage therapy (anatomy, health benefits) For equines I can answer questions related to behavior, barn management, health and massage therapy (anatomy, health benefits) I am not a veterinarian and it is not within my scope of practice as a licensed massage therapist or certified dog trainer to diagnose health conditions. Please contact your pet's veterinarian for illness related questions and emergencies.

Experience

I am a licensed massage therapist for people, horses, and dogs and a certified dog trainer. I teach group obedience classes as well as private lessons. I also work with horses and help barns establish good management practices.

Organizations
Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) National Certification Board of Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB)

Education/Credentials
2009 - graduate of Connecticut Center for Massage Therapy 2010 - certified in canine/feline first aid + CPR by Red Cross 2012 - graduate of Post University equine program 2012 - graduate of Animal Behavior College Obedience program

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