GSD Collie mix has breed related herding and guarding tendenciesMarley is a beautiful Collie/German Shepherd cross age seven. He has been with the family for two years now.

This was their initial message: ‘Attacking anything that comes through the post slot. Cries and whines every time any family member leaves the house. Unwilling to sleep in his bed, sneaks into daughter’s room in the night or sits outside our bedroom door and whines. Continual whining and jumping over seats in car when someone gets out’.

Marley occasionally toilets in the kitchen in the middle of the night, but only on those rare days when he has not had a good walk. They assume this is down to lack of exercise. My detective work unearthed the connection between lack of a walk and their having been away for longer. It seems a lot more likely due to stress from having lost his ‘flock’.

They have no evidence of him being anxious when everyone is out which I would have expected. No crying and no damage. I suggest they video him. It has been proved that the most distressed dogs may well not be vocal. It could be another angle to work on.

Marely is a great family dog. He is polite and friendly – they have lots of friends and he is very relaxed around children of all ages. He loves the postman – but not those invading objects that crash through the letterbox (I’m a big advocate of having an outside mailbox to save a dog from unecessary extra anguish). They regularly take him to work with them and also to stay with friends. This is where his night time habits can be difficult. They would like him to sleep downstairs in his bed, but he gets too anxious if he can’t regularly do the rounds, checking up on them all.

It’s clear his issues are largely to do with  breed-related shepherding and guarding instincts.  Family members are his flock but he’s without a shepherd to direct him!

For starters they will work on getting him accustomed to being left alone downstairs behind a gate while they go upstairs – very short periods initially. They will leave him shut downstairs when they are out – to get him used to some physical boundaries as well as being left downstairs. They will work on a family member walking out of the house while another family member keeps his interest and makes it fun.

People departing needs to be good news and people returning needs to be boring. It will be hard work, starting with going out, shutting the door and coming straight back in again, increasing the duration of absences very gradually.

The same sort of thing needs to be done with family members getting out of the car, one at a time. He cries throughout the journey – probably in dread because most days he’s left in the car while the lady and her daughter walk away from him to drop the child off at school. For now they can take him to the school gate with them whilst getting him to associate journeys with good stuff (chicken?).

At present Marley’s not much interested in food, but that is because it’s left down all the time. I have suggested more nutritious food as diet can effect mood and not to leave food freely available so that it gains more value.

They feel that they owe it to this lovely, biddable dog to do all they can to reduce his worrying and insecurity. They understand that it will probably take quite a long time to relieve Marley of responsibility for the family’s safety and whereabouts.