The English Setter is highly intelligent and loves to spend time with its owner; so much so, that the breed is not recommended for those who spend a great deal of time away from home. They thrive on companionship and naturally assume that they will be included in all activities. As some have come to find, English Setters are a breed that can suffer from extreme separation anxiety; therefore, it is of utmost importance that new owners work with their dogs to help temper this characteristic. It should be understood that even though Setters can have separation anxiety, the trait is not a given with every dog and can be exhibited in varying degrees.
When it comes to dealing this type of difficulty in the English Setter, it is important that owners understand incidents involving separation anxiety have nothing to do with a bad temperament or revenge. Separation anxiety is simply an overwhelming fear of isolation. Any dog experiencing this devastating feeling will express it in the typical canine fashion of barking, whining, and most especially, chewing. While it is normal for puppies and dogs to form strong affections for their owners, abnormal attachments may occur naturally or simply when there is a lack of set boundaries. In either case, an owner must be willing to invest time in creating a healthier relationship.
With the varying degrees of separation anxiety, there are a number of practices that owners can put in place to help their English Setter. For the most part, this has to do with obedience training and setting appropriate boundaries. All too often, owners do not realize that they have set up a codependent relationship with their dog. This can be done by being overly permissive, overly protective or by refusing to leave the dog on its own for any length of time. Where extreme separation anxiety is the case, a Setter's physiology can come into play. Though it is rare, some dogs may require medication in conjunction with training to curb their anxiety.
When and if possible, dog trainers recommend exercising an English Setter for forty five minutes or more before leaving. This can greatly reduce the amount of energy that comes with separation anxiety, helping the dog to cope better. As a general rule with dogs, owners should never announce their arrival or departure. Those who announce or make a fuss upon leaving create a ritual that immediately triggers a dog's anxiety. When it comes to the English Setter, owners should pay no attention to their dog for fifteen to thirty minutes before leaving; the same should be practiced upon arriving home. As owners and their dogs work through separation anxiety, the most important thing is to never punish or shame the Setter for their behavior and reward them for every small improvement.