It is 8 am and you are dropping your dog off at doggie daycare for the day. You are feeling very guilty because you know you’ll be working late and won’t be back to pick up the dog for 12 hours.
In the car on the way to daycare, you tell your dog how sorry you are and assure him that he will have a great time. Once you get there, you give him a hug and tell him goodbye as you hand him to the daycare staff. He looks back at you longingly and tries to pull himself back to you. You say goodbye a few more times and reluctantly leave.
Does this sound familiar? Most people go through this tearful routine with their dog every day, whether they are leaving their dog at home or taking her to daycare. At the end of the day when they get home from work, there is a joyful reunion between dog and human.
Goodbyes and Reunions Cause Anxiety for Dog
In reality, these tearful goodbyes and happy reunions are not helpful to dogs, and actually make dogs feel anxious and worried. In human social interactions, it is quite rude to leave without saying goodbye or enter without saying hello, and humans quite naturally follow these social conventions with their dogs. However, in canine social interactions, dramatic arrivals and departures indicate that something is wrong.
When you say goodbye to your dog, what your dog understands is “This is a serious situation. I need to say goodbye in case I don’t come back.” Similarly, when you have an ecstatic greeting ritual upon arrival, you are telling your dog “Thank goodness I made it home. I was really worried that I would never see you again.”
The more emotional you are during arrivals and departures, the more worried your dog will become. The best thing to do when leaving your dog is to simply walk out the door without speaking or making eye contact. When you return home, try to ignore your dog for two minutes and wait until she calms down before greeting her calmly.
Use a Low-Key Approach
This may make you feel uncomfortable and rude, but it is actually making your dog feel much more relaxed. Low-key arrivals and departures tell your dog “This is no big deal. I’ll be back so soon that there is really no point in saying goodbye.”
It is natural to feel guilty about leaving your dog for the day, but try to remember that your job is to keep your dog calm and relaxed. Dogs don’t understand our language, but they seem to equate a lot of chatter and emotion with a potentially distressing situation. The less you say to your dog during arrivals and departures, the better.
Editor’s note: Borderstan welcomes Tori Tyree back with her weekly column on you and your pets. She is the owner of Walk of the Town, a dog walking and pet sitting company. Tyree has been working with animals most of her life — caring for them in animal hospitals, training dogs, volunteering at zoos and the Washington Humane Society, and counseling customers about pet nutrition. You can leave a comment or send Tyree an email: tori(at)borderstan.com.
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From Tori Tyree
Do you know what’s going into the food you feed your pets? I have asked this question to just about every animal person I’ve met and have been surprised by the answer. Some people tell me, “It’s whatever the vet told me to give her” or “Yeah… it’s the purple bag with all the vegetables on it.”
If you can’t recall the ingredients in your pet’s food, you are not paying enough attention.
Did you know that dogs and cats have the biological potential to live into their 20’s? I usually tell people that feeding an inferior food to your pets is like eating every meal at McDonald’s Sure, you can live on it — but for how long, and how healthy will you be for doing it?
I want you to go take a look at the ingredients on your pet’s food right now. If you see these ingredients, just know that the pet food manufacturer tried to cut corners. A named animal protein (i.e., chicken, beef, lamb) should always be the first listed ingredient.