Anxiety for doggy in couple's separation
By John Wade, Special to QMI Agency
My husband moved out about three months ago and I agreed to allow him to continue his involvement with our 6-year-dog. She has always been the most wonderfully behaved dog, a 90-pound mixed breed.
Whenever my ex comes to get her, he causes a commotion with her outside and gets her all worked up so she cries. He then takes her for a walk or to his place for a couple of hours and then drops her off. She is progressively getting more whiny and needy from this. She is under my feet and the kids' feet all the time and also wants to sleep with me every night now, otherwise she paces the floor and whines all night. We find ourselves getting mad at her even though we know it's not her fault.
I tried explaining this to my ex but he says the best he can do is take her for three walks a week. I tried to explain that is the problem, and he is confusing her every time he takes her. If he didn't live in an apartment I would give her to him and not expect her to come for visits because I want what is best for her. Is there anything you can suggest on my end to help with her anxiety?
Lots of people have dog walkers come over several times a week and if it becomes routine most dogs get quite excited at the prospect. I haven't had anyone report their dog started getting underfoot and climbing into their bed at night.
It's more likely that your dog is mirroring stress. Let's face it, these sorts of situations don't exactly make it to the highlight reel of our lives. The stress you, your husband and your kids are going through after the separation is surely significant so you may all be sending earthquake vibes to your dog.
Dogs are pretty environmentally aware. I was teaching a scent class last year and there was a dog that really excelled at it. However, two weeks running I sensed something was off with the dog. I asked if there were any health issues. The owners said there were not. I asked if there were any stressful events going on - sure enough one of the owner's parents was making a transition to palliative care.
For the record, I'm not a huge fan of these shared custody arrangements for dogs. Most dogs do better with stability but there is emotion around each of these exchanges that doesn't exist when someone like a dog walker picks up and drops off. If there's no way around it make sure pick-up and departures are done in a very relaxed fashion.
What will help your dog most right now is exercise and no 90-pound dog gets worthwhile exercise from walks. Your dog needs to run daily, and daily quiet chew time is good as well - a nice raw meaty bone for the dog to chew on in the evening before bed.
If it ends up that your husband's visits really are the only disruptive factor then the two of you need to sit down and discuss what's best for the dog. If he can't take the dog then you make the call, as you're the one who has to live with your anxious dog.
Pawsitively Yours and Merry Christmas,