Pet Talk

Q. Why does my dog always cry when dad leaves the house? Now that it is summer and I want to sleep later, Brinkley wakes me up every morning crying when dad goes to work. Any ideas on how to get him to be quiet?

A. Sounds like Brinkley may be suffering from a mild case of separation anxiety. The term is not exclusive to dogs. It is a psychological term to describe the stress and anxiousness in an individual brought on by the leaving of another individual. With a pet, it is usually brought on by the separation from the primary caretaker or favorite family member. In this case it sounds like it may be your dad.

Dogs with separation anxiety are experiencing the equivalent of a panic attack in humans. This means they are unable to exercise self-control over their behavior. Sounds like Brinkley continues to show stress behavior once your dad leaves even if you are home, meaning he is hyper-bonded to your dad.

Here are a few things your dad could try to help Brinkley overcome his anxiety when he leaves the house for work.

Ask your dad to make his departures in the morning low key and calm. No hugging and fussing over Brinkley. This can help him learn your dad’s goings are casual, common occurrences. Always using the same phrase when he departs such as “see you later” or “take care of the house” may, after time, help Brinkley understand your dad will return.

Some dogs find having a piece of their owner’s clothing with them comforting. Ask your dad to leave Brinkley with a t-shirt he just slept in.

I would recommend leaving Brinkley with a Kong toy stuffed with something really tasty. This may help him associate something good happening when your dad leaves. Brinkley may actually start to look forward to your dad leaving because it signals something extra yummy is coming his way. I would have a couple of Kongs and always have one in the freezer ready to go.

If your dad has time in the morning, tiring Brinkley out with a long walk or jog may help ease his stress and he may be more content to enjoy his Kong or take a nap.

I hope some of my suggestions can help Brinkley accept your dad’s leaving the house with more confidence knowing that he will be returning and you can get the pleasure of sleeping in longer.

Sally Salopek is the owner and operator of Attend-A-Pet pet sitting services in northern Door County. She has also worked professionally with animals in health care, pet grooming, training, wildlife rehab and rescue. Send your pet-related questions to her at [email protected].