Dogs can feel emotions including grief, depression and anxiety. Being separated from the human he’s bonded to can be stressful. Extra care and attention may be needed to help him make temporary or permanent adjustments.
Dogs can develop separation anxiety when they’re away from their primary caregiver, even for short periods of time. The anxiety can manifest as whining or crying, destructive behavior or inappropriate elimination. Behavioral training can help reduce symptoms of this disorder, as can conducting short-term practice runs where the owner repeatedly leaves and comes back. If an owner is frequently away for work, it can be helpful to have another familiar face check on the dog during the day. Walking, talking, feeding and playing can help reduce the severity of the anxiety.
Distractions such as interactive toys can help divert a sad dog’s attention.
Never scold or punish a dog for his anxiety. It won't make the problem any better, and could make things worse.
When a dog owner is gone for extended periods of time, it can be difficult for the dog to understand and cope. Military deployment, leaving for college or even taking a vacation can be hard for the pup to bear. Employ video conferencing when possible to help the duo stay connected. Give the pup something that smells like his owner -- such as a piece of recently worn clothing -- to help ease his sadness during separation periods.
Schedule “chats” at regular intervals to help the dog maintain the sense of a routine schedule.
Death of an Owner
When a dog owner dies and leaves his pet behind, the dog can experience a profound sense of loss and may go through a period of grieving. He may search for his owner or he may become depressed, eating and drinking less than normal and sleeping more than usual. Try to help the pup maintain his routine during this period and encourage him to do everyday things, such as take walks, go to favorite places or play. Expect the dog to need extra attention, especially if the owner’s death results in rehoming.
When a dog has to make a housing transition, make the process as smooth as possible. Bring along his favorite toys, bed, dishes and food. Encourage him to be part of household activities but also provide a private space like a room or a crate where he can retreat if he feels stressed.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.