Introducing New Changes to Your Dog

Preparing your dog for upheaval makes for a smooth transition.

By | Posted: Mon Nov 4 00:00:00 PST 2002

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"Try to keep his routine as close [to what he's used to] as possible," she said. "If the child played certain games with the dog, try to keep them the same, within reason. A 55-year-old parent may not be able to hike or wrestle like their child did, but if a car ride was the high point of his day or week, try to remember that."

Simply increasing many dogs' exercise will help them cope with change.

"A real anxious dog can get an endorphin release by working out really hard, just like people do," Hunthausen said. "A lot more exercise has a calming effect."

When it comes to the loss of a human or another pet, animals grieve in much the same way people do. It's not uncommon for dogs to have difficulty eating or sleeping for two to six weeks, although mourning can last up to six months.

"They might eat more or stop eating," Schultz said. "Some will be more vocal or not as interested in playing. Some will seem like they're looking around for the animal. They may seem more restless, can't settle down or have a hard time focusing on anything."

Because the relationships between two companion pets and between dogs and their owners are different, it is important to differentiate between losing a resident pet and losing a human caregiver, Hunthausen said.

"Pets don't facilitate codependence with each other," he said. "They don't attach rewards for certain kinds of behaviors."

When a family member dies, a dog may pace, whine, bark, engage in destructive behavior or eliminate in the house at exit areas. When a companion pet dies, they exhibit more searching behavior, more depression.

As tempting as it may be, don't reinforce the dog's negative behavior, Dr. Hunthausen said. If your dog goes around the house crying, resist the urge to hug or cuddle.

"You're trying to make him feel better because of a death, but you're rewarding him," he said. "That can be dangerous and lead to some real weird behavior."

The best course is to distract your dog, Hunthausen said. Tap your fingers. Call it. Play with it. Do anything, aside from punishment, that interrupts the behavior.

"You're taking his problem and getting him involved in something else," he said.

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