Although it might seem strange, your home life affects your dog’s behavior. And we see this play out every day among our Fitdog Members. For example, one of our regular Members was not his usual, cheerful self. He was barking, agitated and causing a ruckus in the play area. We decided to give him a few extra breaks during the day to see if his mood would improve. When the owner came that night to pick him up, we told her about his behavioral shift and asked her if there were any changes at home. She replied, ‘well, my husband left for a work trip yesterday.’
Another Member started refusing to go into the play area. She would run into one of our suites and wouldn’t move. At first, we thought that maybe she didn’t want to play with the dogs anymore. But then at night, she wouldn’t leave our lobby to go home with her owner either (we had to pick her up and place her in the car). We found out later that her owner was packing and had moving boxes around the house.
At Fitdog, we experience a wide variety of doggy personalities and get to know our members really well. When there is a shift in behavioral patterns, we can detect it almost immediately. It’s not unlike having a child who is being disruptive at school when they are experiencing problems at home.
As with kids, a dog’s home life greatly affects his or her mood and behavior at daycare. At Fitdog, we tend to notice significant dog behavior changes during certain life events:
Moving is stressful for people, and amongst the clutter of boxes, garbage, and re-arranged furniture, dogs feel stress too. In addition to the mess, dogs are sensitive to the general chaos of the move. Their normal routine is likely disrupted in some way and they are experiencing a lot of uncertainty.
Often when dogs are in the middle of a move, they become overly anxious at daycare because they know things are happening, and they are afraid they are being left out or even potentially left behind. In other cases, they may not be getting a good night’s sleep, so they are cranky and overly snappy at daycare (dogs need their 12 to 14 hours of shut-eye per day).
Try to maintain your dog’s schedule. If possible, don’t move your dog’s stuff until the very end or create a special spot for your dog in order to maintain as much normalcy as possible. You can also board your dog overnight before the moving boxes even come out. That way, your dog will miss the whole thing.
You’re Breaking Up.
You and your S/O have been together all or most of your dog’s life, and now you’re calling it quits. Most people don’t realize that dog packs are actually made up of family units lead by a mother and a father. So when you break up, it’s a difficult transition for your dog.
At daycare, we notice two distinct behavioral changes depending on the type of the relationship, breakup and who the dog was placed with after the separation.
- The first is a positive change. The dog is much more stable, secure and happy post-break-up. This could be because the other person in the relationship was toxic. Or maybe you fought a lot or you were both generally miserable in the relationship. Now that it’s over, you and your dog are much better off. It also means that the dog ended up with the right owner.
- The second is a negative reaction. The dog is experiencing the loss of an owner and also feels your upset and sadness. In both cases, dogs tend to be outwardly sad and depressed at daycare. Sometimes, the dog becomes insecure because the alpha pack leader of the family is now absent, leaving the dog in limbo and causing the dog to be frustrated and more aggressive at daycare.
These types of reactions can also happen if one owner is on a long-term business trip. In either case, maintain your dog’s routine as closely as possible. And if you can, try to give the dog to the person who has the best relationship with the dog (not necessarily the person who wants the dog more).
You’re Depressed, Stressed or in Transition.
When people are emotionally unstable or their life is in flux, dogs will also be emotionally unstable and depressed. They are a mirror of your current emotional state. Dogs may provoke fights at daycare because they need a way to release the stress they feel at home. In addition, sometimes when people are depressed they are less active, so their dog may not be getting the exercise they require resulting in rough and inappropriate play at daycare. Finally, if someone is feeling sad, typically their dog will be sad at daycare, often sitting alone or hiding in a corner.
Remember, your dog is your companion not your therapist. The worst thing you can do is to cry or yell every time you’re spending time with your dog. Instead, continue to have fun and upbeat dog walks and play sessions. Turn to your dog for “pick-me-ups”, not a pillow to cry on. And like always, keep your dog’s routine and schedule the same. It goes a long way to making a happy pet.
Take Care of Yourself, but Consider Your Dog’s Feelings
In order to reduce the impact of life-changing events on your dog, it’s important to consider how a certain event or situation will affect your dog’s routine and then set up a plan to minimize that change on your dog. Sometimes it means leaving your dog at his or her regular daycare facility or setting designated times aside for play, food and walks (like after you have a new baby or during construction). That way, even though everything around your dog might be in flux, your dog will still have consistency around the things he values most.