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Old 03-21-2011, 01:20 PM
 
6 posts, read 9,218 times
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I think I better start with some background. He is now a 9 year old male, neutered beagle who we got from rescue a little over 2 years ago. It took him a long time to make an attachment, but eventually he really latched on to me. So, for quite awhile we have shared a close bond.

At the same time, I was doing a lot of training work with him. I was following the Sit-Stay-Fetch training for the most part. He became a pack member and seemed to have a very clear place in our family group. We try to stick to the same daily routine as much as possible, and it has always been apparent that he really thrives the more we stick to the "routine."

There have been periods where my wife and I have gone away on trips, occasionally up to 3 weeks (we have a dog sitter who stays at the house full-time when we are away). And I am away from the house about 3 days a week for about 4-5 hours at a time. But he is only rarely left by himself for any significant amount of time. He has never complained or appeared upset when left. However, when either one of us comes home, he gets very, very excited and sometimes stays overly-stimulated for awhile.

Well, a couple of weeks ago, I ended up being away from the house from early morning to almost midnight for 4 days in a row. And after these absences were done, I began to notice a change in him. He continued to follow me around the house, as he has done for a long time now, even if my wife is also home. And he would greet me just as excited as ever and start barking. And he would engage in his usual extensive face licking.

So at first I didn't really notice, but he began avoiding any other contact with me. For instance, he is only allowed on the couch when one of us is there and we give him permission. After dinner I do some work in my office and then come in and lie down on the couch. And he would always want to come up and lie down beside me. He goes to sleep very early and would usually fall asleep on the couch for hours. But now he just avoided doing that.

He had never ever been one to hold any kind of a grudge, so my wife and I were really thrown for a loop as he kept up this avoidance (of me only, not her). I became extremely upset and worried, as well as confused as to what was going on. Because he never could hold any type of hard feelings, I was not convinced that it had anything to do with my being away.

But now I think so. This went on for over a week until it broke the other night. I was doing some routine grooming when I accidentally hurt him very slightly and I tried to say I was sorry but he didn't want to hear it. Finally, I just broke down from the upset and distress of the past week and just started crying and sobbing. He just gave me that "what's wrong, don't feel bad look." Then he fell into my arms and licked my face. So, I thought now everything would be ok again.

But then the next day, I had to leave the house on one of my regularly scheduled days, for about 5 hours. And when I came home, he was stand-offish once again. But I was home in time to take him on his walk and he was fine after that.

I posted about my problem on the Sit-Stay-Fetch board. The experts there suggested I stick to the usual routine as best as possible and not get upset if he snubs me. They were hoping things might get back to normal after a few weeks. Well, it is now a few weeks down the road and things have gotten worse. Now, anytime I leave the house, even for 20 minutes, he will be upset and snub me for some period of time.

It seems clear to me and others that my dog is now reacting to feeling abandoned by me. And then he turns the tables and responds by abandoning me. I know dogs don't have a great sense of time, but for the past two weeks, the amount of time he will snub me is directly proportional to the amount of time I have left home. Maybe it is a coincidence, but it seems odd to me.

I talked to another beagle owner and he said he had the same problem. He said that he has to leave on business trips every so often and is gone 3-4 days. When he would come back, his dog would completely snub him for a day or two. He told me he solved the problem by giving him a special treat (butcher shop meat) right after he came back. Now, no more snubs.

I am not too thrilled about trying this idea for a number of reasons. I really don't want to have to give him a treat every time I come back. But I would like to find some way to deal with this soon. I am afraid that this recent behavior of his is rapidly becoming the new norm.

Sorry this is so long, but I wanted to lay it out fairly complete. Thanks for listening and thanks in advance for any ideas or feedback.
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Old 03-21-2011, 07:00 PM
 
Location: Declezville, CA
16,806 posts, read 39,928,986 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rfinney View Post
He had never ever been one to hold any kind of a grudge
They don't hold grudges.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rfinney View Post
I was doing some routine grooming when I accidentally hurt him very slightly and I tried to say I was sorry but he didn't want to hear it. Finally, I just broke down from the upset and distress of the past week and just started crying and sobbing. He just gave me that "what's wrong, don't feel bad look.
I'm getting a feeling that you over anthropomorphise him. Let him snub you. Barring any health issues, of course.
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Old 03-21-2011, 08:17 PM
 
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Thanks for your reply. Yes, I often ascribe his behavior to human motivations and emotions. I do know that it really isn't like that for him . . . nobody knows at all what it is like to be a dog.

It is extremely difficult just to let him snub (it does seem very hard to avoid anthropomorphizing dogs when we communicate about them) me. For better or worse, we have the type of bond that is emotional and close. I think I have been doing a pretty good job under the circumstances of trying to let things play out and giving him his space to behave that way.

However, the thought of this going on and on and on is close to unbearable. And right now I would say that is where things are headed. He seems to be getting locked in to his responses to my leaving.

I will chalk up your response as one more response that says there is nothing much I can do about it (same as every online response I have gotten so far). I had been thinking that this might be the case but hoping for something else.
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Old 03-21-2011, 08:32 PM
 
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I've never heard of a dog doing that to that extent, like a reversed way of acting out separation anxiety. Cats do it I know. For the regular kind of separation anxiety your supposed to be very casual and matter of fact about comings and goings, but for this maybe a special treat is in order like someone else told you. Maybe a special little outing for just the 2 of you. I know it would kill me if one of my dogs acted this way. Hope somebody else can offer ideas.
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Old 03-22-2011, 12:45 AM
 
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Thanks so much for your reply . . . I can see that you really get the pain and angst I have been going through.

I also had never ever heard of a dog acting this way (as you say, a cat, sure). Although there are now at least two dogs I have heard of that have acted this way (my friend's beagle). At first I didn't really think he was acting out towards me and I was just very confused. Dogs don't seem to have memory of events for very long and he had never been upset with either one of us for more than a very short period of time. The whole thing has come as an unexpected shock out of nowhere.

I like your analogy to reverse separation anxiety. And because he has no separation anxiety I don't think just continuing the routine is going to have any effect at all. I am still very hesitant to try some fairly big reward because if it works once, then I would have to probably give it to him every time I leave. Today, I was only out of the house for 20 minutes and that was enough for him to snub me for a few hours (one of the shortest period of times he has done this). But I may give it a try just to see what happens.

Thanks again and I also appreciate your encouraging others to post with assistance.
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Old 03-22-2011, 01:04 AM
 
Location: Canada
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While not as extreme as the case you describe since my dogs are rarely without me, there are times when I go somewhere without them. Never overnight though. My female GSD is totally attached to me. Other people really don't even register with her except in how they react to me.

When I go away without her, even though my husband is at home, and even though the other two dogs are at home, including the male GSD, who is the love of her life, she goes downstairs into my office and will not come out for anyone, interact with anyone, human or dog.

If I am gone for a few hours, my other two dogs will be at the door to greet me, but my female German shepherd will not immediately come up. And when she does come up the stairs, she comes up looking very serious, with a long face and a hurt look. After a while she'll smell me very carefully, as if to be sure that I haven't been having fun with some stranger dog.

She does not shun me in the way you describe your dog as doing but she is definitely hurt for a while. Personally, I see nothing wrong in you giving your dog some small treat when you come home. I often but not always, give my dogs a milk bone when I come home if I haven't had them with me. I don't think that this is what wins my girl over - I actually think she sees it as a form of apology that isn't quite acceptable in her eyes, but better than nothing.

The main thing that reassures her that our connection is as strong as ever is my making an effort with her, regardless of how she acts. Ruffling her fur, telling her she's my good girl, and that 'mom' is sorry she had to go away without her, blah, blah, blah.

Just wondering how you act towards him when you come home? I'd suggest taking 30 minutes or so just to talk to him, pet him, even if he acts standoffish before you head for the couch, or the office, or whatever.

Edited to add: I was rereading your post and based on the fact that he was a rescue and who knows how many homes he had been through before you got him, I don't think he is punishing you for your absence. I think he has abandonment issues and therefore is distancing himself from further pain. I don't think that dogs think this through in the way that an abandoned person does, but being as old as he was before he found his forever home, I think on some instinctual level he is preparing himself to be abandoned again. In other words, with absences as long as some of yours have been, I think he doesn't trust that you will come back. When you go on extended trips, is there any possibility that you can take him with you?

Last edited by netwit; 03-22-2011 at 01:34 AM..
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Old 03-22-2011, 07:40 AM
 
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Angel (female lab) is VERY attached to her daddy.

He goes away on hunting trips.

What we think helps is he will call home and talk to her on the phone.

We put the phone on speaker and he will say some things to her.
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Old 03-22-2011, 07:40 AM
 
Location: San Antonio, Texas
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um... your dog is acting like a dog.

is he eating? is he sleeping? is all his natural habits normal and otherwise healthy? Then don't worry. If he stops any or all those normal actions then worry or if he develops stress actions (bitting at legs till raw, turning in circle constantly, peeing in house etc).

I talk to my girls like they know what I am saying but I try not to humanize them. They are dogs and they should act like a dog ( I try to remind them of that fact whenever possible )

Oh also, 9 years old. It is possible arthritis might be showing up. Old age creeps up on our beloved pets when we aren't looking so it he doesn't want to jump up on the couch... maybe it just isn't all that easy for him any more.
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Old 03-22-2011, 10:30 AM
 
Location: St. Louis, Missouri
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Quote:
Originally Posted by netwit View Post
......

...........

Edited to add: I was rereading your post and based on the fact that he was a rescue and who knows how many homes he had been through before you got him, I don't think he is punishing you for your absence. I think he has abandonment issues and therefore is distancing himself from further pain. I don't think that dogs think this through in the way that an abandoned person does, but being as old as he was before he found his forever home, I think on some instinctual level he is preparing himself to be abandoned again. In other words, with absences as long as some of yours have been, I think he doesn't trust that you will come back. When you go on extended trips, is there any possibility that you can take him with you?

this is EXACTLY what I was thinking.... I have transported older dogs (7 y/o and up) who were owner surrenders for whatever reason... death in the family, lost house, etc etc .... and they are without fail completely confused and discombobulated by the changes in their worlds.... they have NO idea what is going on or why..... if your fella has been rehomed several times, he could be expecting this upheaval every time you leave him.....

do you know any of your fella's story before he came to you??
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Old 03-22-2011, 02:17 PM
 
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I feel very heartened by all the responses I have received. I thank each and every one of you for your thoughtful reply.

I will try to address the major issues raised by your replies. Two of you make connections to my dog being a rescue, and I think this is a very good point that I probably have overlooked too much.

I wish I knew more of his history but I only have a little bit. He was in his original home for almost 6 years. We have no idea why he was moved out. We do know that he was sent to a friend of the owner. He did not do well there because they had a bunch of cats and he was constantly chasing them. Finally, after about a year, this second owner put him in beagle rescue. He had been in his foster home for one month when we got him. We are pretty sure he has no significant medical history.

However, given the number of changes in a short period of time, we have always presumed he has abandonment issues. When we got him, the rescue group wanted to place him in a home where he would not be left alone very much. And that has indeed been the case with us, except for the occasional 3 week trip (we have only taken one so far, with another coming late this year). It would not be possible to take him but we might be able to have phone contact . . . would have to try that and see if he is responsive.

I like the idea that he is not abandoning me so much as he is preparing himself for being abandoned and thus protecting himself against the pain. Before I spent those extended 4 days away (coming home late each night), there had been no apparent problem with my regular daily leaves. Perhaps those 4 days, unexpected by him, uprooted his sense of security and re-triggered abandonment fears. Yikes, I sure wish I could go back and change those 4 days (no, I won't get stuck on that thought or blaming myself).

I don't think he has any arthritis issues. He loves to jump on the couch when he has permission to do so and has never shown any hint of having a physical problem doing that activity, or any of his other regular activities. We do expect that he will start to slow down soon, and we are carefully watching out for any signs of discomfort. And he is displaying no other unusual movements of any kind.

When I first come home, he is over-excited until I sit down and have him up on the couch. Then he will vigorously lick my face for a long time (at least several minutes). I will stay there awhile and start reading through things and being available if he wants to spend time with me. Before all this started, it would depend on the time of day whether he would lie down or get off. For instance, if it was close to dinner, he would be too excited to lie down and would need to go near the kitchen area (even though he knows we eat first and he has to wait until we are done). Now, he will only stay on the couch with me during the day if I have not left the house at all.

So, I would like to take extra time with him when I come home, but I can't do that right now because of his retreat. But maybe there will be an opening where that might be possible. I will also look at the other suggestions and start to try some of them.

I am most thankful for all the replies, and I am feeling more hopeful. I doubt that that there is an easy or quick fix, but over time I expect that I will start to find those things that work to ease his fear of abandonment. Yes, I would love to get things back to where they were . . . maybe that is not possible, and if so, then get things to a new equilibrium that is satisfying for both of us.
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