My dog was SO upset with me . . .

Posted by raffee
Mar 2, 2011
I am still in a state of semi-shock and am completely unsure now what to do. Here is the 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, with no hint of any problem with our bond.

At the same time, I was doing a lot of training work with him. While I had not been indoctrinated into the Sit-Stay techniques per se, I was essentially doing almost of the things recommended. 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. 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 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 often fall asleep on the couch for hours.

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 at all 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 care 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.

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.

But now I am scared and not sure what to do. My wife and I are scheduled to go away for a few days, starting tomorrow. We have a sitter who comes over and stays with him while we are away. But I am not sure I want to go right now. I know we have to live our lives, but recent events have both of us on edge. The thought of going through another week, or more, of all this is almost unbearable.

My wife will fully support whatever I want to do about the upcoming trip, including canceling the whole thing, as well as any other interventions we need to make. But I just feel unsure what to do.

Thanks for listening and also thanks in advance for any feedback.
Posted by KOPCaroline
Mar 3, 2011
Hey raffee,

Sounds like a bit of a complicated problem!

Some dogs develop seperation anxiety when they are seemingly "abandoned" by their owners for some time, especially if something unpleasant (perhaps he hurt himself in the yard or something like that) happens to them during that time. These dogs typically express "glue dog" behaviour, that is, they won't leave you alone. Your dog might be expressing the same thought pattern, just with different behaviours.

Despite not holding grudges, I wonder if your dog felt like you being gone all day (instead of for a few hours, or away together with your wife) was too out of the ordinary for him, and has unattached a bit. I tend to think something along these lines since he is still fine with your wife.

That being said, I dont know that its necessary to cancel trips, etc. You should, as you said, live your life, and if youve gone away on trips before and had little issue with it, you should be able to do it again.

I would advise taking extra time with your dog when you are home. Just you and him, bonding and spending quality time. He should know that even when you are gone all day and only come home to sleep that he is still just as important to you as ever. Long walks, good play time at home, call him up to the couch with you when you lay on it. Heaps of attention! It could be a confidence issue, in that he feels less confident of your relationship, and it just needs reinforcing.

Try this technique when you get home from your vacation. If its your first time going away with your wife since your dogs sudden behavioural change it might even help to go away. He might so-to-speak "reset" upon your arrival back home with your wife.

I hope this makes sense. Other forum users might have other takes on it, but after thinking it through, this is the direction I'm going with your situation. Let us know how things are when you get back! Good luck!
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Mar 4, 2011
Hi raffee,

I am so glad that you and your dog made a strong bond through working together on his issues and trainings.

I understand you feel heartbroken by the fact he is now almost avoiding you but please remember that your dog has special needs, which is consistency in his routine as well as your state of mind.

As I read your posting I feel your instability. Your dog can sense that and he gets confused: Is my dad mad? Is he upset with me? What did I do wrong? Maybe I should stay away...etc.

Dogs like their leader to be confident, happy, and fair. Don't get too worried by how your dog acts. Don't feel sorry when you leave him alone for a few hours. Just make those absences as routine.

As for me, I never have put my rescued doggies at kennels. It is just me, who doesn't want to do. So we only go where we can take dogs, or my husband and I take turns to go on trips, or have our grown up kids stay with our dogs while we both go on trips. However, if I have to go, I have to go. There is no choice and our dogs just have to accept it. Of course, they will miss me but I tell them clearly "You are not going but I will be back so be good doggies" in a very confident manner.

If your state of mind goes up and down, it is hard for your dog to deal with it. If your dog doesn't come close to you, just wait a few days, he will miss you and will come back to you for affection.
Posted by raffee
Mar 8, 2011
KOPcaroline & MaxHollyNoah,

Thanks so much for your replies. I would have posted back sooner, but I somehow missed your replies. As opposed to previous first posts, I was not notified by email that I had received replies. And once I even checked the forum just to make sure, but some way or another my browser must have pulled up a cached version (would seem like logging in would prevent that) that also showed no replies.

Anyway, as it turned out, we canceled the trip. It was a brief overnight stay not far from home and didn't cost us anything to cancel. Neither of us really felt like going with things so up in the air.

Also, as it turned out, he has been fine again since he collapsed into my arms after I was crying. And now the problem seems very clear. A few days later, I was away for about 4 hours, like normally happens. When I came home, he was a tiny bit standoffish, but as soon as I took him on his walk and then later fed him (after we had eaten), he was just fine.

One thing to clarify . . . he had started pulling back well before I got nervous and upset when around him. I had been away longer hours than normal for about 2 days when I first noticed a change. At first, I completely dismissed it as just a fluke, and only later did I realize that he was expressing something directly towards and about me. Maybe that in and of itself caused the problem to get worse . . . he had to escalate to really get my attention.

Well, if that is what it was, he sure did get my attention! I think I have a better handle what to do if and when it happens again. We were both caught off-guard but now know better.

I had been thinking that maybe I am too attached and need to rein in my own emotions a bit. Well, that lasted about 2 days and then I just couldn't keep it up. I have periodically checked with my wife to see if she thinks I give him too much love and/or affection. And she says no.

I think as long as I keep doing the things I need to do like keeping the routine as consistent as possible and reinforcing his place in the pack, things will be ok. Yes, I love him so, so much and that means I can be hurt if he distances himself from me. But changing that would mean changing the bond and relationship in ways that work against the very reason why we have a dog.

So, thanks again for your responses. In ways that may be hard to delineate, I was reassured by what you posted and am grateful for your support.
Posted by raffee
Mar 15, 2011
Well, things have taken a turn for the worse. My dog has taken to getting upset and distant from me every time I leave the house, whether it is part of my regular routine or something else.

He is doing exactly what he did before: still follows me around the house, sometimes he will lick my face a few times (normally he will want to lick it furiously for many minutes) or even just turn his head away sharply, and keep his distance from me (normally he lies down with me at night for many hours).

I am not feeling the upset and instability I had felt when he first started with this behavior. However, it still does not feel too good, and I am concerned about this new pattern that is apparently taking hold.

In response, I have so far tried 2 strategies: the first being doing nothing, in other words just keeping up my regular routine with him and not showing him my inner distress; the second strategy is spending a little more time with him when I first get home. It seemed to work the first time I did it, but only for a short while. I then tired it another day and there was no change in his behavior. For now, I have stopped that and just gone back to "normal."

So, my question is should I just stick to the normal routine and that's that? My concern is that this is going to be the new normal for him. I can manage for now but I really can't tolerate thinking that this might be how it is from now on.

I can't change any of my routines that take me away from the house, and even if I could, I wouldn't want to do so. I am also unsure about giving him even more attention and affection than he already gets. I think that maybe giving him so much of that contributed to the current problem, but if so, so be it.
Posted by KOPCaroline
Mar 17, 2011
Hey raffee,

My personal opinion is to keep trying to stick to your routine as usual. Do make it a part of your routine to spend one on one time with your dog, but I'm worried if you try to change now that you'll unsettle things again and potentially cause more damage.

This is a tricky situation, Ive never heard one quite like it, but I think if you give it a few weeks to settle back into a routine your dog appreciates, that things will smooth out. Babying the dog at this point by overdoing attention can be damaging in the sense that you might instigate more severe seperation anxiety and get a completely nervous dog out of the situation.

I know its hard when the bond you once had takes a step back, but perserverance and patience are usually key to getting it back.

Other members might have different ideas on the situation, but thats my personal opinion. I think youre doing a great job of being a caring owner, and you have every right to be nervous about the behaviour, but just try a few weeks of doing the regular day schedule and see how it goes? Best of luck
Posted by raffee
Mar 18, 2011

Thanks for your thoughts. I am going to try my best to keep things as routine as possible. I am unable to be perfect about it as sometimes some of my feelings will leak out . . . but I don't think this will have much effect. He will see me acting, and for the most part, feeling like I have always done.

I actually don't think the bond between us is changing and that he is stepping back. Aside from being the alpha in the pack, if anything, his attachment to me keeps growing. I feel quite sure that he is acting out his feelings of abandonment. It seems as if he is saying that I abandon him and therefore he will abandon me. I have noticed that there appears to be a positive correlation between the amount of time I am gone and the amount of time that he distances from me. Maybe this is just coincidental as I thought dogs did not really have much of a sense of time.

But his giving me some of my own medicine does not change anything at all. There just doesn't seem to be anything to do except ride it out and hope that things return to the previous "normal."

I will post back in a few weeks unless things change from here.