How to help a depressed dog?
January 10, 2004 10:34 AM   Subscribe

What can I do to help our dog (13 yrs. old, chow/sharpei mix) who is very depressed? My husband, who she absolutely adores, is on the fourth day of a 3 week business trip. She barely eats, walks around dejectly with her head and tail down, and spends most of her time sleeping in a corner by the front door. [more inside]

Hoping it will help, when my husband calls every night, I've let him speak to her over the phone. Rather than comfort her, it seems to add to her confusion. She eats her treats and goes for her daily walks, without her usual enthusiasm. Since she could stand to lose a few pounds, the eating problem is not my main concern, it's her overall mental well-being that is worrying us.
posted by lola to Pets & Animals (8 answers total)
Response by poster: Oh, forgot to mention, he works the majority of time at home so she particularly feels the loss of his presence.
posted by lola at 10:37 AM on January 10, 2004

Lola, the main thing is not to act like her behavior is a big problem, because then she'll just be *more* anxious for things to get back to normal, so she can get away from the worried lady. She doesn't know that you're worried for her - she just gets that you and your family are acting weird.

So have some fun! You've got to get her excited about being with *you* rather than just your husband. Does she like to play catch, swim, talk to other dogs at the park, chase you in the yard?

My advice would be to stop worrying so much about her, and just do her regular routine, with a little more happy doggytime and some unusually pleasurable activities. Skip the phone thing, it just freaks dogs out. Good luck!
posted by pomegranate at 10:45 AM on January 10, 2004

Pomegranate is spot on. Your dog is keying primarily on your own body chemistry. You miss your guy, you're worried about the dog, etc. This all adds to the dog's anxiety because she senses it in a way that only dogs can. Taking her for a walk and some play should absolutely do the trick.
posted by vito90 at 11:48 AM on January 10, 2004

Just an idea-does he have an article of clothing with his scent still on it? Maybe she'd feel better with sniffing access to it.
posted by konolia at 12:28 PM on January 10, 2004

What pomegranate said. It sounds like it may take some time for the dog to bond as much with you as with your man (isn't it funny how dogs can have such a clear boy or girl preference?) but don't give up.
posted by squirrel at 1:24 PM on January 10, 2004

What konolia said: I used to travel a great deal on business when my Lab was a puppy. She would exhibit fairly significant anxiety the first day, and depression subsequent to that, until I returned. At my vet's recommendation, I used to take a couple of undershirts I had already worn and leave them in her crate and in the dog bed she hung out in when someone was home. My ex- reported that she was a lot calmer after we started doing that.
posted by JollyWanker at 7:36 PM on January 10, 2004

Good advice here. I suggest you spend some quality time with her, doing something active that she enjoys (walk in the woods, play date with other dogs, whatever). A tired dog has less time to fret, and tends to be a more content dog in general. Something good to chew (like dried beef tendon or a raw meaty beef bone) may also keep her too busy to worry.
posted by biscotti at 1:39 PM on January 11, 2004

it's a bit late for this, but perhaps for the next trip: we had two labs, about ten years apart in age, and inevitably, the older one took a trip to the vet from which he did not return. after that, the younger lab would get hysterical when anyone left the house (he's a bit high-strung for a lab). so, in addition to the leaving of well-scented clothes, and full food & water bowls, we introduced a routine of telling the dog where we were going. we have a whole routine, but primarily involves repeating the command word.
he has learned to distinguish trips to the "store" (any short trip), "work" (an all day trip) and the dreaded suitcase trip.

i know, people with pets tend to read much more into their behavior, but i've seen what happens when one of us leaves without telling him either "work" or "store" (he gets very upset) as well, as the difference in when he starts looking for your return (based upon "work" or "store"--some of us in the household believe he also understands "train" wherein he knows it's a short trip that will produce a guest)
posted by crush-onastick at 9:21 AM on January 12, 2004

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