Nine years ago Banjo came to live with their other Jack Russell, Daisy. She was four years old at the time and all his life Badger lived with her and relied upon her. Daisy was the in charge.
Daisy has died.
Badger never before had been left all alone.
His young couple have to go out to work and Badger howls and cries. The young lady sneaked up to the window and looked in when he was quiet. He was sitting on the rug, shaking. This was the rug where he had last seen Daisy when the vet came to put her to sleep a couple of weeks previously.
His life has been torn apart in more ways than just being all alone when his humans go out. Daisy was the dominant dog of the pair. All Badger’s life he has been used to following her and now he’s alone. It has left a big void with both her humans and with Badger and I’m sure he feels insecure without her. The separation problem is part of the bigger picture.
Without Daisy beside him, the previously calm dog is now on alert when out on walks.
Without this strong influence, Badger is lost. He is, in his way, grieving.
All alone without Daisy
He is now on window guard-duty alone. He has to deal with the invasion of post through the letterbox alone. They will block his view, put up an outside mailbox and help him out when he becomes alarmed.
The lower his stress levels are in general (I keep banging on about stress levels don’t I), the better he will be able to cope with this huge change in his life.
You might think now that they take him out everywhere with them – something they couldn’t do with Daisy – it would compensate for life without her.
Banjo needs time.
Introducing him to activities that suit his brain should help to enrich his new life without his strong-willed companion to control him – things to do with sniffing, foraging. He doesn’t play.
Helping to get him used to being all alone is tricky when they both work. They have arranged cover for the next couple of weeks and after that will take him to doggy daycare twice a week. He can then be without Daisy but somewhere he’s never had her with him – he loves other dogs.
A controlled and systematic plan.
A slowly slowly plan involving desensitising him to the triggers that precede their going out is fundamental. They will repeatedly go through each thing individually, coats on, checking the house, lifting keys etc. and then the whole sequence without actually going out of the door to begin with. Then they will add going out of the door – for one minute only initially. They will use food.
They can watch him from through a camera and an app their phones. This will enable them to time their returns, to be back before he panics.
When they are gone they can leave Badger a stuffed Kong and a chew, though it’s likely in his state he won’t yet be interested in food when all alone. Departures should be associated with good things and returns fairly boring.
There are other things things they can try that may help to comfort him when left:
- Thundershirt. It works brilliantly with some dogs and not at all with others. First associate wearing it with calm and happy times. so that it doesn’t become yet another trigger ‘oh heck, they are leaving me all alone now are they?’.
- Pet Remedy plug-in Watch this video explaining it.
- Dog Music – downloadable. Why does Through a Dogs Ear music work to relieve canine anxiety?
- Song for Daisy and see this explanation.
- Continual boring talking like a speaking book is said to keeps some dogs company and calm.
We can review the situation in a couple of weeks. We may need to get the vet involved. The fact Badger will still have to be left all alone for several hours some days will unfortunately slow things down, but it is what it is.
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Badger and because neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important as not all separation issues are the same. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)