My husband moved out about 3 months ago and I agreed to allow him to continue his involvement with out 6 year dog. Sort of a dog custody. She has always been the most wonderfully behaved dog, she is a 90 lb mixed breed. Whenever my ex comes to get her, he causes a commotion with her outside and gets her all worked up so she cries. He then takes her for a walk or to his place for a couple of hours and then drops her off. She is progressively getting more whiney and needy from this. She is under my feet and the kids’ feet all the time and also wants to sleep with me every night now otherwise she paces the floor and whines all night. We find ourselves getting mad at her even though we know its not her fault. I tried explaining this to my ex but he says the best he can do is take her for 3 walks a week. I tried to explain that is the problem, he is confusing her every time he takes her. If he didn’t live in an apartment I would give her to him and not expect her to come for visits because I want what is best for her. Is there anything you can suggest on my end to help with her anxiety?
Lots of people have dog walkers come over several times a week and if it becomes routine most dogs get quite excited at the prospect. I haven’t had anyone report their dog started getting underfoot and climbing in their bed at night.
It’s more likely that your dog is mirroring stress. Let’s face it, these sort of situations don’t exactly make it to the highlight reel of our lives. If your husband, kids and yourself are half way normal the stress you’re going through is enormous and consciously or not you’re all sending earthquake vibes to your dog.
Dog’s are pretty environmentally aware. I was teaching a scent class last year and there was a dog that really excelled at it. However, two weeks running I sensed something was off with the dog and I asked if there were any health issues. There weren’t so I asked if there were any stressful events going on and one of the owner’s parent was making a transition to palliative care.
For the record, I’m not a huge fan of these shared custody arrangements for dogs. Most dogs do better with stability and there is an emotional tinge around each of these exchanges that doesn’t exist when someone like a dog walker picks and drops off. If there’s no way around it make sure pick up and departures are done as if everyone had consumed chill pills.
What will do your dog the most good right now is exercise and no 90 pound dog gets worthwhile exercise from walks. That dog needs to run daily and enough that you don’t ever need to clip his toenails. I also find a daily quiet chew time is good as well. It’s times like these that I reserve for a nice raw meaty bone for the dog to chew on in the evening before bed.
If it ends up that your husbands visits really are the only disruptive factor then the two of you need to sit down and discuss what’s best for the dog. If there is a tie and he can’t take the dog then you make the call as you’re the one living with the dog.
Pawsitively Yours and Merry Christmas