Dogs aren’t people. Does that sound silly? Sadly, the way many people treat their pets nowadays makes it appear that humans don’t understand the concept that there are differences between species. The differences aren’t all physical, either.
Cats aren’t dogs, and while I disagree with the popular idea that they’re independent to a marked degree, they definitely don’t (I say this in general since I’ve known cats who thought they were dogs) have the outwards signs of dependency that dogs display.
It isn’t always good for dogs to be treated like people. Right off the bat, it’s confusing to them. Dogs are like children, though, in some ways. They like their routines. Researchers tell us that dogs don’t have a sense of time passing, that it’s much the same for fifteen minutes’ absence as for eight hours.
Working people find that in their pets. The dogs adjust to the working schedule, and they don’t seem to suffer abandonment pangs. But for that to work, there has to be a routine to start with. None of us likes feeling uncertain about things. If the dog understands that you’re returning, the length of time has little effect.
When you leave your dog at a kennel, it doesn’t hurt to find out the kennel’s feeding and exercise routine well ahead of time. Then you can work your own schedule closer to that. Do it fairly slowly, so the dog doesn’t wonder what’s wrong. Dogs are often wary of a change in routine.
The closer the kennel’s schedule to that of home, the more confident the dog will feel about staying there. If the kennel will accommodate their schedule to yours, all the better. Bring the dog’s regular food, too, and if it’s allowed, leave a small blanket or towel with the dog, something that you’ve had wrapped around you enough that your scent will have permeated it.
Whatever you do, don’t try to pacify your dog. A dog’s vocabulary is extremely limited-no matter what you think about your baby. Their real response is to the tension in our voices and bodies. And anything that pertains to them, they sense immediately.
You have to do some method acting when you’re training your dog, or when you’re doing something wicked like bringing him to the vet. (By the way, vet’s visits don’t have to be traumatic. It takes a few trips of dragging the dog in, and holding him on his leash, while you chat with the receptionist. Then out you go. And again, you have to act as though you don’t expect a bad reaction from him, and that he isn’t fighting you every inch of the way. Since you aren’t upset for him, he senses it’s okay, and that helps, too.)
Dogs have to be left behind sometimes. And they do live through it. I’ve worked in a kennel where some dogs would be panicky while their owners were in range, and then they’d settle into the kennel’s routine as soon as they accepted the fact that the kennel was a new reality. The very fact that kennel owners and workers really do feel that this is the norm affects the animals’ concept, too.
Almost all dogs do just fine in a good kennel. Many have more socializing with their own kind than they normally would, and they enjoy it, even if they’re awkward at first. Kennels are very routine-orientated, too, and dogs like that. Combined with some genuine animal lovers handling them, routine and confidence almost always win a dog over in a short time.
If you don’t treat your dog like an abandoned orphan when you leave him, he won’t think that he is one. He’s counting on you to tell him, by your body language and mental attitude, that everything’s all right.
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