Comforting a Dog When His Owner Leaves

Whether it's a temporary separation or a forever goodbye, dogs might feel abandoned when their owners leave. And since you can't explain to them that "it's OK, Mom will come back soon," the next best thing you can do is help them deal with the sadness of being left behind.

Tip #1 - Pick up some of the dog's possessions if you can. An old T-shirt or a blanket that smells like his owner would help, or at least Doggie's favorite toys or something that reminds him of home. This is especially important if Doggie is the one going away from his home and needs something to give him some comfort.

Tip #2 - Give Doggie reasons to wag his tail. If the owner can tell you what he likes -- walks, playing catch, spending time with other dogs -- try to give Doggie just that. This won't erase the memory of the absent owner, but it will at least show him that he can still enjoy his life. If you adopt Doggie without a chance to talk to his owner, you'll have to work a bit harder to figure out what he loves.

Tip #3 - Talk to him as much as you can. It doesn't matter how much he understands -- a loving voice can be soothing to a pet who's feeling abandoned. If you see Doggie looking depressed and lacking interest in fun activities or food, tell him that he's a great dog and that things will be OK. Pet him or hug him while you're doing this.

Warning: While a short period of feeling down is normal, dogs who refuse to eat or play for more than a few days might be depressed. In most cases, making Doggie feel good and loved might solve the problem. Some dogs, however, might need medication or additional veterinary support to help them get over the fact that their owners are gone. Talk to your vet if you don't see Doggie improving despite your best efforts.

By Tammy Dray


VetInfo: Common Rescue Dog Issues
SF Gate: It's a Dog's Life -- Abandonment Issues, Hair Loss and All Your Dog's Emotions
WebMD: Depression in Dogs

About the Author
Tammy Dray has been writing since 1996. She specializes in health, wellness and travel topics and has credits in various publications including Woman's Day, Marie Claire, Adirondack Life and Self. She is also a seasoned independent traveler and a certified personal trainer and nutrition consultant. Dray is pursuing a criminal justice degree at Penn Foster College.