Strong bonds with people and other animals are essential for your dog. Unfortunately, sometimes these bonds must be untied, such as when two animals that have lived together for years must be sent to live in separate homes. Separating dogs that have spent their lives together is difficult. However, with patience and perseverance, you can help make the separation less traumatic for both pooches.
Phase 1 - Gradual Separation
Separate the dogs gradually. Take the dogs on short walks or short trips apart from each other if their daily walks have always been in tandem. Start with short periods of time, around five minutes, then extend the time by five or 10 minutes each day. Gradually increasing the time spent apart shows each dog that separation is OK and that they still have their loving human. Distract the dogs while they are apart. Use toys, treats, trips to a fun place and other exciting things to take your dogs' minds off missing each other. Lots of cuddles and one-on-one time with the humans in their house will go a long way to help them adjust to being without their dog partner.
Phase 2 - Separate Households
Place the dogs in separate households once they are used to the notion of spending time apart. If neither dog seemed fazed by your outings without the other, the parting might be less traumatic than it could be. Either dog might express confusion or anxiety while seeking the presence of the other, but within a few days of adjustment, many bonded dogs apparently move forward without issues. Others struggle with the loss for the rest of their lives. A dog that's well cared for and provided plenty of mental stimulation will cope better than a bored or poorly nourished one. With a loving human to care for them, separated bonded dogs can adapt to life without their canine pack mate.
Arrange Play Dates if Possible
Arrange play dates for the dogs after they are separated. They will be happy to see each other, and this can help reduce the separation anxiety they may feel after being permanently separated. If either of the dog appears to be adjusting poorly, consult your vet and discuss options.
Important: Resist getting frustrated with your dogs. Being separated from their packmate is stressful enough, and your frustration will make the process more difficult for all of you.
By Maggie O'Leary
Dr. Sophia Yin: Adopting Out Two Bonded Dogs
McCann Professional Dog Trainers: When One Is Not Enough
Veterinary Partner: Handling Aggression Between Littermates
Power Paws Dog Training
Dr. Sophia Yin, Animal Behaviorist
Whole Dog Journal: Problems Associated With Adopting Two Puppies at the Same Time
Association of Pet Dog Trainers: Multi-Pet Households
Cesar's Way: Dealing With Grief in a Pack
About the Author
Based in Oklahoma, Maggie O'Leary has been writing professionally since 2001. O'Leary has served in the United States military since 1997 and is a two-time OIF veteran. She has been published in several local military and civilian newspapers and national media outlets including "The Washington Post" and CNN. O'Leary has a Bachelor of Arts in history and legal studies.