I didn’t see my mutt Ace for more than two weeks while I traveled across North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and California last month. Ace got to stay with my parents in Wisconsin.
I missed Ace terribly. But did he miss me? Nope.
One mistake people make is to project human emotions to their dogs. It’s easy to do. I admit it made me feel better to believe Ace and my cats missed me. In reality, they probably forgot I left. Someone else was feeding them, playing with them and giving them affection. That’s about all they care about. It’s part of being an animal and living in the moment.
When I drove away from my parents’ house without Ace last month, he paced and watched me intently. He was anxious when he realized I was leaving him behind because his usual routine is to be with me.
But the second my car was out of sight, Ace immediately moved on. Instead of pining over me, he grabbed his tennis ball and followed my mom and her dogs around. Whether or not I was coming back was not really an issue for Ace. When I finally did return, he was happy. But he would’ve been happy to see anyone, especially someone holding a tennis ball.
When I went to get Ace, he was happy to see me just because I was there, not because I’d been gone a long time. Once he saw me, he forgot I had been gone in the first place. He was like, “Oh, hey! Didn’t see ya there!”
Dogs react to our emotions
If I were to walk out and get the mail and come back acting like I hadn’t seen my dog in two weeks, he would greet me with matching energy.
If you don’t know what I mean, give it a try.
Walk to the end of your driveway without your dog. Then go back inside, call out “Ace! I haven’t seen you forever, buddy!” and get down on your hands and knees. Your dog will use this opportunity to soak up some extra attention by rolling on the ground in front of you, licking you or at least wagging his tail.
It’s not that your dog is faking anything. It’s just that he truly picks up on your energy. That’s why people love dogs!
You could also try the same experiment, only this time walk through the door and completely ignore your dog. Don’t talk to him. Don’t touch him. Don’t even look in his direction. You will get a very different response than the first time you walked through the door.
If you want to teach your dog to be calm when people visit, the first step is to stop training him to act so excited every time you come home! It’s unfair to expect him to act one way when you come home and another way when guests visit.
A dog’s concept of time
Ace had no idea I’d been gone for two weeks.
One of the reasons I’m able to leave my dog when I travel is because I know he has a great time when I’m gone. If he thought about me at all, he wasn’t thinking about why I left, and he definitely had no concept of how long I’d been gone. Instead, he was thinking about his food, his toys, smelling the Wisconsin breeze and following my mom’s dogs around. I’m convinced he did not think about me at all.
Dogs do not worry about the past or the future. They make the best out of their current situations. It’s the reason why dogs can adapt to new homes or life in a shelter.
Ace adapted just fine when I adopted him from his previous owner. I like to think there’s something special about me, but Ace would adapt just fine to a third or a fourth home. As far as Ace is concerned, anyone willing to throw a tennis ball could provide him a pretty good home.
My dog is mad at me for leaving
I do a lot of pet sitting in Solana Beach, and I also worked at a boarding kennel for years. Through these jobs I’ve dealt with dog owners of all kinds. Many dog owners don’t understand their dogs and want to believe their dogs are pining over them the whole time they’re gone.
The dogs I take care of are always, always having a great time without their owners. Most dogs are going to have a great time with someone willing to walk them, run them, play with them, pet them and feed them. It’s very basic.
Whenever Ace has stayed with anyone new or at a boarding kennel, he comes home exhausted from the extra mental and physical stimulation. He is somewhat introverted like me and needs to “recharge” after being around new people or new places. He will sleep for a good 36 hours when he comes home. The more tired he is, the more fun I know he had.
It’s as though Ace is thinking, “Well, there’s nothing going on here, time to catch up on some sleep.”
This lethargic behavior can cause dog owners to believe their dogs are holding grudges against them for leaving. This is not true at all. A dog is not capable of holding a grudge, because that would involve holding onto the past. If your dog is acting differently when you bring him home, it’s most likely because he’s tired.
I know that when my dog comes home from a pet sitter’s house or a kennel, he is just catching up on some well-needed rest. He is not sick or depressed, and he has no bad feelings towards me for leaving him.
I’m tired after a vacation or a day of hard work, and so is my dog. It’s as simple as that.
In what ways do you accidentally humanize your dog? How does your dog act when you come home?
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Tuesday 22nd of November 2016
I feel like I can't cope and it's damaging my relationship with my family. I had a little pug who my children & I adored. He was our first pet & was quickly part of the family. We got him when he was only a few months old and had him for about two years. My husband had to take a job abroad in a developing country. We had no choice but to join him. We didn't want to take our dog with us yet as we heard terrible horror stories regarding the safety of animals in middle eastern countries. The responsible thing to do was to leave him with a friend. I told this friend I would even pay her & she said no! I obviously left all his documents with her & have updated the vet on our situation but he's still registered to me as the owner. He was 100% housebroken & an amazingly loving creature. She doesn't believe in setting boundaries for animals (free spirit etc) and was telling me of his messing in the house & chewing furniture etc. I told her that he's testing your boundaries & you must enforce our rules (if you wanna call it that) for her sake & his! She didn't listen & kept having some problems. I kept offering to pay & give her money but she said no. I originally left her a few hundred pounds and also forced her to accept a bank transfer from me. Anyway a few months passed and I sent him a xmas card & she started hinting they want to keep him. I told her that it seems he'll be fine with us in this new country & it's our plan to collect him when we can. There are no dog parks here & it's hot BUT it's a dry heat (not humid at all) and only very hot in the day in June/July/August. I told her I couldn't just go to the uk to collect him as the kids have school and I have to figure out what he needs to get done etc in order to come here (he has an EU passport but that's not accepted here as it's not the EU) she tried to convince me I'm being selfish etc. that her kids, dog, cats & rabbits have all bonded with him & I should give him up. In short the answer was no! I told her I think it's best I just take the kids out of school & come to the uk to get him. She was lovely and understanding & said not to worry, she'd happily hold onto him until our situation is ready! Stupid me believed her! 2 months or so later I told her we'll be passing through the uk for a few days for a family wedding in Spain & I wanted to visit them all etc (I wanted to asses his happiness & their attachment) (in truth I was open to the possibility if we felt it was the right thing to do upon assessment) (we could always visit etc when we're there). We booked a crappy hotel 5 mins from her house just so we could be closer to them (rather than staying at my mums 20 mins away) she told me she was very sick & then only replied to my messages after we'd left for Spain (the wedding) I was upset but gave her the benefit of the doubt. I told her that in the summer my kids & I will be in the uk for a few months. We want to see him & chat and also catch up as "friends" our kids were also friends & I thought she was a real friend and I missed her. I txt her a week after we arrived. No reply. I waited to see if she'll reply but didn't. She had blocked me on fb, changed her number and email address!!! I plucked up the courage & went to her house 3 weeks later. I heard her talking to her new bf so I knew she was home! I rang the bell, no answer! Rang & waited 2-3 mins about 5 times, no answer! I broke down I started talking to her through the window. My dog heard me & was barking excitedly (I know his barks lol) no response from her! So I stood there balling whilst continuously ringing the bell & saying I know she's home etc & im not leaving! (I had left my kids with mum & went when hers were at school) she flung the door open screaming vulgarities at me in her nightdress!) Wouldn't allow me inside or to even view my dog through the locked glass porch door dividing us! I literally got on my knees & begged. She said no! She explained her illnesses & life events right now & I explained mine. She tried to insinuate that I even threatened to sell my dog!! WTF??? WHAT?! NEVER! The police etc is on my side but I'm back in the other country now & have no one to take him. She said she'll give him to me for 6.5k (another long story) (basically boarding costs etc). My husband thinks it's best for the dog to stay with her. She is an animal lover & he would be treated well. Here he won't have the same kind of park life etc! I tried to let go! It's been a year & im literally crying even writing this & cry EVERY SINGLE NIGHT since "the ordeal" in the summer! My heart physically hurts at all this and I don't know what to do! If I knew that was the last time I would've seen him we would've said goodbye properly! My soul hurts at this injustice! Do you think he thinks of us too? Does he think we don't love him & miss him? This is SO hard! I can't seem to get past it all!
Monday 22nd of August 2016
I became separated from my Italian Greyhound. It's been 11 days. I had him for 10 years. Does he sit around thinking about me, missing me, feeling sad, and abandoned? He is living with another lady who has 2 other Italian Greyhounds. She said on the phone that he is doing awesome and playing with the other dogs. But, what about when he is NOT playing or getting attention from the lady? Is he thinking about me, then?
Wednesday 17th of August 2016
I believe my dog missed me (us) after a one week vaca. He follows me everywhere and won't stay outside for a long time if I come in like he used too. I feel he thinks I'll leave him again.
Sunday 14th of August 2016
So, I usually don't write comments on these types of things, but I'm feeling a little desperate for some reassurance.
I had my boy, Cooper, since he was a tiny pup (8 or 12 weeks old, not sure). He's now 3. I recently decided to re-home him. I feel very guilty and am still very heartbroken over this whole situation. I graduated college and accepted a job that requires me to travel 80% of the year. When I travel, I work 13 hour shifts, 7 days a week, and stay in hotels. I tried bringing Cooper along for the ride one time. I hired a dog walker and did everything I could to try and tire him out before my shift. He ended up being so stressed out that he was ill with blood in his stool when we would go outside.
I decided that he deserves a more stable environment where he isn't as lonely. I loved this dog more than anything and it was, and still is, the hardest decision I've ever made in my life.
I found a great home for him, a couple that I really trust is giving him the love and attention that I did.
In summary, I have two stupid questions:
1. Do you think I was wrong to choose my job over my dog?
2. Do you think he's upset, sad, heartbroken, depressed, or anything of that sort because I'm not with him anymore?
Thank you for your time and your advice. This article really helped me cope with this.
Monday 15th of August 2016
Hi Molly. I'm so sorry you had to make this difficult choice but it sounds like you made the right one. I'm glad you found your dog a loving family and it sounds like they are a better match. In general, dogs are very capable of adapting to new homes which is why so many dogs are successfully adopted every day. Sure, you and your dog had a very special bond but that doesn't prevent him from bonding with a new family. Not that this makes it any easier for you. I'm sure it's been very difficult.
Wednesday 1st of June 2016
MY SWEET GIDGET WAS JUST STOLEN ON 5/28/16 AND MY MIND IS GOING NUTS WITH HORRIBLE THOUGHTS OF HOW SHE MIGHT BE BEING TREATED....NOW I'M WONDERING IF SHE IS ADAPTING TO THIS HOME THAT SHE MIGHT BE IN OR IS SHE WONDERING AND DEPRESSED ABOUT WHERE I AM AND WHY SHE IS NOT HOME..