Is My Dog Just Being Bad…or Is It “Re-Entry”
Do dogs suffer from re-entry issues after having been separated from their owners or been boarded? I have been pondering this question recently due to several calls and interesting conversations with clients recently regarding their dog’s behavior after coming home from a trip.
One such conversation took place with a client whose rescue dog had been boarded for a week. The owners have had this dog for about six months and have spent several months really improving their relationship with the dog. Things had been progressing, the dog had better connected with the owners and was becoming a lovely family companion. When the owner called me, she explained that recently despite all the recall work they had done with the dog that there had been an incident where the dog got out of the car off leash and decided to run all over an empty parking lot despite the owner’s attempts to call him back. Then there was also the strange eating behavior at home. The dog normally ate his food in the kitchen by himself, but that week he had been grabbing a piece of food from the bowl, running with it into the family room where the owners were sitting, would eat it in their presence and then run back to the bowl to get another piece before performing the ritual all over again. There had also been a few potty accidents in the house that week.
The owner was obviously distraught and could not understand why the dog was exhibiting such “abnormal” behavior. They were at their wits end. She then asked if I thought that being boarded was making the dog worse. Now the important factor here was “where” this dog was boarded! This colleague of mine who boarded this particular dog basically runs a Sandals resort for dogs out of her home. Picture half day long frolics in a meadow, followed by a swim in the creek, homemade cooked highly nutritious meals and massages before bedtime……complete with sofas and bedding and more!
I explained to this owner that her dog had basically been on the equivalent of a week-long trip to Hawaii while they were away! He was now back at home in the “real world” and though it was his normal environment and routine, I believe there is always a “re-entry” process of some sort. I liken it to when my husband goes away on a week-long business trip. It takes about a week after he gets home to get back into the swing of things and re-acclimate to the routine. It is also not just a re-entry process for him, but also for me and my son! We are lucky if we survive that re-entry week which is sometimes full of tension as we ease our way back into life’s routines.
So what should you do to help your dog get back into the swing of things? First, don’t assume it is just “bad behavior” for the sake of it or that your dog is mad at you for being away. Second, set some realistic expectations that the first week back together may be a bit “off” and afford your dog some extra patience as you help them re-acclimate to their environment and routine. Lastly, if your dog’s unusual behavior lasts for more than a week or so, contact a professional trainer to explore other possibilities of what the underlining issues may be.
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