When a dog loves its owner too much

It’s A Vet’s Life by Vetsavers of St Thomas’ Road, Spalding

Recently I went away for a short break with my terrier Murphy to a dog-friendly hotel.

The room next door was also occupied with two small dogs and every time they were left in the room at meal times (despite the hotel offering dog-friendly eating areas) they cried, howled and barked the entire time they were apart from their owners.

This is not healthy!

To have a strong bond with your dog is a lovely feeling – they give you unconditional and unlimited loyalty and love.

So why are some dogs like this and some standoffish – and, we must ask, is it always healthy for the

dog to form such a bond?

There can be downsides for a dog that simply loves its owner too much – such as the stress and mental devastation the dog can experience when separated from you.

Breed characteristics can influence this as well, but the most important thing to do is to identify the more needy tendencies in the early stages so that you can prevent these intensifying.

The biggest downside to the more intense emotional over dependence in dogs is separation anxiety and/or distress. It isn’t the mental trauma the dog is suffering which is the problem for owners, it’s the ways in

which this is displayed – such as fouling and urinating in the house, destructive behaviour or persistent barking that becomes a nuisance to neighbours.

But we must ask ourselves, have we contributed to this problem by making our dogs overly dependant on us?

Research shows that if you want your dog react less negatively when you leave them this has to come from you.

You have to teach the dog to be less needy through the early stages of their life and if you have rescued a dog this task will be even harder as their experience of life so far may have been that they were left for very long periods fearing that their owner may not be coming back at all.

Many rescue dogs are in this situation in the first place because they were classic overdependers.

As such, when welcomed into your home they crave this more and more and so when left alone – which has to happen in real life for periods of time – dread losing the attention again.

There is no quick fix to separation anxiety – time and training are the main two points. If this story describes your situation and you don’t feel you are moving forward in changing the behaviour of your dog, professional behaviourists are out there. But in next week’s column we will cover tips on how to help an over needy dog yourself.