For many dogs, separation anxiety has a hereditary basis but changes in their environment often worsen the problem. It turned out that Newt had been adopted from a shelter, followed by a few moves with his new family. Videos of him home alone showed him not barking or vandalizing but quietly pacing, nonstop – except for the occasional indoor restroom break.
There was no changing Newt’s genome or his life story but we could reduce his anxiety triggers. That confident visiting cat, who routinely scared the daylights out of this nervous little dog, needed to snack at someone else’s cafe. Sadly, it wasn’t that simple.
When I flatly stated that this interloper had to go, the sour looks on Anna’s and Tom’s faces made it clear that this was not some annoying stray; they regarded him as one of their own. I would have felt the same in their shoes but I had to try. Newt’s ability to see his nemesis could be diminished so I advised his people to install frosted window film on the lower portions of their glass door. I also urged them to move this fuzzy freeloader’s feeding station to a neighbor’s yard, maybe someone whose political signs offended them. I was only kidding; cats just don’t care. (I wanna be more cat-like.)
Surveillance video now showed Newt more relaxed and not urine soiling – as much. Tom and Anna admitted that their feline soup kitchen was still open. The word was out. More homeless cats were dropping by.
Newt improved in other ways. I explained that, despite his undying love and trust, being reached for and leaned over triggered panic. Warning them away with a growl or a snap was a defensive reaction. I encouraged them to give this pupster a better alternative by squatting at a distance and luring with him food. Never feeling trapped, the little guy happily approached to snag the biscuit and enjoy gentle petting. If those stray cats could just catch on to healthy canine leadership all would be well in Newt’s world.
⋄ For help with behavior problems, you can sign up for a Zoom Group Conference on my website, drjeffnichol.com.
Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in person and in groups by Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Post pet behavioral or physical questions on facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by mail to 4000 Montgomery NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109.