My Dog Would Rather Spend Time at My Neighbor’s House. What Should I Do?

QUESTION:

Hello Don. I have used your training program and it works wonderfully well. But my question has to do with why my 3-year-old Lab Shepherd mix has, in the last few weeks, chosen a neighbor to live with.

Henry was a dog that ran the streets and was starving. He had no boundaries and would jump on people and over fences, plus go through fences. I rescued my Henry and used your program. Now he’s actually the perfect dog! But here’s the problem…

In April I was diagnosed with cancer and have gone through chemo and radiation. Although I’m finished with those treatments, my Henry has pulled away from me and would rather not be with me. I don’t have the strength to go for walks or play with him anymore. He has chosen the home of his best friend, Buddy (a dog), and Buddy’s owner (who is an older man). The only way I can get Henry to come home is when I see him outside and go right over to him. At that point he will follow my command to follow me home, but I have to get in reach of him so he knows I can physically correct his direction.

I’m at an impasse as to what is best for Henry. Should I give him up to the older man, or make him stay home (which would mean putting him on a cable when he’s outside)? I just want Henry to be happy. Do you have any insight into this problem? In my whole life I have never had a dog abandon me. Thank you Don.

 

ANSWER:

Hi Belinda. I’m very sad to read your story. It must be heartbreaking for you to lose the heart of a four-legged loved one during such difficult times. But, please rest assured that it’s Buddy the neighbor dog that has been the draw card for Henry. Dogs are pack animals after all, and in your semi-absence Henry has simply gravitated to social contact with what he is most familiar – another canine. Either your dog Henry felt compelled to become a leader over Buddy and maintain that pack relationship, or Henry was drawn to the comforting wing of Buddy’s leadership. Either way, there has been a relationship between the two of them that has been established that is mutually beneficial.

If Buddy’s owner is more than happy to take on the responsibility of Henry as well as his own dog, then I would not try to re-establish Henry in your home. It would certainly be unfair and even inhumane to contain Henry within your home/yard using restraints when Henry’s heart is desiring to be with his pack friend that is only feet away from him. Perhaps you could offer Buddy’s owner some help with taking care of Henry e.g. offer a bag of dog food now and then, etc. And perhaps, for your own benefit, you could ask your neighbor to agree to you coming over to spend some time with both Henry and Buddy. That way, you won’t be completely withdrawing yourself from Henry’s life.

It’ll be much easier for you to make the commitment to leave Henry with your neighbor if you know you can have some fun and loving time with both dogs whenever you feel the need. (And Henry will simply enjoy the extra attention without feeling pressured to take his new relationship with you any further.) I don’t believe this new “visitor” relationship with you will cause any problems between you and Henry. He will simply view you as a pack member that comes and goes. He will still maintain a subordinate position with you as long as you keep dealing with him according to my Perfect Dog training, but he won’t view you as his ultimate leader anymore.

I would hope that Buddy’s owner would be willing to familiarize himself with my training techniques so that he can continue things where you left off. That way, Henry will remain the “perfect dog” that you helped him transform into, and your neighbor will be able to have the kind of amazing life with Henry that you first set yourself up to have with him.

I hope all of this comforts and reassures you.

– Don Sullivan, “The DogFather”

 

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