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Monday, May 19, 2008

Stop That Howling!!

Dear Jan,
When I brought my dog Lakota to class the other night and left the other, Sakima, at home, he was not happy. My husband says Sakima howled the whole time Lakota was gone, so much that he thought the neighbors would complain. My husband even brought him into the house, and Sakima still howled until I got back home with Lakota. A few years ago he lost another dog-friend when she escaped the yard, ran down the street, and was shot by someone who mistook her for a coyote. How can I help him get past this loss?

Dear Barb,
Sakima and Lakota are obviously very bonded, but they are not inseparable. Dogs and other pack animals are required to adjust constantly to changing dynamics within their pack. Some breeds are more expressive (vocal) than others , and you tend to have a breed mix (husky/malamute/wolf mix) known to vocalize his emotions a lot.

Since dogs live in the present, he doesn't necessarily remember the loss of his former friend. But he's certainly capable of feeling loss, loneliness, abandonment and stress NOW, all of which could make him howl. When he howls, he is calling to her. He has no idea whether you and Lakota will EVER come back to him. To minimize his howling, you must minimize the stress he feels. Teach him that Lakota WILL always return to him.

Try this: Twice a day, take Lakota out of the yard, put her in your rig, and go for a ride, leaving Sakima to howl in the back yard. Your ride will be short...maybe one minute long! Then unload her and take her back into the yard as if nothing had happened. Later in the day, do the same thing again--take Lakota out, load her up, and go for a five-minute ride. Return her to the back yard as if nothing happened. If you have time, do a third "out and back" ride. Leave Sakima and return to him in a calm state, as if these comings and goings were perfectly normal.

Gradually Sakima will learn that whenever Lakota leaves, she always comes back. As he becomes more trusting of this fact, he'll diminish his howling.

Another suggestion: have your husband take Sakima for his own special leash-walk while Lakota is off at doggy school with you. The time will fly, and Sakima will be too busy to think about his missing friend.

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