I Love You To Death; Why Over-Bonding Is Bad Even Dangerous For Your Dog
I get a lot of questions about dogs that are bonded to specifically one person in the house and no one else.
Whereas this kind of attitude is normal in cats (those crazy cats) it isn’t exactly normal or healthy for dogs.
Don’t get me wrong, most animals have a stronger bond with one person; for example in my family my girl, Fury is my competition dog so she has bonded most to me and my husband’s competition dog, Jovi, would choose him in a heartbeat… this is pretty normal.
What isn’t normal is if these dogs didn’t like or care about the other person in the house. For example when I come home all the dogs go nuts and are happy to see me and vice versa, and when I leave they all want to go with me… but they love their dad too!
They may occasionally look out the window for me, or my husband when he is gone, but it doesn’t affect their quality of life while I am gone. There is no screaming, whining, pacing, scratching, destruction or other serious signs of anxiety.
One of the Biggest Problems with Over Bonding?
People actually like a dog that pines for them when they leave. Somehow this adoration makes them feel special, and in some ways I understand that.
My old dog NIX was very much bonded to me and when he was younger wouldn’t eat when I wasn’t there; he wanted to wait for me.
It made me feel special, like I was loved and adored above anything or anyone else. I suppose we all like feeling that kind of extraordinary love.
But it becomes a problem when we recognize it and we feed it and encourage obsession and addiction. And for a great video series that shows you how to work on re-wiring your dog's brain and controlling their impulses, click here.
This can be especially likely with rescued dogs that go from an unstable environment into a home where they are loved, so precautions must be taken to love but not over love the dog.
Obsession and Addiction Are Never Good
This is also true when it comes to your pet.
Sure you want him to love you, but it crosses a line when he thinks he can’t survive without you.
As humans we have an ability to be more rational; we realize we can survive a few hours or even days without our dog and we get busy thinking about and dealing with life and our daily struggles but your dog doesn’t have this option.
If you feed his addiction you only set him up for failure and pain (and sometimes some very dangerous and expensive separation anxiety)!
The last thing you want is for your dog to have a panic attack and try to hurl himself out windows or chew your walls!
So How Do You Deal with an Already Over-Bonded Dog?
Start distancing yourself while you are with him.
I know this sounds terribly mean and difficult, but spending 20 hours a day spooning with your dog isn’t going to help him feel like he can live without you those other four hours!
I don’t want you to totally ignore him or be unkind to him, I recommend that you allow him to figure out he can survive on his own and enjoy his own independence.
Give him a big bone and let him chew it outside while you do some chores around the house, but don’t let him have that special treat when you are around; if he wants to chew it he has to fly solo for a while. This teaches him independence while you are still around (so he doesn’t have to panic that you left the premises) this teaches him with small steps.
You can still snuggle just a snuggle a little less!
If You Live in a Family
Let your family members take over the care of the dog.
If the dog doesn’t like your husband… let him be the one to feed the dog, play with the dog, and take him for walks and everything else that is fun.
In order for your dog to be comfortable when you are gone, he has to feel like his needs can be met by others in the family and learn to love them also.
Chances are he will never change favorites, he will just learn to love everyone else on a different level.
This would be like only having ONE friend or ONE person to talk to and no one else… if that person weren’t available to you, you might go a little crazy and you might be putting too many demands on that one person.
But when you have several friends you have more options and are usually happier without the jealousy and negative feelings that come with having to share just one friend.
As Hard As It Is….
Giving yourself and your dog a little bit of distance is in his and her best interests. It will help him or her to learn to love some independence and it keeps you from worrying when you have to leave.
It doesn’t mean that your dog doesn’t love you as much, or that you don’t love him; it simply means that you can have a healthier relationship!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.