Breaking up with a spouse or loved one is one of the most stressful life events, as outlined in the Holmes Rahe Stress inventory, but as you heal and find meaning in life once again, you may not imagine that your dog might be having a hard time too. The truth is that what makes up a dog’s life – including walks, food and love – may have been (to some extent) provided by your ex. If you have custody of your dog, this means that you will be the sole provider of all these things, and getting him used to these changes may take a little time.
Does Your Dog Miss Your Ex?
Dogs do not understand the concept of a breakup in the same way that human beings do. Thus, while Fido may notice your ex is not around for a few days, he probably will never fully realize that this person will never again walk through the door. On the other hand, he will probably perceive your stress and anxiety if these emotions exist. One study by researchers in Sweden, for instance, found that “If the owner is stressed, then the dog is also likely to mirror that stress.” They found this by taking hair samples from dogs and their owners to test for amounts of the stress hormone, cortisol. Therefore, reducing your own stress is the first step in smoothing the transition for your pooch.
You may be aware that you are more anxious or upset, but you should also watch out for more subtle signs that you are stressed. If you constantly dream about your former lover, it could be a sign that you lack closure or that you are disappointed about your current reality. Taking proactive steps to address your source of stress is important. You may decide that therapy can help clarify your new life path, or you might decide to opt for coaching instead. You could also decide to deal with the pain of missing your ex by embracing mindfulness-based activities like yoga and meditation. Not only are these methods powerful antidotes to stress, anxiety and depression, but they also keep your mind ‘in the here and now’, away from past regrets or worries about the future.
Keeping To Your Dog’s Routine
A dog may not grasp the sense of loss when an ex is no longer present, but he will strongly feel changes to his routine – which is why ensuring his life changes as little as possible is vital during this time of change. If, for instance, your ex used to take your dog for a run every afternoon, try to keep up this exercise routine. If you cannot make it at the same time, try to get as close to it as possible so your dog does not feel anxious. Be assiduous with feeding times, play time, pampering, massages, and other parts of your dog’s routine. If you are absent from home for many hours, consider a dog nanny or dog walker to keep Fido mentally and physically active throughout the day.
Protecting Fido From Conflictive Situations
If you are still in touch with your ex for reasons such as finalizing legal or economic matters, try to meet in a neutral zone, preferably not your home, if things tend to heat up during these discussions. Your dog could react with negative behaviors if he hears shouting, perceives tension, or is exposed to shouting and loud noise. Dogs are sensitive to their humans’ emotions, and they will undoubtedly snuggle up to you if they notice you are upset. However, sadness is not the same as shouting or tension, and your dog will rise to the challenge of consoling you and accompanying you on days when you are feeling blue.
Dogs love and bond with their humans, but when a breakup occurs, they do not react the same as we do: they lack a sense of the finality and permanence of a person’s disappearance. Make the transition easy on your pooch by sticking to routine and avoiding arguments in his presence. Finally, enable your dog to show you his support, and know that as you begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel, your dog will react cheerfully and positively, behaving like a puppy that has just been taken to his favorite park for a walk or run.
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