Saying goodbye: Leaving pets for day can be hard

When you leave your dog behind, how do you tell him goodbye? And how does your dog react? Dogs have an astounding ability to read our emotions, even to the point of picking up on feelings that we may not yet be aware of.

When you leave your dog behind, how do you tell him goodbye? And how does your dog react? Dogs have an astounding ability to read our emotions, even to the point of picking up on feelings that we may not yet be aware of.

Each year I raise a puppy for Leader Dogs for the Blind. I know from the start that after 11 months with that puppy, I will be returning him to Detroit, Mich., to continue his career. So far, my family has returned 11 puppies to Leader Dogs. One of those pups, JD Hoot was a very independent dog. Hoot would happily walk off with anyone without a backward glance.

The other 10 pups were more attached. They had no idea what was in store for them when they reached their first birthday. Yet as their return dates approached, each of those pups became more attached to their primary caregiver, be it me or one of my daughters.

No, they didn't become neurotic or demonstrate classic separation anxiety behaviors. What the pups I raised did do was to keep closer tabs on me; be more attentive to where I was, what I was doing. There were a few more nuzzles, a paw on the arm more often (by Traeh and KD), just more contact initiated by the pup. They were picking up on emotions that I was not aware I was experiencing... yet.

Preparing your dog


Certainly most goodbyes are not permanent ones. Most all dog owners leave their dogs daily; to go to work, school, an overnight outing. These dogs are used to the routine goings and comings and have adjusted to the roll of "watching the home front" while their owners are away.

The exuberant greeting they give their owner upon return is a throwback to their wild ancestors and the greetings given to pack leaders returning from a hunt.

When you leave for work, you fully expect that you will be returning. Your dog senses that confidence and is relaxed. Leaving for a multi-day vacation can be another matter, dependant on your level of anticipation. Most dogs fully understand the impact of packing a suitcase. The lucky dogs get to go along on the trip; some stay home with a family member or caretaker, while others are boarded out. Whatever the arrangement, your emotions will set the tone for the parting.

Watching people drop their dogs off at the kennel for boarding has been quite an education. Some first time boarders are quite hesitant while others walk in confidently, seemingly up for the adventure. Dogs that have boarded, trained or done daycare with us previously are used to the routine and many owners tell us the dogs become excited when they recognize where they are going.

These are well-socialized dogs that look forward to interaction with their dog buddies and human friends at the kennel. They are also happy to see their owners return to pick them up. TV's Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan would refer to these as balanced dogs.

Sometimes the first timers need a bit more support from their human counterparts. Planning ahead and bringing the shy dog in for training classes or a few afternoons of daycare is an excellent means of making the kennel a fun place to be. A dog used to attending daycare comes to learn that the boss will be returning; and in the mean time, the daycare workers and other dogs provide a lot of fun interaction.

Preparing yourself

There is a wide range of emotional involvement between owners and their dogs. Owners who will pay to board their dog(s) for days or weeks obviously care and have the animal's comfort and safety at heart. The confident teams walk in, part with a pat on the head and a "See you when I get back, fella" and both sides of the team are fine.


Others request the opportunity to see their pet to his kennel, get them settled in with an "I'll be back" and are gone. These dogs also do fine.

The dogs that struggle are often pets of owners who themselves struggle with the separation. This is not unlike leaving a child on the first day of school. Just as the parent who makes a fuss over the separation makes it harder on the child, so does the dog owner who apologizes to the dog for leaving it behind and draws out the parting.

Most dogs adapt to the kennel routine within a day or so, particularly the dogs that enjoy the interactions in daycare or the dog parks.

At most kennels, patrons are welcome to call and receive updates on how their dogs are doing. This obviously is for the owner's benefit and I would encourage anyone with doubts to call and check up on their dog. Other owners make arrangements for a friend or family member to stop by and walk the dog during its kennel stay. Again, most kennels will oblige such requests if set up ahead of time.

When you return to pick up your dog, you will most likely be asked to settle any payment obligations first. This is not to prevent you from seeing your dog immediately. Dogs (especially first time boarders) become very excited when they realize the boss is back. Signing a check or credit card slip while being showered with doggy affection is not an easy task!

The kennel workers will do their best to control your dog, but may need a little help from you in requiring your exuberant canine to mind her manners during the greeting.

Easier with time

Short and long term separations from your canine will become less traumatic for you and your pet as time goes on. Don't worry about your pet forgetting you. I have had reunions with my Leader Dog puppies after one, two, three, and seven years of separation.


Every one remembered me and responded in ways unique to their individual personalities and habits. I also love to see some of the dogs I have gotten to train with at the kennel return. Their greetings are always so genuine.

Come to think of it, Willow is scheduled to be here for boarding today. I better go find her as my yellow Lab Ada is gone showing for the weekend and I'm a little short on Lab kisses!

Look for following articles on anxiety separation dogs, and saying the final goodbye.

Please send your comments to .

What To Read Next
Get Local