Almost right away after we got him, Giles had separation anxiety. He hated whenever we went out without Dog. I think it just takes a lot of time before the new dog becomes secure and understands that Mom and Dad will come back and haven’t abandoned him.
Dogs with separation anxiety usually show displacement behaviors like self-mutilation, ceaseless barking or chewing on things. And sometimes chewing on things so aggressively that they destroy the house. Giles almost never barks and he doesn’t bite himself or pull out his fur, but when he’s upset he chews on everything and anything. But only when we’re not around to stop him.
He’s getting much better, though. Below is a picture from a few months ago of what we came home to when Giles had a Horrible Awful. It’s an interesting picture. He went for my US presidents book and there’s a sad page of mutilated Eleanor Roosevelt in the foreground.
Also a sad Herbert Hoover in the background:
That sort of thing doesn’t happen anymore. We have a huge collection of toys that we rotate so he doesn’t get tired of them, and we give him disgusting frozen Kong balls full of frozen canned dog food when we leave for work in the morning. He only gets those when we go out, so that he has something to look forward to when we’re not around. Plus since it’s frozen it takes him awhile to eat it. By the time he’s done eating it, he’s forgotten that he was upset at us leaving. Also, we yell at him and tell him he’s a Bad Dog when we come home and find something chewed. Every dog-book over the history of time says not to do that, but well….it’s actually worked for us. I know we’re the worst Dog Parents on the face of the earth for doing this, but it’s really, really worked. What can I say? After we tell him not to chew on a particular item, he doesn’t chew on it again.
These days he’s just fine with us leaving for work in the morning. That’s ok because it’s part of the routine. He’s okay with routines. What he hates is when we do things off-schedule and unpredictably, like going out at night, particularly when we go out on a weeknight.
Last night we went out and I had a feeling he was more unhappy about it than usual. He looked crestfallen when we were preparing to leave, started whining and following me around, not letting me out of his sight. We confined him to the kitchen just to be safe.
When we got back I had a feeling that he had probably destroyed something. There was something out of place, just as I’d predicted. But nothing was chewed on. What Giles had done was to go into the pantry and fish out a single-serving bag of chips. Then he delicately deposited the chips on his dog bed, but did not rip the bag open or chew on it. Then he had gone back and done that five more times. When he came home we found Giles sitting on his bed with six unmolested bags of chips, wagging his tail.
As much as we know about dogs, I don’t think humans can understand the unfathomable dog psychology that compelled Giles to hoard potato chips in order to ease the anxiety over us leaving. I guess humans do things that are just as weird and senseless when they’re upset, too. Jon usually stacks up dozens of soda cans into several little castles when I leave the house without him. After Jon and I have a fight, I usually end up carving all the cheese into animal shapes.
I definitely prefer Giles’s chip-hoarding habit to his former habit of destroying objects around the house, though.