My friends have a ~5 year old beagle/basset mix, who was a "rescue" some years ago. He's very intelligent and pretty well trained.

Unexpectedly, they'll be in the hospital for a couple days so I am going over to check on the dog a couple times a day. The dog knows me, I've cared for him before.

By the time I heard they would be gone and made it to the house, the dog was a few hours off his usual schedule and very upset. He had also urinated and defecated in the house, which is fine for me but it was clear that he was upset about it. I fed/watered him the usual, gave him a treat, tried to comfort him. He knows something is up because his owners aren't home and have been gone for a day, but I'm worried he thinks it's some kind of punishment for having an accident on the floor. Whereas he usually is very energetic and constantly wagging his tail, his tail is locked forward as if we're hunting. He's also been so anxious that he's been shaking in his legs.

I took him for a nice walk down his usual street to his favorite park. Where he normally is excited and sniffs everything, there was a lot less of that this time. Perhaps I'm personifying, but it also seemed like he was looking for his owners, and thought that's what we were doing on this walk. He's normally happy to go home after this walk, but this time he seemed to want to continue, going down streets that we don't normally go down.

Finally, when I left the house, he just buried his head down and stared. Normally, he'd run and follow me all the way to the door, tail wagging the whole time.

What can I do for him? His owners will be home by the end of the week. If I can at lest find a way to make him not think he's being punished, I'd like to do that.


1 Answer 1


Pets can develop very strong emotional bonds with their masters / owners.

There are several stories worldwide (usually about dogs, go figure!) that the dogs went into apathy at the death of their masters and died of sorrow. They spent the rest of their lives either at the place of the death of their masters (e.g., car accident), or at their grave (e.g., fallen soldiers). Although the community usually made efforts to comfort those pets, nothing worked.

Of course, your situation is not at all that extreme, the way you present it. So, as long as the dog does not fall into dangerous apathy (stop eating, drinking, moving), there is no much reason for worry. When the owners will return home, he will quickly recover.

You already stated that you try to follow his normal routine, as much as possible. I think that is the best thing to do.

With the current technologies, you might want to experiment with:

  • allow the dog to connect with the owners through a smartphone / tablet;
  • play a video recording of his owners, for the dog to see / hear them.

Additionally, if the context allows, take the dog near the hospital, where the owners can spend some time with him.

a way to make him not think he's being punished

I think he does not feel punished. Just sad. The same as you felt as a child, when one of your parents went to some (e.g.) extended business trip. Or when your children go to a summer camp.

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