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I mind a gorgeous greyhound once or twice a week. Sweetest, gentlest dog ever but after a couple of hours, just becomes inconsolable - whining, howling, waiting by the door for his owner to come back.

I find that he has no interest whatsoever in play or toys. He just sort of looks at them then walks away. I talked to his owner and she agreed, he's never been interested in them.

The only things that temporarily cheer him up are treats and lots of petting, so I do that but I worry that I'm just reinforcing the anxiety. His owner really has no advice other than to say I can call her to come and get him if I need to. If possible, I'd rather figure out a way to cheer him up though.

So to summarise, things I've tried are offering him toys and trying to engage him in play; trying to take his mind off it by doing basic commands with him; and finally give up and give him treats or rubs. He just looks at me like I have two heads. His owner says I don't need to walk him because she walks him before dropping him to me and after picking him up about 4/5 hours later (he's free to come and go in my back garden as he pleases when he needs to piddle).

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If he's not interested in toys (some dogs just are like that) I propose engaging his nose instead. Treats with a strong scent (like cheese, sausage or fish) can easily distract a dog and redirect their mind.

You could, for example, play a version of the hat game / shell game with him. Put 3 desert bowls upside down on the floor, then make him sit and wait. Place a small piece of cheese under one bowl, but act as if you place one under every bowl. Then call him to you and let him find the treat. You can read more about this and other games in Alternatives to walking a dog

If he doesn't want to play this game, lower your expectations. It would already improve his situation if he wouldn't wait by the door. Lure him with the scent of a treat to a more relaxed place like your couch or his dog bed. Once you arrived there, give him the treat. Easy as that. He gets a reward for not being anxiously waiting at the door. If he returns to the door right away, give him a few minutes and then repeat the process.


What you should avoid doing is pitying him. That often just confirms dogs in their anxious behavior and can even increase the anxiety.

If he comes to you to get a belly rub, rub his belly. If not, don't insist on petting and touching him all the time. Just sitting quietly next to you on the couch would be an improvement, but constant talking and touching could lead to him actively avoiding this relaxing place simply because he doesn't want to be touched when he's anxious.

And that's a huge difference between dogs and humans: many humans crave a hug and some encouraging words when they're anxious. Dogs don't. They crave someone who sits by their side, keeps an eye on the situation and is ready to act if necessary. They tend to avoid touch when they're anxious and talking at them could even confirm to them that the situation is indeed something to be anxious about.

If you want to signal to him that you have everything under control and there's no reason to be anxious, take a deep breath through your nose and then exhale an audible sigh through your nose. You might have noticed a dog sighing that way when they're comfortable and relaxed. It's not just a thing they do for themselves, it's actually a form of communication saying "no danger around, let's relax."

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  • This is great, thanks a million! Yes, I've noticed he does that sigh in his calmer times, I'll try to do the same to him to communicate. And I'm probably being too touchy-feely when he's upset. I'll work on these suggestions, thanks again
    – Meelah
    Jun 13, 2021 at 6:49

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