Ask a vet: Why is my dog so attached to me?

Dr. Marie McKibbin of Owen Sound Veterinary Clinic helps a reader determine why her dog is so attached to her.

Why is my dog so attached to me?
Q: Our 13-year-old dog has formed such a strong bond with me that I joke about "my stalker." If I'm away, even if everyone else is home, he starts having diarrhea. Is there any medication that would help his nerves when I'm gone for four or five days?
Kristi Robinson, Bedford, N.S.

A: Your stalker has formed a hyperattachment to you. Like most behavioural problems, this occurs when pet owners unwittingly encourage attention-seeking behaviour. It's easy to do. When a  dog is lying quietly in another room, do we reward that behaviour? No. Conversely, do we ignore a dog that  is dancing around our feet, being a nuisance? No. Bingo!

You're going to need the help of  a veterinary behaviour specialist to retrain your pet. There are several steps, including providing a safe place for your dog to be left alone, rewarding calm behaviour and ignoring demanding behaviour, practising departures, and keeping arrivals and departures low-key. Though not a cure, anti-anxiety medications may help your dog during training.

The good news? With their owners' diligence, most dogs can learn to wait contentedly for their loved ones' return.

Read more:

The true cost of owning a pet
Are you ready for a pet?
Quiz: What kind of pet owner are you?

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