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Ask the Veterinarian/Dog separation angst


QUESTION: So I need some advice about this situation. My aunt died recently. She and her husband had 3 dogs together. The oldest is around 14 yrs old, than another around 10yrs old and the last is around 5yrs old. The dogs have been together for a long time, but; After she died, my uncle decided to give away the two youngest dogs and keep the oldest (mainly bc he felt the eldest was too old to find a new home). They are very sweet dogs who have spent a great amount of time together. They have had to deal with the lost of my aunt and now my uncle. I feel bad for the two dogs to be separated since they haven't been apart most of their lives. However, while they are used to being around each other they frequently push over each other for attention. If one dog is getting petted or their name called, the others come running for affection. With this in mind, I wonder if this is the behavior of dogs starved for one on one attention? If so, I wonder if it would be better for them to be separated so they can be only dogs and not have to share attention. However, they frequently sit on each other or sleep together so I know they are attached. However, they don't play with each other much anymore, more like parellel play. It would be easier for them to go to separate homes but I'm afraid they would miss each other greatly. Any advice?

ANSWER: The behavior you are describing is perfectly normal for all dogs. It's just the way they are. I wouldn't separate these two since they do rely on each other for comfort and have been together 5 years. Dogs do mourn the loss of their owners and each other.

So please tell whomever has these two to keep them together if at all possible.
But what they are doing with being petted etc. is quite normal and harmless. It is not a sign of a dog being starved for one on one attention.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I've heard different opinions about this: is it harmful for them to visit the 3rd dog that got left behind or should they make a clean break? Also, when boarding, it's easier to find folks (friends, fam) who will take one of the dogs. Would boarding them separately be a bad thing or a welcome temporary change. Both places they would go do would suit their particular personalities. Thanks.

Dogs are pack animals, much like their ancestors, wolves. They do better when with their pack mates. We become their pack leaders when they have no other dogs in the house.
So saying this "Would boarding them separately be a bad thing or a welcome temporary change." doesn't work in a dog's mind. To them being separated from a litter mate or house mate is a very stressful situation. There is no "welcome change."

Now if they have to be separated permanently they WILL adjust, but it takes time. Taking them back and forth just slows that process down. Yes, they DO love to see and play with their past housemates but only after they have settled into their new environment and feel secure there.

If you have to split them up then do it and let there be no second guessing. It's just too stressful for them. Let them all settle down THEN let them all visit.  

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Jana Connell RVT, CVT


PLEASE READ BEFORE SUBMITTING TO ME: I am NOT a vet and do NOT diagnose diseases. That is only for a licensed Veterinarian to do. I will give you suggestions and steer you toward calling your vet for help. You can call the vet's office and talk to the technician there or the vet at times. Don't be afraid to call them! If you have a serious issue with your pet please post it to one of the veterinarians in here- I will tell you the same thing in my answer. IF your pet is injured or in an emergency situation, CALL YOUR VET- Do not wait and post in here. Just call the vet's office and get them in to see the vet right away. Critical treatment time is lost if you seek answers here when you should have your precious pet at the vets!! Don't sit at home waiting for an answer when your pet is critically ill or injured!! I can answer most questions about small animal and wildlife care as well as small animal nutrition. I can also answer questions about all phases of dental care for small animals. I DO NOT answer questions about birds (unless it is wildlife or songbirds) or HAMSTERS/GERBILS/CHINS/GUINEA PIGS/REPTILES/FROGS/RABBITS/PET BIRDS OF ANY KIND so please submit these questions to the appropriate sections. I, as well as other experts in here, do NOT do homework questions- that is for YOU to do! Please respect these rules for all of us. Thanks!


I have over 42 years experience in the field of veterinary medicine. I specialized in small animals and did wildlife rehab for over 25 years, mostly raptors, squirrels and opossums. I am a Small Animal Nutritional Consultant with 6 certificates from Hills Pet Foods, CNM and Purina. I also specialized in Small Animal Dentistry which is a field I truly love. I also Teach Veterinary Technology to working technicians who are studying to take their California Tests to become Licensed Technicians. They have to take both the VTNE (Veterinary Technician National Exam) and the California boards.

Audubon,World Wildlife Federation, American Society of Veterinary Dental Technicians.


Licensed with California and Oregon, RVT and CVT. Certified Veterinary Dental Technician Have over 1500 logged hours of Continuing Education Credits(that means I keep up to date!).

Awards and Honors
Nominated for Expert of the Month for the last 5 years.

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