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Dog Charmer by Tom Shelby: Dog is depressed over death of companion

Dog Charmer by Tom Shelby
Dog is depressed over death of companion

Dear Tom,

We have two goldens, Chloe, 6, and Bonnie, 14½. They have been together since Chloe was a puppy.
Sadly, Bonnie died suddenly this past Wednesday. Along with our anguish and moping about, Chloe seems to have picked it up also. She seems very flat.

Is this normal? Can you suggest anything we can do or just wait it out?

Appreciate your comments,


The Dog Charmer by Tom Shelby: How to help an anxious new puppy stay home by itself

The Dog Charmer
by Tom Shelby

How to help an
anxious new puppy
stay home by itself

Dear Tom,

She came to us at 12 weeks at the start of pandemic lockdown. Well, I know it’s my fault for taking her everywhere with me, for putting her in her crate at night and staying until she settles, etc.
With three adults in the household, she focuses on me ALL the time. If I go out without her, she’s a mess till I return.

How can I help her to stay alone for a few hours without losing her mind?

Sadie is an 18-month-old Havanese.

Marty DeLaney

Dear Marty,

You’re so right in referring to Sadie as a pandemic puppy!

You’re not alone. I was writing and telling people at the beginning of the pandemic, “Get out and get the puppy used to being alone.”

My guess is that 40 to 50% of the (hopefully) post-pandemic questions I’ve been getting have to do with separation anxiety.

The first thing I’d suggest is that you start making Sadie less dependent on you by asking the two other adults in the house to help. If they feed her for a couple of weeks instead of you, and take her out for occasional walks it will broaden her worldly view. You’ll always be her sun amongst many stars, but decreasing her neediness for you will make her more confident, which is exactly what you want, and a good start.

It would be great if the other two adults in the house called her from time to time and when she arrived, she got a treat. Sadie will appreciate it, too.

Henceforth, when you leave the house, de-emotionalize leaving and coming! If you appear
sorry to go or overly excited to return you’re emphasizing the separation.

Your goal is to make Sadie happy to see you go because that’s the only time she gets fantastic treats, like a hollow marrow bone with chicken or ham wedged in the middle of the bone. Remove it when you get home! The best toys only happen when you’re not home. Then there’s exercise.

I’ve been saying it for many years, “A tired dog is a well behaved dog.” In my book, “Dog Training Diaries,” aside from my crazy experiences and stories, the dos and don’ts of separation anxiety and aggression are given a great deal of attention.

Good luck,

The Dog Charmer

Cooperstown author Tom Shelby will be answering pet owners’ questions on training
their dogs. E-mail your questions to

Dog Charmer by Tom Shelby: Stories from a working dogs life

Dog Charmer by Tom Shelby
Stories from a working dogs life

My two working dogs were Michelle and Mike, both Dobermans. Michelle found two people alive and some not alive. Mike tracked a woman 11 miles. They were search and rescue dogs.

Readers, as you’re reading this you are dropping about 40 thousand dead skin cells a minute. You and I have about five million olfactory cells in our noses, Michelle had more than 200 million.

Dog Charmer by Tom Shelby: Owner worries because rescue dog does not play

Dog Charmer by Tom Shelby
Owner worries
because rescue dog does not play

Hi Tom,

I recently adopted a rescue dog who is very well behaved, affectionate, listens and responds well and has learned a few new tricks, but has two issues: she does not know how to play, and she wants to be outdoors all the time. If you try to play ball she will watch the ball go past her but not chase it. She doesn’t seem to know how to play with any toys. She never picks up a stick, never carries anything in her mouth, and won’t play tug or squeak her toys, although she uses one stuffed animal as a pillow in her bed.

At the dog park she loves to run with the other dogs but has no interest in retrieving whatever they are chasing. She loves to be outdoors but when she is inside she just lies on her bed looking sad or nudges us to go out for another walk.

How can I help her have more fun?

Dear Ellen,
Affectionate, well behaved, with no accidents ain’t bad when I consider that half of my 800 appointments a year were for real “problem” dogs. But I get where you’re coming from, Ellen. You’re obviously a dog lover and sensitive to your dog’s lack of enthusiasm for play in life.
She seems depressed and it’s depressing you.

Assuming that it’s not something medical, it seems clear that her perhaps deprived upbringing did not include any of the usual play antics of most dogs.

You haven’t said how long you’ve actually had him because I’ve seen adopted dogs take more than two months until they became comfortable and trusting enough to relax and “come out” and start being themselves with play. My own poodle, Paula Jean, hardly wagged her tail for two months after I adopted her at age two.

Tom Shelby,
The Dog Charmer
Cooperstown author answers pet owners questions on training their dogs. E-mail your questions to

So forget about the stick and the ball and try this. Let her know you have a treat size piece of meat in your hand and tell her to sit and stay. If necessary have someone hold her on a leash as you back up, acting a little silly to keep her attention. Then, with her seeing you do it, bend down and place the meat behind a chair leg, or whatever. Then go back to her and with great enthusiasm tell her “Go Find!” as you release her. If necessary, take her there on the leash, but don’t show her where it is, let her find it. She will.

With success building on success you’ll be able to tell her to stay, step into a nearby room, hide the little piece of meat, come back and tell her, “Go Find!” She’ll love the game.

I trained two of my dogs to find missing people, and when my kids were young and had friends over that was their favorite game. Hide and seek with the kids hiding and the dog seeking.

Ellen, very important, success building on success, with her finding the meat treat before she loses interest because it’s taking too long to find. Good luck and thank you for being an adopter.

Tom Shelby

Cooperstown author Tom Shelby will answer any pet owner’s questions on training dogs.
Email your questions to

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