Don't get divorced - think of the dogs
Sunday 29 June 1997
The soaring divorce rate has led to a rise in the number of dogs and cats experiencing distress at the ending of a marriage. Dogs can become so upset that they wet their baskets and constantly beg for food.
David Appleby, a pet behaviour counsellor and practice representative of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC) says that a household riven by rows or a separation can lead a dog to demonstrate defensive behaviour, lethargy and in extreme cases self-mutilation.
"If the individual that the dog perceives to be the highest ranking person in the home leaves, then the dog may start to climb the social ladder of the pack. This can lead to behavioural problems especially if the owner that stays with the dog does not assert his or herself."
Jeri Omlobs, a psychiatrist in Cornwall and a member of APBC, has treated several cases in which dogs have suffered from stress due to their owners' separation and the disruption of their home life.
"Often the dog is just psychologically incompetent because people haven't trained them properly to be dogs on their own," she says. Ms Omlobs advises owners to maintain their regular routine whenever possible and not to use the dog as a pawn in the separation. "But it is still best sometimes to send the dog to a new home altogether."
The charity, Hearing Dogs for the Deaf, often takes in dogs which have lost their homes because of divorce and retrains them as guide dogs.
Most behaviourists believe that cats are less likely to suffer from stress during a divorce because they are more independent than dogs. But even cats can be traumatised.
"I have treated hundreds of cases of distressed pets over the last 36 years, very few of whom have been cats," says Dr Dennis Fetko, from San Diego. "Dogs are traumatised because they rely more heavily on the pack than cats do. They can also smell the departed family member, and see visual associations, such as a chair, but not the person. This leads to confusion and anxiety."
Peter Neville, a London vet,treats distressed dogs by trying to rebuild their confidence so they no longer rely on their owners as "an emotional crutch".
Mr Neville, who gives advice in divorce courts about the suitability of the owners for custody of their pets, recalls one such case in Cambridgeshire: "In the end we decided that the man should get custody, as he worked from home and could spend more time with the cat."
- 1 Finland schools: Subjects scrapped and replaced with 'topics' as country reforms its education system
- 2 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 3 Watch: Man takes selfie every mile of 2,600 mile hike, creates amazing timelapse video
- 4 The day I starred in Only Fools and Horses
- 5 Scientists have discovered a simple way to cook rice that dramatically cuts the calories
Germanwings plane crash: Andreas Lubitz 'had eyesight problems' and woke from nightmares 'screaming we’re going down'
Saudi Arabia says it won't rule out building nuclear weapons
The battle for the Middle East's future begins in Yemen as Saudi Arabia jumps into the abyss
Jeremy Clarkson 'could be given minder' ahead of a potential Top Gear return
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Revealed: Putin's army of pro-Kremlin bloggers
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
Germanwings plane crash: Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz wanted to 'do something people would remember him for'
£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...
£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...
£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...