Wu: This is not my experience. So I have three cats because I’m crazy. Two of them are very close to me. As if I am actively worried about what will happen if my partner and I leave, as if they are crawling on my lap, they will pat me on the back and ask me to pick them up.
Higgins: How do they talk to you I am, they are all giant cats and they walk on their hind legs.
Wu: I said cats, but I meant jaguars.
Higgins: Wow, that’s cool.
Wu: No, they are full-size cats and they stand behind me on the couch, or if I adopt bad work habits and lie down while working, they come behind me and grab my shoulder.
Wu: Oh, they say stop sitting inside
Higgins: Yes, but did you, what did you learn? [Sarah]? I mean Jim, you probably have more questions because you’re concerned about Moses cats.
Hamblin: For me, cats are fickle and sometimes want things that you don’t always know. But the puppies just wear everything on their sleeves. And Moses, he’s following me into the bathroom. He can’t be alone at all if I’m worried about not being with him all the time. So you wrote an excellent story about it. And I wonder what to do to dissuade my one year old pup from needing my presence all the time.
Zhang: Well you are not alone. Literally. I’ve spoken to many dog owners who are in the same boat. And you know, a trainer I spoke to said she had never spoken to anyone in her life who had literally never left their pet until this pandemic. And by never she meant not even picking up the mail, taking out the rubbish, or getting groceries. The dog is literally by your side, looking at you all the time. There are dogs with real separation anxiety that you can’t leave them for even a second before they start howling. And I talked to a woman who had a dog that, you know, was walking and heard it barking and howling from a block away.
And so she literally had to go through this training that she wouldn’t even leave him at first. She would just do the things you would do before you walked out the door. So she took her keys and put them down and put on her coat, put them down.
And because this is COVID, she would put her mask on and take it off until he got used to it and stopped responding. And then it was literally like walking for a few seconds, a minute, a few seconds, a minute. And she said literally five minutes was like we were having a party here. She lives in Oregon. So she works in her garage for minutes or hours in the cold while her dog gets used to this new work-apart reality.
Hamblin: Caught. So you get the dog used to it, train them in small increments so they aren’t dramatic.
Zhang: Yes exactly. And I think one thing that I thought was really interesting is that apparently dogs are smart enough to realize that you’re leaving them for ever longer periods of time and they fear it will get longer and longer. What you actually [should] doing is to do longer and then shorter and then longer and then shorter so that they don’t feel like they are predicting what you are going to do.
Hamblin: Yeah, that makes total sense. This is really helpful.
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