This desperate pet mom made a body double for her anxious dog – and it's a howling success

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Debbie Morley would do anything to keep her four fur-babies happy. (PHOTO: Facebook/debbie.morley)
Debbie Morley would do anything to keep her four fur-babies happy. (PHOTO: Facebook/debbie.morley)

When Debbie Morley left for work every day, she had no idea her dog was suffering.

Although she left the dog in the company of three furry friends during the day, Shannow still felt the weight of her owner’s absence.

“My neighbour told me there's been a lot of howling so I got a camera. Shannow didn't sleep all day,” she says.

Debbie, who lives in the US, discovered Shannow howled almost non-stop for eight hours. Her cries set off two of the other dogs, who joined in the cacophony of noise.

Desperate for a solution to soothe Shannow and restore peace with her neighbours, Debbie built a body double for her dog.

“I made a dummy me out of old clothes as a friend for when I'm out,” she shared on Facebook.

“This morning, after I walked the dogs I rubbed my sweaty hoodie on it, gave it a squirt of my regular perfume, positioned it on the sofa in my lazy TV-watching-and-snoozing pose and left.”

Pets, dogs, anxiety, health, Debbie Morley
Shannow snuggled up to dummy Debbie while the real Debbie was at work. (PHOTO: Facebook/debbie.morley)

READ MORE | This is how long you can leave your doggy dearest home alone

Dummy Debbie turned out to be hit as Shannow howled for less that five minutes before falling asleep. “She woke up when the neighbours' children went to school an hour later and had another little howl," Debbie says.

"After that Shannow snuggled up with the fake me all day and slept mostly. No signs of anxiety and all the others have done the same." 

Fellow pet owners were dazzled with Debbie’s idea.

“I'm so impressed and will try this with my old lab who has outlived his sister and cat friend. I’ve known people who have resorted to medication in instances similar to yours. This is so smart and simple. Thank you for sharing,” one social media commented.

“Omg why has no one thought of this before! How brilliant you are,” another said.

As pet owners go back to work, the number of dogs suffering separation anxiety has increased, experts say.

READ MORE | Meet the world’s oldest dog and the secret behind his record-breaking 21 years of life

Pets, dogs, anxiety, health, Debbie Morley
Shannow's siblings have also taken a liking to the dummy Debbie made. (PHOTO: Facebook/debbie.morley)

Animal welfare group Four Paws South Africa offers some tips if you're struggling with the same issue.

Gradual training As with training puppies, you can get an adult dog used to being alone again by leaving the house for just a few minutes, extending it to 15 minutes, then half an hour, slowly increasing each time. Gradually your pet will learn to trust that you will return home.

Allow breaks While playing with your pet, make sure that you have decent breaks in between. This downtime is necessary so that your pet gets enough rest and sleep.

Respect your pet’s rest When your pet retreats to its sleeping place, this rest should be respected, and your pet should be allowed to rest. Make sure your children understand this too.

Design "self-entertainment" activities For example, design a feeding game in which your pet’s treat is given in the form of food balls or by using a Kong cone or something similar. Your pet will have to occupy themselves for a long time to get the food, distracting them while separated from you, and teaching them to entertain themselves.

Ignore your pet sometimes It's healthy to ignore your pet sometimes, especially when they're demanding too much attention.

Dressing and undressing cues Animals are clever at associating typical exit rituals leading up to their owners leaving the house. It’s a good idea to get them used to these by putting on shoes, a jacket and other outfits several times a day without leaving your home. 

Prepare for the impact on your pets If special circumstances like the Covid-19 crisis or even a broken leg or an illness make it necessary for you to stay at home more than usual, you should absolutely use the time to dedicate extra attention to your pet. However, for their ongoing wellbeing, the attention must be well measured so that it doesn't result in future problems such as separation anxiety. Time together can be enjoyed by everyone with careful consideration.


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