Reassuring Your Dog (Who Doesn’t Speak English)

Honey looked worried.

We were packing bags at a frantic pace and she didn’t know what was going on.

How do you reassure your dog if she doesn’t understand when you talk to her in English?

Honey the golden retriever chews her nylabone.

Doesn’t the outside of the package say “Home is where the Nylabone is?”

Chaos And The Dog

We had a great idea.

While our house was on the market, we’d move out temporarily. That would allow potential buyers to look at their leisure and us to keep the house orderly and dog-hair free for more than two seconds.

Honey didn’t think it was such a great idea. She just found it confusing.

Before she knew it, we were whisking her into the back of the rental car loaded with her crate and pillows and unloading a few minutes later into a small apartment with dog noises coming through the party-wall.

Honey the golden retriever in the car.

The people have been rushing around like crazy. But I’m happy to be in a car. This usually means something fun is going to happen.

Back at the house, we still had painting, repairs, and cleaning to do. But something told me that leaving Honey alone in our temporary home and rushing back to the house would worry her. But I had a hunch that we could tell Honey she had nothing to be concerned about without speaking a word.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Humans are so verbal. We often forget that as good as dogs are at understanding our language, it’s not natural to them.

I knew that to convince Honey we weren’t abandoning her in this new and strange place, we’d have to reconsider my plan to drop her off at the new place and return home without her to keep working.

Sure, we had her toys and crate out in the new apartment. But Honey doesn’t look to objects to know if she’s home. She looks to us.

So we decided not to leave Honey alone in the apartment until after we had all spent at least one night there together.

Did it work?

Honey the golden retriever sleeping.


Home Is Where The Snores Are

Feeding our dogs, playing with our dogs, walking our dogs—they all help to build our bond.

But nothing shows how much our dogs trust us (and we trust them) by sleeping together.

Even if your dog stretches out in front of the door, yards away from your cozy bed, he wouldn’t rest easy if he didn’t trust things were okay.

Sleeping is where real bonding happens.

And once we had all slept in the apartment, Honey knew we’d be coming back for her, no matter how long we left her waiting for us while we worked.

We’re lucky that Honey doesn’t suffer from separation anxiety. But I think that leaving her in a strange apartment with curious dogs sniffing and woofing on the other side of the door just minutes after arriving would have strained her Zen attitude.

Honey the golden retriever looks for dogs in the yard.

I’ve heard other dogs nearby. And now I smell them. Will they be appearing on the other side of this fence?

The next morning, we returned the rental car and rode our bikes back to the house to finish our work.

When we arrived back at the apartment, Honey was sleeping in the bedroom.  She didn’t even hear us come in at first.

If we had left Honey with a treat immediately after moving her into the apartment, she would not have understood what was happening. But by sleeping together one night, we communicated to Honey that this was our new home and where we’d return for her.

In other words, we just had to speak her language. Because Honey understands snores better than English.

Honey the golden retriever from the sideview mirror at a fast food drive thru.

Now you’re speaking my language. This is the magic place where food comes out the window.

Your Turn: How do you reassure your dog in a strange situation? Does our dog understand English? Or do you communicate in a different way?

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  1. Welcome Back!! I’ve missed you and Honey – and Mike too – and was beginning to wonder if the email link had been broken. Ducky starts barking in her crate as soon as we walk in the door. But quiets down when she hears me coming to let her out. Her sisters greet us at the door and then go back to their beds quite happily.

    • Thanks, Sue. It’s nice to be missed.

      Sounds like everyone in your house feels secure and know their job when you come home.

  2. Great minds thinks alike – our post today is about routines and how disrupting them affects a dog. Keeping to a routine is how we do it with our dogs.

  3. We don’t speak English, but we do recognize tones and what they usually mean and that helps us. We are a pretty flexible group, so we are alright in strange places normally. Did you sell the house, that is the big question.

    • It probably also helps a lot that your mom takes you to lots of new places. Practice makes perfect.

      We’ve accepted an offer on the house but we’re waiting for the structural inspection contingency to end. I’ll share an update soon.

  4. My dogs have spent enough nights in hotels that the ol’ drop/run isn’t too scary for them. However, I do believe having each other for reassurance makes a big difference. There is no doubt, though, that they prefer their usual routine.

    • Having a puppy friend is a tremendous help. Because of our goals to foster (and now to move aboard a boat), I didn’t want to get another dog. But maybe Honey will have a kitty friend in her future?

      And I’ve done the drop and run at hotels before myself and Honey did fine. But I was a little more cautious because the apartment we rented belonged to friends who didn’t normally allow dogs and who had puzzled dogs themselves on the other side of the door.

  5. My daughter (also named Pamela) and her family are going to Disneyland and Universal Studio. What to do with their three dogs. When she priced boarding places and found out that professional dog sitters charged $100 a night, we came up with a creative solution which has totally been discounted by the rest of the family who don’t seem to get creativity.

    We turn them in to the pound as strays. They are fed and lodged while they try to find the owners. The dogs have city licenses and microchips, so she just pretends to be upset when they contact her, blaming the sitter and asking that the dogs please be kept together and taken care of til they return. There may be a small fine when they get the dogs back, but we really don’t see any flaw in the plan.

    The rest of the family is not talking to us. :)

    • Bwa ha ha! You and your daughter are sick puppies.

      I sometimes think of those crazy things but I don’t usually have the nerve to share them with my dog loving friends and families. Now I know who to share my wacky, humorous doggy ideas with. :)

  6. Great idea, spending the night there first with her. Our dogs are very sensitive to my moods and it sucks, because I’ve been going through a rough time and they have too. Actually, last week when I had the flu was a great week for them, because I was home and relaxed (although miserable).

    Because I know how my moods impact them, I’m constantly trying to stay in the moment. Which is great (hard, but great), but I know that if we had a huge shake up, it would be hard to push passed the emotions for our dogs so I better start working on it :)

    • As hard as it is to manage our minds, our dogs need us to try. Nothing like some fuzzy little encouragers, eh?

      Sorry to hear you were sick. But I bet the dogs loved snuggling with you all day.

  7. Great that the whole family spent the first night together. This would be compforting for Honey and the humans. When I am away from my dogs I miss their snoring. At least Honey ignored the pets next door. Mine would have been barking.

    • In truth, I was surprised and impressed by Honey’s calmness with the dogs next door. Especially since one was a somewhat barky terrier. But once they met in the backyard, they seemed to settle down in the house.

      Hopefully you don’t have to leave your dogs behind too often. But if you do, you could always make a tape of their snores. :)

  8. What a great idea you had that sleeping in the new place would help Honey to feel so much more comfortable. I think bedtime is the most important thing to this crew too, so it makes perfect sense to me.

    • I think most of us find sleep important. Look at how crazy we get if we have to sleep on the different side of the bed? It only makes sense that it would be meaning full to our dogs as well.

  9. That was a brilliant idea to sleep there with Honey first!

    Blueberry is pretty laid back and she doesn’t care too much where we go as long as we are together. She was amazing when we went to a cabin that one year – she made herself right at home and hopped up on the recliner as she watched me unpack. Home is where the human is. :)

  10. I can so relate. Even when we are traveling together on vacuum. If I do not pull Harley’s bag out first and fill it with all the essentials that he’s accustomed to seeing go in the bag when he’s going with us, he gets awfully nervous. You did the best thing by sleeping there that night. Good thinking!

  11. I just try and remain calm, it’s not always easy but they do pick up on my stress. Especially Delilah. When I cry it is very upsetting to her, so as long as I’m okay with what’s going on, she usually is too.