Codependency

Legitimately, there are so many new words I heard and learnt in the past 4 years that it is unbelievable how our generation and the younger generation has complicated, wasted and made the beautiful term “LOVE” meaningless. Besides ghosting, gaslighting, narcissist, talking stage, etc., codependency is just another word that I learnt.

Now what is codependency? In simple words, it means where a person is needy, or dependent upon another person. Basically, clingy. In a relationship, one person is so addicted to the other, that their life doesn’t function normally without the presence of the other person. In a crux, it is actually an unhealthy relationship.

But here, I mainly want to talk about codependent dogs. Yes, I learnt this word after interacting with a Vet. And to understand it better, I read through some articles on the internet and realized this has become very common these days in a relationship.

I had recently gone to the Vet as we are in the process of changing Junior’s medicated food to normal food. He relatively had less patients that day and was free to talk to me. He shared some not so surprising facts with me about the 2 major issues dogs faced in the lockdown – anxiety and obesity.

Obesity was because of the restrictions during the lockdown and the fear of coming in contact with the virus if humans walked their dogs in public. So most of the dog parents over fed their dogs with treats and crumbs to keep them entertained or not to disturb them when they were on a work call or in short, when they were working from home.

The other problem was, anxiety that the dogs faced was because outdoor activities were limited, socializing was a strict no and every walk was atleast 6 feet away from any kind of interaction with other dogs and humans. Because of the pandemic, the humans stayed home 24/7, which means, it was a party for the dogs. For them, there is nothing better than being with their humans’ day and night for months together. Unfortunately, this in due course resulted to codependency. The dogs became completely reliant on their humans for every minute of their day.

You probably would think, “how cute, my dog follows me everywhere. Aww, he/she loves me so much.” But in reality, your dog has forgotten to grasp the concept of having space, and their dependency could be making them a nervous wreck. They have now become so afraid when you leave the house or are not there at home that they become ecstatic when you come home. Their tails are wagging frantically, they start jumping on you and sometimes, even the house is a mess.

For most of us this is a normal behavior, irrespective of the pandemic. But the difference is, now it has become difficult for the dog to be on their own after we have spent months with them and started suffering from anxiety.

So, how do you know the difference between cuteness and codependency? Here are some signs to check in your dog:

  • Barking more than normal
  • Jumping a lot
  • Howling
  • Peeing on the floor
  • Destroying things at home
  • Following you from room to room
  • Nipping on people who gets close to them
  • Over possessive about their humans
  • Head bobbing
  • Become a little aggressive
  • Eats only after you feed them

These are some signs to look for. If you can relate to some or all of the above, then your dog is completely dependent on you and may develop anxiety if not corrected soon.

When I had relocated to a new apartment, Junior faced codependency for a few days as the place was new. But since I knew it was a temporary phase till he got adjusted, I just let him be. But codependency can turn into a permanent problem for the dogs with the little lives that they have.

Allow me to share some suggestions/tips to help your dog and you through it. But first, let me once again bring light to the fact that their clinginess may look cute, but being responsible dog parents, we have to help them be mentally independent just like how we would for human kids. Here are some tips when they behave to gummy:

  • Pet them less
  • Ignore them when they are wanting too much attention
  • Make sure they sleep or have plenty of things to do when you leave home
  • Be strict on their sleeping time
  • Slowly and steadily start taking them to dog parks and socialize with other dogs (now that the lockdowns have eased all over the world)
  • Even when you are home, send them to their favourite space as time out. Basically, less dog-parent interaction
  • Burn their energy
  • Stimulate their mind with mental games

Let me inform you, sometimes, the way one partner is dependent on the other partner, even humans can be dependent on their dogs. Like some humans cannot sleep without their dog by their side, or some call the day care 10 times to know how their dog is doing, many won’t go on holidays or dates without their dogs, and even if they do, their only topic to talk about is their dog! Either way, codependency is not healthy. For the betterment of everyone living under one roof and the dog, start being honest with yourself. Learn to have a life of your own and also help your dog become healthy mentally.

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