Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Separation anxiety and rescue dogs

Probably the most frequent cause for rescued dogs being returned after an unsuccessful placement is separation anxiety. This is one reason why we are usually strict about not rehoming to owners who will need to leave their dogs for very long periods. Many rescue dogs are very anxious that their new owner will disappear and not return — after all their previous owner did just that from the dog's point of view. However all of us need to be able to go out sometimes on errands where we can't be accompanied by our pets, so new owners need to be forewarned that this may be a problem and prepared to take action to cope.

One useful tool is a dog crate. This should not degenerate into a prison where your dog is locked up for hours on end, but it does provide a way to keep him safe and your posessions undamaged, while you train him to be less anxious. Properly used, the crate will become a den area where your dog feels secure; knows you will return; can rest comfortably and knows he will have some special toys that he does not have access to anywhere else. If distress at being separated from you causes your dog's house-training to be erratic, a crate lined with newspapers and standing on a washable floor will make cleaning up not too unpleasant.

There is some advice about training to relieve separation anxiety on the dog club site. It may also help (preferably before you acquire your rescue dog) to read some of the books which have been written about adopting a rescue dog, such as Understanding the Rescue Dog, Living with a rescued dog, or Second Chance: living with a rescued dog.

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