How traumatic is it for a dog to change owners when rehoming is the only option?
I’m a firm believer that dogs are a privilege, not a right.
So before we embark on the journey of pet parenting, we need to be sure we’re ready to take on the responsibilities that a living, feeling, creature entails.
Unfortunately, even the best-intentioned and most prepared person can find themselves in a situation where they must rehome their beloved canine companion.
As difficult as this decision may be on us humans, is it as equally traumatic for our dogs? The answer may not be as clear-cut as you think.
When Rehoming Becomes a Necessity
If we lived in a perfect world, there would be no need for rescue shelters. All pets would be in loving stable homes that care for them as a true member of the family. However, that is not the case. Animal abuse is an all-too-real situation with the severity of the infractions ranging from neglect to out-right harm.
If you have decided to adopt a dog that has been rehomed due to abuse or neglect, you most likely will find yourself on a long road to recovery for your rescued victim.
Dogs that have suffered at the hands of these criminals may have social anxiety, phobias, PTSD, separation anxiety and even physical limitations due to injury. These dogs also tend to have triggers that will bring back the memories of the abuse. For example, if your dog was mistreated by a type of person, he may react to every human that “fits that description.”
Another reason when rehoming becomes a necessity is the lack of research. We may love the looks of a Border Collie, but if you lead a sedentary lifestyle in an apartment, this breed will not do well. Always research the breeds you are most interested in to be sure you can meet all its needs.
How Traumatic is it for a Dog to Change Owners?
The Rehomed Dog’s Emotional Changes
It’s been scientifically proven that the “reward” or “pleasure” center of the dog’s brain will “light up” when he smells his owner. This is because the canine species has been conditioned over thousands of years of domestication to form tight bonds with humans.
Once the love-bond has been created your dog will be loyal to the very end; however, break this bond through rehoming, and your canine companion can react by becoming depressed.
Depression can manifest itself in many ways such as lack of interest in food, or play. A sad dog may also sleep more often and at unusual times.
Some dogs may react by suffering from severe anxiety after a rehoming. These symptoms can include whining and barking out of fear or frustration; they may pace and continuously search for their previous owner.
As we mentioned above, dogs that have been rehomed due to abuse tend to be shy, mistrusting, and will often cower in fear or even lose control of their bladders. Some may even exhibit aggressive tendencies when approached.
The Rehomed Dog’s Physical Changes
Emotions aren’t the only changes a rehomed pooch may have to deal with; there are also some physical changes that can manifest themselves.
When a canine is stressed from being shifted from home-to-home, he can suffer from digestive upsets. This can include vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss. Some dogs may shake or shiver uncontrollably from stress or produce an excessive amount of drool. These symptoms can last for hours or even days, and in more extreme cases, a trip to your veterinarian may be required for medication to help ease the conditions.
How to Smooth the Transition of Rehoming
Although it may be a tough road for some dogs, there are things that can be done to help smooth the transition into a new home.
First, place your dog’s kennel or bed in a quiet area of your home. This should be a “safe” zone where your pooch can retreat to when he’s feeling overwhelmed or stressed.
Second, if possible, retain a few items from his previous home. This could be a favorite toy, blanket, or an old shirt. Having a familiar scent can often help ease those ragged nerves.
Third, create a routine and stick to it. Dogs are creatures of habit so help build up his security by not having any surprises. Part of this routine would be feeding him at the same time each day, and with the same food, he is used to (this will also help avoid tummy issues from a food switch).
Lastly, provide your new fur baby with plenty of opportunities for play and exercise. Creating fun bonding times with you will help create and reinforce those “pleasure” centers of his brain for you (the new love of his life).
Til Death Do Us Part
Before you bring a dog home, be sure you are in it “til death do us part.” Dogs are loyal, loving animals that will suffer from the emotional and physical pain of separation.
If you find yourself in the situation where you must rehome your dog, then do so with a person that can provide your canine companion with the stability, trust, care, and love he deserves. Never give a dog away, unless you know the person you are entrusting his life to. Paying even a small rehoming fee will ensure the new owner is serious, not just picking up your pal on a whim.
Have you gone through rehoming your dog? Share your advice on how to make it less traumatic for you and your dog.