Ask any cat owner about bonding and enjoy a shared laugh. While cats may claim a favorite lap, Fluffy is as happy to adapt to the lap of a new owner when she spends a little time with her new family.
Dogs are a different breed. You know what we mean if you saw the images of “Sully,” George Bush Sr.’s beloved companion, stationed beside the former president’s casket as it lay in state following his death.
Dogs love deeply. There’s a reason they’re called man’s best friend. So choosing to re-home dogs is tough.
The American Kennel Club says changing owners can be traumatic for dogs. Losing their owners can make dogs stop eating, lose weight, lose interest in physical activity, and exhibit symptoms of canine depression.
That’s why you must take any decision to re-home dogs seriously.
How dogs grieve
Does this mean that dogs are capable of emotional feelings? Apparently so.
And the longer a pet lives with its favorite human, the more painful the loss because everything about the relationship suddenly comes to a halt in the absence of the sight, smell, and sound of the person who feeds, walks, and plays with them.
Anthropologist Barbara J. King’s revealing book, “How Animals Grieve,” discusses how dogs react to losing a long-time routine between dog and owner.
But the work of Dr. Marc Bekoff of the University of Colorado reveals the most dramatic evidence of the connection: Bekoff used brain imaging studies to prove that “areas of dogs’ brains light up” when they see or smell their owners.
Reasons to re-home dogs
Deciding to re-home dogs is a difficult decision. And in most cases, owners are forced to do so as a last resort.
Most people exhaust all options before giving up their dogs, but sometimes there are no other options.
Common reasons dogs need new homes include:
- An owner’s death, especially if the owner lived alone
- Illness keeps owners from being able to care for their dog
- Family members or owners develop allergies
- Owners choose breeds that are incompatible with their lifestyle
- Dogs that appear to be untrainable
- Families must move to a property that doesn’t permit dogs.
Finding a new home
Place the dog with someone familiar, like a friend or family member.
If that’s not possible, contact an organization like Rehome.com that helps you find an appropriate home for your dog.
Another option, contact a breed-specific rescue group in your area.
Do not place an advertisement for your pet online, and never offer to give the dog away for free.
If possible, avoid taking your dog to a shelter. Going from the comfort of your home to the chaos of a shelter will traumatize your dog.
Thoroughly vet a potential owner to ensure your dog’s new home will be safe. Check references and visit the new house.
Giving a dog a new home
If you decide to become a dog’s second home, you may wonder how to help re-home dogs adjust.
Changing homes will be traumatic for the dog, so stick to its routine.
Feed the dog the same food, let it play with its toys, and sleep in its old bed.
Dogs are creatures of habit, so if the former owner fed the dog breakfast at 6 a.m. and then took the dog for a walk, try to do the same.
You won’t be locked into that routine forever, but try to keep the dog’s schedule initially and gradually introduce changes.
In addition to eating and behavioral changes, dogs might exhibit other signs of emotional stress when they lose their owners, including barking, pacing, fidgeting, and even panting.
These signs of anxiety can be as diverse as the dog breed.
Can dogs recover after they move to a new, loving home?
They can, but the process requires patience and establishing a routine that encourages creating a connection between the dog and the new owner.
Start by creating a new routine with some of the dog’s old habits.
For example, if the previous owner brushed the dog before bed, do that, too.
Make sure you spend lots of quality time together and show the dog as much affection as possible.
Keep your expectations in check
A huge factor in considering how changing owners affects dogs is how long the first owner and pet have been together.
Puppies usually bond so quickly they experience little adjustment anxiety.
But older dogs with long parental relationships will require time to build trust.
Rescue dogs present the most complex relocation challenge because there could be a troublesome history that might include multiple owners.
That makes it crucial for new owners to work to establish trust with the dog.
Help re-home dogs adjust more quickly
Start by bringing any items from the dog’s old home to his new space before he arrives.
Blankets, toys, leashes, and even food and water bowls are familiar and provide comfort.
Introduce the dog to his new home in the morning rather than at night when dogs, as a rule, tend to be more anxious.
A tour of the new place can’t hurt, but placing his kennel in a quiet corner of his new home is even more helpful because when scared and insecure, dogs need a place where they feel secure and can hide away from all human activity.
Create a comforting environment by eliminating any smells that could undo all of your hard work.
Find out what smells repel dogs, and you’ll create an environment that is just as welcoming as her first home proved to be.
Olivia Harper is the co-founder of the blog Daily Dog Stuff. She is a reserved and passionate pet parent who loves spending time with Sibe, who keeps her active and social. Find more of her guides and tips on the website.