Animal matters: Been thinking of getting a dog? Then please read on

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It is indeed true that we occasionally admit dogs into our centre that have been physically abused or willfully neglected.

Way more common by far, however, are the dogs that arrive with more subtle, yet equally damaging, psychological and behavioural issues. We believe most of these are caused not by design but often through a worrying lack of understanding of a dog’s most basic needs and the damage caused if these are not met.

Separation anxiety, poor socialisation, lack of basic training, and poor fitness are the most common issues we see on a daily basis to varying degrees; with many dogs, far too often, exhibiting all four at once! Today we will cover the first two with the final ones next week.

Separation anxiety, caused mainly by being regularly left alone for long periods, can lead to an extremely stressed, depressed, unpredictable and unhappy dog. When Borders Pet Rescue look for potential new homes for a dog we look for households where the maximum time left alone would be around four hours. Indeed, for dogs with existing separation anxiety we would look for the dog to be very rarely left alone at all (certainly for a good while).

So if, as a household, your new dog would be left alone for say five hours or more on a regular basis please seriously consider the potential damage you could be doing to it. There is no doubt that all dogs and situations are different but, in our experience, not many canines would choose that way of life at all. We have continually developed and bred dogs through the ages to be social and integrated with us and to deny them human company and interaction can lead to serious behavioural issues.

They don’t adapt well to kennel life at the centre and their often stressed state makes them so much harder to re home as a result. Regularly we see peeing and/or pooing in the kennels along with destruction of their bedding. Hyperactivity and excessive excitability around people is also often observed. This can result in a dog that jumps up on people and mouths at hands or clothing. This attention seeking behaviour can be really dangerous especially if the dog is large or powerful and if there are children or the elderly exposed to it.

Separation anxiety and lack of socialisation are often linked and are major barriers to developing a fulfilled and well adjusted dog. We see the negative effects regularly at the centre and know the hard work involved in trying put these right. Before getting your new dog, please stop and think for a moment. Can you offer it the right environment in which to develop fully and do you have the time or inclination to expose your dog to a wide variety of social situations and life experiences on a daily basis. If you can’t or won’t then please consider getting a dog later on when your circumstances are more favourable.