More and more dogs are being surrendered this year.
A recent report by Dogs Trust showed record numbers of people calling to surrender their dogs as restrictions eased – and the internet was in uproar.
Many simply couldn’t believe this many dogs were being surrendered, and couldn’t understand how the situation had gotten so bad.
The dog charity has now received the same number of requests so far this year as they did in the whole of 2020, and as the country continues to open up, fears are growing that this figure is about to get bigger.
Corina Fitzsimons, communications manager at Dogs Trust, says that the main reason people give up their dogs is difficulty with behaviour.
“It’s really important to stress that there are extenuating circumstances that cause people to surrender their dogs, we don’t want to vilify people,” she tells Her.
“The main thing, if anything, where you’re struggling with your dog, is to contact us. If we can’t help, we can point you in the right direction, or offer advice.”
Offering a free ‘bark to basics’ training pack, Corina advises all dog owners to get theirs, and for those who got a dog during lockdown or had one before, she says they should come along to their training school.
“Even if you think your dog isn’t going to struggle, we’d suggest you signed up,” she says. “For example, dogs who have lived with you for years, they were used to going to work and because you didn’t go to work last year, that’s their new normal.”
Corina says that you may not know if your dog is displaying these separation behaviours now, as you’re not there to see them. There are so many ways to train dogs out of this, rather than surrendering them entirely.
“It’s so important if your dog exhibits any undesirable behaviour that you get professional advice,” she says. “Dog behaviour and training changes all the time, that’s why we recommend to people, no matter how many dogs you’ve had, to go along to a training class, because it helps you bond, you learn new things.
“It doesn’t mean that you don’t know a lot about dogs, and most people think they only have to bring their dog to dog training if they have an issue. It’s actually to prevent issues in the first place.”
Dogs Trust only have so many kennels, as do other animal charities across Ireland, who have also seen high numbers of people giving up dogs – and space is quickly running out.
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“The worry for us is that people are due to go back to work next month or the month after, and are we going to see another wave of surrenders after people go back?” Corina says.
“If you’re still at home at this point, and you’re going to be going back to work, even if it’s for one day, your dog can struggle for that one day. Prepare as if you were going back full time, and spend less time with your dog while you’re in the home.”
Corina advises putting your dog in one room while you work in another, or even use a baby gate as a barrier so they get used to being alone.
Another tip is to not be too frantic before leaving the house, as your dog can pick up on that and become distressed. Calmly leave the house, or even distract your dog by setting out food or bringing them for a walk before you need to leave.
When dogs get agitated, they chew on things for comfort, so having toys for them to go for or wrapping treats in newspaper for them to unravel could help.
Owners should also attend dog training classes to reconnect them with society. Dogs are reliant on facial expressions, and as they haven’t seen anyone but their owners in a year, or people without masks, the reintroduction to society can be overwhelming – especially for young dogs.
Corina says “it’s basically starting again” for a lot of dogs and owners. Dogs Trust’s course includes “tips for introducing your dog to people, introducing your dog to other dogs, teaching your dog to settle while you’re not there, or while you are there.”
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It’s important to stay patient with dogs and see things from their point of view, as they simply can’t comprehend why we’re leaving.
“Consider the fact that your dog may not react well to you going back to work, and to try plan in advance how you’re going to prevent that from happening rather than it becoming a big issue,” Corina says.
“The biggest takeaway from all this is for dog owners to remember what dogs gave us during lockdown. They were there for us the whole time.
“People who worked from home, people who live on their own, dogs were basically their life because they couldn’t socialise properly with friends.”