Sunday, September 16, 2012

How do I ease rescue dog anxiety?

Both of my dogs are rescues.  I know some of Angel's back story, but very little of Bogie's back story.

So it's hard to know what will trigger their anxiety.  Bogie is accepting of me going to work, a little less enthused when I leave for the gym.  But he was frantic when I returned from a rare late evening out with friends.

Did he think I wasn't returning?  What was it about this absence that made him anxious?

Bogie was found on the street.  Did he escape?  He was a bit of a runner when I got him.  Did his people just walk out on him one day?  Did his beloved owner leave for the hospital and never return?  That could explain his anxiety.  

But I suspect his home life wasn't that idyllic.  What responsible owner gets a Great Dane and doesn't train him as a puppy?  It's much easier to train a Dane at 6 months than at 16 months.   When I got him he didn't know the simplest commands, Sit, Stay, Heel.  Was he a resident in a puppy mill, kept for his breeding capabilities, with no interest in educating him?

Without knowing what causes him stress, I am hit or miss at dealing with it.  He's smart and intuitive. So I explain that I must go to work or there will be no kibble.  That I will be back in a while.  And that seems to reassure him.  Whenever I leave, I make a point of reminding him I will be back.

On the other hand, Angel is pretty blase whenever I go away from home -  as long as she has another canine companion.  She must have other dogs around her to be content.   The one time I took Bogie to the vet without her, Angel was frantic when we returned.

Does she remember when Rags and Peanut didn't come back with me?  Does she fear that will happen again?

Fortunately, the vets we see are used to companion dogs tagging along on visits.  So Angel's anxiety is easily allayed.  I wish Bogie's was as easy to diagnose.

Each dog I've rescued over the years has had its own personality, fears, and traumas.  Unfortunately, they can't share those fears in a way we can understand.

It's my job to figure it out.

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