It’s hard to believe that dear little Rottie (perhaps Rottie mix) Dotty had been languishing in Wood Green Animal Shelter for four whole months. Not only is she beautiful to look at, she is amazingly calm for a dog who is probably less than eighteen months old.
Dotty had been picked up as a stray, but obviously had enjoyed home life before. She has had some training and has very good manners. I can’t imagine how anyone could abandon a dog like this. If someone had been looking for her they had plenty of time to find her.
She has landed on her feet with experienced dog owners, people I in fact helped about six years ago with their previous dog who was a much greater challenge.
Very wisely they decided to start as they mean to go on. Because of the level of management their other dog needed, it’s possible they are actually trying a little bit too hard and need to relax a bit. Just let Dotty settle in gradually. I don’t feel there is any risk of her going off the rails!
The main, overwhelming need, is to be able to leave her alone. This seems to be fairly common with dogs who have been in rescue kennels for a while, and nobody knows until the dog is in a home that separation will be an issue.
On the third morning the lady needed to go out. She walked Dotty and then shut her in the crate (where Dotty happily goes voluntarily). She had done no more than pick her bag when, in the lady’s words, Dotty had a meltdown. She went frantic. Needless to say, the lady didn’t go out.
It is fortunate that she works from home, and that her husband can cover for her if she needs to go out, because ideally this sort of thing needs to be done gradually. Already, and I only saw her a couple of days ago, Dotty is happily left downstairs while the lady is upstairs. She is behind a gate.
All the triggers like picking up a handbag or keys need to be associated with good stuff and commonplace. They will now be working on closing doors with a departure signal – or more accurately a ‘certainly coming back’ signal. Whenever they go out of her presence they already are saying ‘Back soon’. This signal, accompanied by food, will gradually make their departures pleasurable and reassuring for Dotty and with the work they are going to put in she will, in time, be convinced without doubt that they are definitely going to return.
Returns from all these short exits will be boring – nothing to get excited about – something that is ‘a given’.
It is very early days and impossible to tell whether Dotty being okay left alone will take weeks or even months, or whether they will get a sudden breakthrough as she begins to trust the routines of her new life.
It is now almost two months later, and this is the latest feedback on Dotty’s separation issues: ‘Home alone is better – she has gone from ‘don’t leave me’ to ‘put the toy box down and get out!’. Asleep when I get back and not out of her mind to see me. I make a ‘toy box’ – treat ball, yummy bones, toys etc that she only gets when I go out. Hide the lot in a cardboard box so she has to work to get at them. She has a great time with that lot and then climbs on the kitchen chair and goes to sleep.’
NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Dotty, which is why I don’t go into exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).