Pup’s New Owner

A friend of mine is coming to town for 6 months. I’ll be keeping her dog at my apartment, since she’s unable to have pets where she’s staying. She wants to come over 3 times a week to walk the dog so “the dog won’t feel abandoned”. Wouldn’t this be harder on the dog, to have her owner come and go

Sarah Bowman

Sarah Bowman, trained my problem rescue dog for safe walking in crowded public spaces

 

Let me tell about my own experiences with my dogs, past and present. On the farm I had a dog for ten years. My one sister and I shared a home and another sister, a real animal person, spent a couple summers with us. I never noticed that this upset the dog.

I got my current dog in 2010 as an adult from the Humane Society and it took a lot of time, several years, for us to “grow together” like we are now. I put this down to her being really sensitive to change, high strung and excitable, and having spent several months at the dog shelter between owners. Also to me being new to owning a dog in the city and very nervous with controlling this highly excitable dog among so many strangers, any of whom I believed would sue me at the drop of a hat if there was a mishap. However, despite all these obstacles—nervous owner and all, she adapted well over the long haul. (I did get some helpful advice from an animal behaviourist at one point and my neighbours proved to be very good people.) All this to say that even sensitive dogs are adaptable in less than ideal situations.

Back to more normal situations like you are asking about. In the summer of 2015 I was injured so that for several weeks I needed others to take my dog out and to walk her. I asked people whom I knew she liked and trusted, including my animal-loving sister and dog-lovers among friends and neighbours. Again, I did not notice that this upset the dog.

As a little aside, it did nearly break my heart one of those days when I was mostly confined to my bed and she was beside me, feeling restless. I asked her, “Shall we go to the park?” She perked up, jumped off the bed, eager to have the leash put on and get our life back.

As for your friend’s dog living with you and the friend visiting her dog a couple times a week. If the two of you get along I see no problem with that. It might take the dog a bit to learn that it cannot go home when its real owner leaves but after a bit the new routine should stick.

Regarding your friend’s concern for the dog’s feeling of abandonment. You don’t mention the age of the dog or how long your friend has had this dog. My experience with my adult dog adopted in 2010 would indicate that there is definitely an adjustment period when a dog changes owners, but that there is no lasting emotional damage. Another concern your friend may feel is a fear that the dog will forget her if she doesn’t visit. Based on my dog’s memory of all my friends around town and where each of them lives, even if many months pass between visits, I feel confident that if dog and owner have been together and bonded well for a sufficient amount of time, the dog will never forget.

Another angle to consider is the relationship of you and your friend—will it survive the contract? For example, will you feel jealous when the dog is over-joyed to see its owner on visits, and perhaps shows more love for the owner than for you? Or will your friend become jealous if, over time, the dog decides to show more love for you? Dogs can pick up on disharmony between humans and get upset or take sides, trying to protect one or the other. That is the only reason I can think of that it might be advisable for the owner not to visit, to make a clean break of it.

Wishing the best for all parties involved, human and animal.

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