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Dog Behaviour Problems: Settling into a new home

Depression & Lethargy:

Question: We have recently got our dog, Shadow, from a rescue centre. He is very well behaved, but seems depressed, lethargic and overly submissive. We know nothing of his history, but he is not afraid of people. What can we do to help him?

Answer: It is difficult to give you advice without knowing why he is like this. The rescue centre experience can be tough on shy, sensitive dogs. It may be that he has been on red alert all the time he has been there and so is happy to rest now that he feels safe again. It is not unusual for dogs to sleep excessively for the first few weeks while they shake off past traumas and adjust to the new home.

Alternatively, he may be unwell. Stress weakens the immune system and it is not uncommon for ailments to be seen soon after arrival in a new home. It is a good idea to get him checked out by your veterinary surgeon just in case.

And, finally, it may be that he is a little shy, even though you say he is not afraid of people. It may be that he has only lived with other dogs rather than people, or may have spent a long time on his own. Being surrounded by unfamiliar people who want to interact with him, or children who want to play with him, may be a little overwhelming. Not knowing what to do, he may be showing submissive behaviour in a effort to ‘turn you off’.

Try toning down your own exuberance for a while and let him make the advances. When he does pluck up the courage to come to you, greet him warmly but gently. In this way, he should soon come round and become one of the family.

You may like to read The Rescue Dog which has more information on understanding rescue dogs.

Question: I have recently moved out of my mother's home into a place of my own with my 3-year-old border collie cross. Until this, she had company in the form of my mother's terrier and, since they were separated two months ago, she has been listless and looks depressed. Is she likely to get over this loneliness or will I have to get a companion dog for her? If so, what sort of dog what you recommend and of what age? If I got another dog it would be a rescue dog is there anything I should be aware of when choosing one?

Answer: She will adjust in time, particularly if you make up for the lack of her friend by teaching her to play with toys with you and giving her lots of attention. If you want another dog, and your border collie cross is well adjusted, any type or age of dog would probably be okay.

Try to find one that has been brought up with others and likes playing with them. She would probably get on better with a male but if she has grown up with another dog, she is likely to adjust to any dog. You make also like to consider whether it is any other things that your dog is missing other than your mother’s terrier, such as your mother or the other people who live in the house.

Also, don’t underestimate the effect of moving on you. Collies are very sensitive to their owner’s moods and perhaps she is picking up on your changes as you adjust to a new home.

You may like to read The Rescue Dog which has more information on understanding & adopting a rescue dog.

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Good Dog Behaviour/The Well Behaved Dog by Gwen Bailey
The Puppy Handbook/ The Ideal Puppy by Gwen Bailey