The bond between a dog and its caregiver is one that is known throughout the world, but the maintenance of this bond does not seem to be an idea that is given much consideration or thought. Sadly however, many events can jeopardise the success of this relationship with multiple factors being known to interfere with the bond between a dog and a human.
Various studies have shown that reasons for the relinquishment of a dog most often included behaviours such as excessive barking, hyperactivity, house-training issues, damage to property, intolerance of other animals in the home, training issues or aggressiveness. Behavioural problems such as these can eventually outweigh any benefit within the relationship for the caregiver, so living with the dog becomes intolerable. Physical health problems and an inability or refusal to pay for veterinary treatment is also cited as an issue that pertains dog surrender.
Management problems most commonly reported as reasons for owner surrenders are shown to be a lack of time for the dog, not having enough space or changes in family circumstances (e.g. divorce, loss of employment, birth of a child).
Some people simply find themselves in a position where they were not ready for or were unaware of the responsibility involved with owning a dog. Most dogs will live on average for 12+ years and are animals with various, complex needs and many people find themselves in a position where they were just not aware of how time-consuming, and on occasion how overwhelming, dog ownership can be.
Once the relationship between dog and owner breaks down to an irreparable degree, the dog may find itself out on the street or will be taken directly to a council pound or the owners will contact a dog rescue to secure a space. However, due to dog overpopulation within the country, the waiting list for most rescues can be very long, with dogs at risk of being euthanised in council facilities taking priority for spaces. Because of this, many owners may not be prepared to wait, thus indirectly facilitating this cycle by relinquishing their dog to council facilities. In Southern Ireland this problem is heightened by restricted breed laws, with certain breeds such as German Shepherds, Bull Terriers, Mastiffs, Dobermann and others, only being able to be released to a rescue after surrender to the council.
Once finding themselves in rescue, many dogs find themselves being re-surrendered due to behavioural issues they may have had before surrender or behavioural issues caused by their surrender. In one study (you can read it here) that looked at this rate of re-surrender, it was found that 40.7% of those adopting a dog returned the dog within the first week with behavioural issues being the most cited cause. Other studies show the same problem (read here, here and here) with some dogs finding themselves in a never-ending cycle of re-homing and re-surrender.
At GSRRR, we are very aware of this problem and take great steps to try to rectify it. We believe that the adoption progress should be a very long one with prospective dog and owner taking several weeks to work together on site before temporary foster placements. Any other dog(s) in the household are also involved in this process, with a number of meetings between them and the prospective dog taking place. During this time, prospective owners will receive a number of reports, both written and verbal on both the dogs behaviour and on their behaviour with the dog. Any known issues with the dog are very clearly laid out at the start of the process and we find that our continual involvement is critical when it comes to helping owners through these issues, even once the dog is fully in their care of their home. We can and do stop an adoption process if we have reason to believe that it is a pairing that is not going to work.
We find that this formula is more often successful than not, with our rate of return being small. Reasons we have seen for any breakdown or return are when the adopter has not fully taken on what they are being told about a dog while at the rescue. Some of our dogs have severe behavioural issues and we run into a problem time and time again where people become blinded by the attractiveness or the “idea” of the dog and do not fully take on board what they are being told. Many of our dogs are also abuse cases and in instances we find that people are unwilling or unable to understand that these dogs still need the same boundaries and structures, if not more so, as dogs that have not been through trauma. In most cases, molly-coddling these dogs ends up in nothing but disaster.
Some dogs take a very long time before any changes begin to show in their behaviour, sometimes this process can take years or it is a case of managing behavioural issues that the dog may never fully overcome.
We also work very closely with new Shepherd owners. Shepherds, even those with minimal behavioural problems, can be a difficult breed and require specialist handling. We absolutely love fresh heads that are willing to learn and will take as much time as the prospective adopter needs before we feel that the adoption will be a successful one.
If you feel that you are able and willing to take all of this information on board and put in the time required with us to adopt one of our dogs, please contact our Facebook. While adopting a dog is a matter that is not to be taken lightly, there is nothing quite like the feeling of seeing an improvement, no matter how small. Every obstacle that you see them overcome leaves you with a great sense of purpose and the work you put in together is something that will create a bond like no other.
The first step in our process is to fill in an adoption questionnaire which will be your first assessment. If we feel we have a dog that suits your current circumstances and you are in agreement, you will then be asked to go through our re-homing process which you can read about here.