Posted 3 months ago
As much as we love our dogs, there are undoubtedly days when we wonder whether we made the right decision. The fact is it can be extremely challenging to look after our four-legged friends, but because the focus is so often on the benefits of being a pup parent, it can feel almost taboo to admit you’re struggling, whether it’s with behavioural, financial, health, or time issues.
Unfortunately, this can lead to dogs being rehomed when they don’t necessarily need to be.
It’s why the team at Wood Green, The Animals Charity, home of Channel 4’s The Dog House, is keen to reassure owners it’s perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed at times.
‘I think one of the things that has happened is that we’ve spent so long telling people how great pet ownership is and how much a pet will bring to our life, the message that it’s actually normal to have difficulties and for it to be hard, has been lost along the way,’ says Linda Cantle, director of pet and owner support services at Wood Green, which is based in Godmanchester, Cambridgeshire.
(credit: Wood Green)
Although it’s one of the largest pet rehoming centres in Europe, this isn’t solely what they do. In fact, the focus is very much on supporting and guiding people, so pets and their owners can stay together, as long as the dog’s needs are being met.
Here Cantle provides some much-needed advice on the best action to take if you’re contemplating relinquishing your canine pal, and why saying goodbye doesn’t have to be a foregone conclusion.
Don’t be too harsh on yourself
“People immediately think it’s all gone wrong, and that it’s terrible, but it’s normal to need help with your dog. Pet ownership, like everything, can come with unforeseen challenges, and things don’t always go brilliantly. It’s why we provide a lot of support for newer pet owners or with puppies and adolescent dogs, for example, that can be quite a handful. It’s just acknowledging it’s okay that it can be challenging. There are obviously great things from the relationship you have with a dog, but as with any relationship, you have to put quite a lot into that.”
Ask for help
Linda Cantle (credit: Wood Green)
“We're known as an animal rehoming charity, so people think they can only call us if they need to get rid of the animal, but there’s so much support we can provide. If you contact us, early on, or the many other charities in our sector, it can prevent things deteriorating. Whether you just need some general pet care advice, are faced with a behavioural problem or are struggling to care for your pet, we can help.”
Know your options
“Sometimes people don't really need anything other than a reassuring conversation, to be told, ‘You're doing really well, the animal’s okay’. Other times, they might need some advice, or food, just to help them along financially in the short-term. We try to look at every situation individually, understand the person and the pet, the environment and the resources that are available to them, and with that, what we can do to help, and whether the owner’s able to meet the needs of the pet.”
Take your time
(credit: Wood Green)
“The vast majority of people forced into the situation where they think they have to part with their pets don’t want to be in that situation. People are often going through a difficult time, and experiencing a considerable lifestyle change, it could be a death, or financial or health worries, so we want to make sure people have the time they need to make the right decision. We can support them and make sure the pet gets everything it needs in the meantime. We just want to make sure people are as comfortable as they can be with their decision, and they feel it's right for them and the animal.”
Choose rescue first
“If you do have to part with your pet, for whatever reason, choose rescue first – not as a last resort. Each dog here is thoroughly assessed and receives veterinary treatment, behavioural training and day-to-day care tailored to their individual needs and personalities. Dogs don’t have to stay in kennels if the owner doesn’t want them to – we have a network of loving foster homes, and owners can even keep dogs in their home while we match them to a new one.”
(credit: Wood Green)
“I would just stress to anyone thinking about getting a pet, to take the time to think everything through in detail. People often think they’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it, but not really considered how much hard work it is, and the cost and time involved. There's a difference between being home all the time, and being able to train and take your dog out, and being home all the time on video calls with a puppy barking at you and chewing on your leg. So, talk everything through at home, talk to friends and family members who have pets, and do as much research as possible. We also have a wealth of online advice and free virtual workshops about living with pets.”
Visit Wood Green, or call the team on 0300 303 9333.’