Divorce rates in North America are on a steady climb and, as funny as it may seem, children are not the only concern of parents when it comes to custody. Today, it is becoming more and more common for pets, specifically dogs, to be part of this conversation. You may be asking yourself though, what impact can shared custody of a dog have on its overall development? More so, does living between two different houses have a positive or negative impact on the development of your beloved pooch?
The answer to these questions depends not only on you, but also on your dog's ability to adapt and cope with stress and change. If your dog is able to cope with stress, then there are indeed ways to go about having them live between two houses with minimal disruption to their lives.
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Signs Your Dog is Not Adjusting to Living Between Two Homes:
In an ideal world, living between two homes is something that all dogs would be able to do. This is not an ideal world, however, which is why some pooches may not be able to withstand the strain and stress that can be associated with living between two homes, while others can. This is why it is important to complete a trial session with your dog if having them live between two homes is something you are looking to accomplish.
That being said, there are signs that you will need to look for to determine if your dog is adjusting well to the new living conditions. The first, and most obvious, sign is changes in their temperament and overall behavior. For instance, if your dog is normally obedient and energetic, you would notice if they have become lethargic and unfocused in their new (second) home. If this is the case, it is clear, your pup is having trouble coping with the new living situation.
In addition to a changing temperament, it is also common for dogs to react to living between two homes by acting out behaviorally. You read right, dogs can be just as sensitive as children when it comes to reacting to stress, which in turn can result in them misbehaving in the new situation, most likely because they are acting out of fear. This misbehavior can manifest itself in a variety of ways, including relieving themselves in the wrong spot and destroying furniture or objects by chewing or biting them.
- Lack of focus
- Dropped Ears
- Tail tucking
- Changes in Behaviour
- Loss of Energy
The Science of Dogs Living Between Two Homes
You may be wondering why it is that dogs have trouble living between two different homes. Well for starters, this has to do with the fact that dogs are social creatures, and rather than becoming attached to houses, dogs actually have a tendency to become attached to humans. As a result, it's not the actual new home that is detrimental to your dog's development, but it is the absence of the human they are most attached to.
In some cases, this could be avoided if you are living between the two homes with your dog (e.g., you and your dog visit your vacation home together every other week in the summer). It is likely in scenarios like this that your dog will take some time to adjust to the new living conditions, but because they are with you, the impact of living between the two homes is far less then if you were not there (e.g., you are sharing your dog with your partner between two homes).
Interestingly enough, research supports the notion that the bond between pet owners and their dogs are similar to that of a parent with their child. This bond between owner and dog is known as the secure base effect where the animal uses their pet owner to provide them with a base or basis for interacting with the world around them. The secure base effect is normally found in children, but recent research indicates this is also present in animals, including dogs.
As a result, canines' behaviors are directly influenced by their owner. As you can imagine, if a dog is young and is being trained to live between two different homes, its likely they will be concurrently experiencing the secure base effect, meaning that they will have trouble in what ever home their secure base is not in.
Training Your Dog to Adapt to the Two Homes
Divorce is not the only reason we may find ourselves deciding if our dogs can live between homes. Maybe you have a vacation house you like to visit every other week in the summer, or you travel often and your pooch spends time at a second home, possibly a boarding facility. Regardless of the circumstance, there are definite reasons why we may be forced into a similar situation where our beloved pooch is living between two homes. If you find yourself in that situation, there are some important points you should know, to help both you and your pup smoothly transition into living comfortably between your two homes.
When considering whether or not your dog is going to be living between two homes, you need to first establish the ground rules and conditions for this to happen. For starters, if your dog is going to be living in a different home with different people for part of their life, you want to ensure as much consistency as possible. It is important to be consistent in:
1. What your dog is eating (brand and type of food)
2. What your dog is called (their name or nicknames)
3. Routines in your dog's life (daily walk, the time they eat, and the number of times they eat)
When first training your dog to live between two houses, it is important to expose the dog to both living conditions, so they can adapt and get used to all aspects of their homes. Research indicates that longer visits, for a week or even a month, are preferred over short visits, because this gives the dog time to adjust to the two different locations.
The most important thing to remember when attempting to familiarize your dog with both homes is that we need to think about and do what's best for our pets, even if this means it is not the best for us. What we mean by this is some dogs will be able to live between two homes, and some won't. If your dog is unable to accomplish the task, it is likely you need to come up with alternative plan for living.
How to React if Your Dog is Not Adjusting to Living Between Two Homes:
Increase the time the dog spends in the two locations. For example, try having your dog live in each home for longer than a week, so that it can get used to the new conditions and environment.
Provide your dog with comfort during times of their distress (e.g., petting and praising when they appear sad).
As soon as notice your dogs exhibiting negative behaviors, use conditioning techniques to extinguish the behavior (clear command of stop or no).
Tips to Consider When Sharing Your Dog Between Two Homes:
Establish who is the rightful owner of the dog. This is normally the person who renews their ownership tags. Establishing this right away can prevent problems down the road.
A smooth transition is characterized by routines and consistency. Interrupt past routines as little as possible.
Divide costs between yourself and the second owner (ranging anywhere from basic needs, such as food, to medical needs, such as vet visits). Knowing who is responsible for what will prevent unnecessary issues in the future.
Use a calendar to arrange and track the agreed-upon visitation times. Ideally, decide on visitation for the whole year, keeping in mind that scheduling regular and consistent intervals of time for visiting will result in your dog feeling security.
If your dog is adjusting poorly to the new living conditions, its time to reflect on and discuss alternative ways to have "Shared Custody" with your dog aside from having them live between two houses.