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Canine Behavior/Dog moving homes


QUESTION: Hi - we are moving to another country for an indefinite period of time. Our dog - Meg - is going to live with my mother-in-law. She loves my MOL and my MOL loves her. My question is - we will probably be returning every two or so months for 2 weeks (or so) at a time. We are keeping our family home (our grown up children will be in it). Will our dog be affected if we pick her up from our MOL's and bring her back to our home for the two weeks we are back and then return her to our MOL? will this cause her confusion and distress?

ANSWER: I think the dog needs to stay with the MOL.  Going back and forth will give her enormous stress; she needs to habituate to her new home.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi Jill - thanks for your answer. Now we have another scenario emerging. Our 20yo daughter - who is staying in our family home, has asked if she can look after Meg. On the days where she has a full day at University, she will drop Meg at our MOL (this happens now when my husband or I are going out for a whole day). My problem is, when we come home (or rather when my husband comes home as I am working overseas) for those two weeks every two months or so, he will be coming back to our family home - to where Meg is. I think this will cause Meg more stress, and are we better (for Meg) to give her to our MOL to look after full time, just visiting her (Meg) when we are home, perhaps taking her for walks, but ALWAYS returning her to our MOL's house - not brining her home? Or would she be ok staying in the home she knows with our daughter (who knows her routine and would follow it)? I am really wanting to do whatever is best for our dog. I know whatever we do will cause her some stress but I want to minimise it. She is bonded to both myself and my husband, but would be reasonably content with our daughter. Our MOL has another dog which Meg gets on well with too.

Well, this is a brand new scenario except for one thing: your 20 yo daughter will soon go out and live her own life; then what?  Only you can answer that.  If we are fortunate, our children are mentally healthy and WANT to go live their own lives (which is as it should be), then we ask ourselves this:  Is it fair to put the family dog into the hands of a young woman (or young man) who is trying to make her/his way in the world?  Is it?

If you think the answer is yes (because you know your daughter and her plans, hopefully), then leaving your dog at home in her own environment would be fine except: your 20 yo daughter has a social life.  Maybe she wants to stay late after work, have drinks with friends; maybe she goes out on a date or two that you don't know about (lol) and wants to spend the night somewhere.  In other words, the responsibility of NEEDING to be at home for a dog is far too great for a 20 yo, IMHO.  

Your MOL is happy with your dog and your dog is happy with her.  Plus, your MOL has another dog and your dog gets along well with that dog (and this must be ABSOLUTELY TRUE all the time).  Your MOL will not be going out for social occasions that last for hours into the wee AM (I should think!)  That is a stable home for your dog.  Your 20 yo is stable, but she is at the beginning of her life and she will not be available for much longer, let's face it.  

"Reasonably content" with your daughter is not sufficient evidence for THIS "jury".  Content with the MOL is.  You and your husband (to whom she is bonded) can visit her whenever possible but you must leave her be in her new home with MOL.  You must be ABSOLUTELY certain that NO animosity will build between your dog and the dog that resides with your MOL.  You do this by leaving your dog with MOL overnight once a week for a few weeks, then two nights for a few weeks, then three nights, etc. so long as this fits into the schedule you must adhere to as you plan your departure.  IF there is going to be trouble between the two dogs, it will begin to manifest within three or four weeks of escalating "sleep overs".  If trouble does erupt, use followup to ask me about it; if no trouble erupts, then the best course of action, for daughter and dog, is to GIVE HER to MOL and visit her there.  That's what I would do.

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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