Running a rescue, we have anywhere from 6 to 15 dogs at a time. For the most part, we have been fortunate enough to have a group of dogs that along get along well. Our most recent 9 (now down to 6 – yay for forever families!) all get along exceptionally well.
While managing the rescue comes with its own unique set of challenges and amazing experiences, one in particular that I try to be acutely aware of is the dogs becoming closer to each other and forming a stronger bond with their dog-mates than with me.
This can happen even if you don’t run a rescue. It’s most often seen when families adopt littermates, something I highly advise against for just this reason.
My current 6 have formed a very strong bond with one another. This is great news, I am very happy about it, but I have to be careful that they don’t have a stronger relationship with each other than with me.
I want them to see my as their role model and to be as close to me as if they were my only dog. When you have one dog, all of your doggy time and energy can be given to that one pet. As you can imagine, it can be tough to give each individual dog the daily training and attention to establish and maintain this same bond, especially when they all essentially spend the entirety of the day with each other. I can spend anywhere from 8 to 15 hours with my “pack” as a whole (I’m not a fan of that term because of the connotations, but for lack of a better word…) which maybe allows for 30-60 minutes with each individually. If I’m lucky.
And when I say one-on-one time, I mean personal time playing, petting, and working with that one dog only, no others around. It’s critical. And very difficult.
There are occasions in which I see a particular dog become more attached to another person than me. Most often either my fiancé (VP of the rescue) or my close friend and a Director of the rescue. One dog in particular has become very attached to her.
In these cases, I’m supportive of this bond. I may not be number one, but it’s still important they establish that human bond. Remember, these are often strays who may have little to no contact with humans, and in the worst cases, their human interactions have left them scared and scarred.
Those that are a part of The Dog’s Domain are amazing and supporting at developing these unique relationships that arise. And whether it’s me or someone else in our rescue, it’s a beautiful thing to see an animal left broken physically, mentally, and spiritually curl up with a human for a nap, safe and unafraid.