Ernie the anxious rescue dog

Rebecca’s family used to have two dogs, but they both died of old age in 2013. Ever since then, she’s been keen to have another pet, and she was delighted when her family finally agreed to take on a new rescue dog. They spent some time looking around, checking out the wide range of dogs at the Dogs Trust centre in north Dublin before finding Ernie at the DSPCA on Mount Venus Road in Rathfarnham.

Ernie is a rescue dog

Ernie is a one year old terrier, with an unknown background. He was found wandering, then taken in by the DSPCA, where he was neutered, microchipped, vaccinated and treated for parasites. He’s a gentle, good-natured dog, and the family were delighted to welcome him into their home. Ernie is a great example of a rescue dog: why would anyone want to spend hundreds of euro on a pedigree puppy when it’s possible to save a dog’s life by taking an animal from a rescue group? As well as saving a life, you save money, because there’s usually no need to go to a vet for spays, neuters, vaccines or microchips: it’s all done for you already.

Ernie settled in to Rebecca’s household immediately, but it was obvious from the start that he was very clingy.  Understandably after the neglect that he has suffered earlier in his life, he doesn’t want to be left on his own, and he is always looking for somebody to be beside him. There isn’t a problem with this during the daytime, as one of Rebecca’s family members is always at home, but it’s been causing problems at night: Ernie does not want to be on his own when everyone else goes to bed.

ernie doesn’t like to be alone

He has a brand new, big, soft bed, located in the kitchen beside the cosiness of the Aga cooker. Rebecca makes sure that he has a regular evening routine, being taken for a walk last thing, then given a tasty treat before being told that it’s bedtime. She has set up a ticking clock and a radio playing music beside his bed, in the hope that these will reassure him. At first, Ernie settles down OK, but within fifteen minutes, he starts to whimper and bark, standing at the door to the rest of the house, looking for attention. So far, they have all managed to ignore him, knowing that if they give in and go down to him, he will keep on doing it indefinitely. But nobody’s been having a good night’s sleep. It isn’t easy to rest when you can hear an anxious dog downstairs.

When Rebecca mentioned this problem to me, I came up with a few extra tips. First, I’ve fitted Ernie with an Adaptil collar: this contains a slow-release formulation of calming pheromones which will make him feel more relaxed and less anxious. Second, Rebecca has installed a Pet Remedy room diffuser, which releases a combination of botanical aromas, including Valerian, into the atmosphere around Ernie’s bed. This will make him feel calmer and sleepier at bed time. Finally, Rebecca has bought a red rubber Kong toy which she’s going to stuff with tasty food, then put into the deep freeze. She’ll give this to Ernie at bed time, and it will take him at least an hour to extract all the food from the toy by chewing it. By this time, hopefully he’ll be tired enough to drift into a snooze rather than barking and whimpering for company.


  • Rescue dogs make just as good pets as pedigree pups and they’re much less expensive
  • All dogs can be restless and anxious in the days after arriving at a new home
  • Pheromones, botanical aromas and food-releasing toys can help pets to settle down in their beds

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