There is a common misconception that rescue dogs are either broken or were abused and will, therefore, be problematic in a loving home setting. While it is true that some rescue dogs have had a rough past, what you need to remember is that rescue dogs are often placed in shelters for a wide variety of reasons.
Some happy and very healthy puppies end up in a shelter simply because their loving owner didn't expect their litter to be that big and just can't care for all of them. Just as there are adult dogs that are very playful and get along perfectly well with other dogs and people but end up in the shelter because their owners couldn't care for them anymore for one reason or another.
Yes, some rescue dogs will need remedial behavioral training or medical care, but that shouldn't be the color with which you paint all shelter dogs. Here are some rescue dog adoption tips that should help get you and your new best friend suitably acclimated to one another.
Tip 1: He/She Will Take Time to Open Up
According to the ASPCA, about 6.5 million animals end up in shelters each year. Many of these animals have been removed from their comfort zone (a home they knew), placed into a shelter (new environment), and finally adopted by someone as caring as yourself (another different environment).
It is only logical to expect the dog to be a little shy at first as he/she gets to know their new home and new best friend. No matter how jovial or closed off the dog will be, the simple truth is that the pet that walks in through your front door on the day you bring them home isn't going to be the same in just a few weeks.
That dog is either broken, scared, excited, or plain nervous. Either way, what you are seeing isn't who the dog is once they get relaxed and well acclimated to their new environment. This will take time. It will also call for positive training, constant love, and a little patience from you. Once the dog learns that you are the master and they can trust you to take care of them, then they will slowly open up, and what you find might be the best friend ever.
Tip 2: He/She Will Need Remedial Potty Training
Think of it as an orientation course. Every time you join a new company, you get an orientation course despite being actually good at your job and playing well with others (these are the reasons why you were hired in the first place). Your new rescue dog is very much the same way. Even if the dog already had potty training, they will need a fresh course simply because they are new to you as well as the environment.
Until you are confident that he/she knows exactly where you want them to potty, treat them as though they have no potty training at all. This will take some time mostly because the dog has to learn how to alert you when they have to go and because Pavlovian conditioning does take time. Remember to reward him/her every time they get the steps right to establish that positive behavior.
Tip 3: Don't Assume to Know the Dog's Temperament
Yes, some shelter dogs are just the sweetest and most playful creatures on Earth. And yes, they will probably pass temperament tests with flying colors. However, whenever you are bringing a new dog into your home, especially if you are adopting an older animal, it is best to assume that you simply do not know the dog’s temperament and character.
One of the best rescue dog adoption tips you will ever get is to never leave a new shelter dog with young kids without your supervision. Kids, like the pets themselves, are very temperamental and don't know when they are going too far. Take the time to learn the dog's behavior as well as impart positive training to modify that behavior to your liking. Only once you are comfortable that the dog and your kids have become very good friends can you start leaving them alone together.
Tip 4: Pet-Proof Your Home
You will need to pet-proof your home. Think of this as a new toddler being brought into your living environment. Some things will pique their interest (which is a good thing; it shows they are keen and want to explore their new environment). However, some of these things might be quite harmful to them as well as costly to you.
Take the time to get rid of some of the common culprits such as loose hanging wires, cleaning detergents, small toys, and items that could be choking hazards, medicines as well as houseplants such as tulips, lilies and sago palms that could be poisonous to your new dog.
Tip 5: They Need to See a Vet
While animal rescue shelters do their best to ensure that the rescued animals get decent medical care and whatever shots they need, the truth is that the breath of this care isn't as wide as you would like it to be. For the most part, your new shelter dog won't have had a full blood workup to test for numerous issues such as allergies. In short, it's wise to assume that your pet had a routine physical checkup before you rescued him/her.
Which means that you will need to see a vet. This should be the first of these rescue dog adoption tips you put into action. Visiting a vet within the first week will make sure that they are current on their shots, don't have any allergies that you don't know about, and are generally healthy. At the very least, you get to know what kind of treatment they might need, especially when it comes to their teeth and coat.
Choosing to care for shelter animals is a noble course, but you still need these rescue dog adoption tips to ensure that you and your family get along swimmingly with your new best friend.