You Just Adopted a Rescue Dog
Success for You and Your New Dog
Congratulations! You've opened your heart, rescued a dog, and are giving him the joy of a loving, forever home. But it takes more than love to create a harmonious relationship with your new animal friend.
Let's look at things from the dog's point of view. She has no idea what to expect in this new environment. Is it friendly? Are their rules? Boundaries? What is acceptable behavior in this strange place? Will he be fed? Where is she supposed to go to the bathroom? Does he belong here? Remember your new pet has been living in a cage, and before that, she may have lived in adverse circumstances. He needs help integrating into your family, learning to trust people in this new home. Dogs, like people, have different personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. Some dogs need more reassurance than others. You need to get to know her, and she needs to get to know you.
Your first day with your dog
- Bring a bag of small treats and a leash with you when you pick up your dog from the shelter.
- Begin training the dog as soon as you arrive home.
- Before entering your house, gently lead the dog (on leash) to a specific area of the yard where he is expected to "use the bathroom".
- If she's not leash trained, she may pull and try to run around. Or he may be passive. He's been living in a cage, and your world is totally new to him.
- Get a feel for what your dog is feeling. Is she afraid? Anxious? Have nervous energy?
- Reassure her in a calm voice.
- If he is cooperative and relieves himself in a proper place, give him a treat.
- Keep the dog on a leash and take her for a tour of your property.
- Begin to teach him how you will communicate with him. When she is behaving, say "Good!" in a loving voice. When he does something unacceptable, like trying to eat a plant, say "No" or "Uh-uh" in a calm, but firm voice.
- Do not yell. Dogs pick up on human emotions, so it's important to communicate with your dog calmly so she won't feel frightened. If you are on edge, she will be on edge too. Give him time to get comfortable in his new surroundings.
- Remember to give her a small treat when she responds cooperatively.
- Still keeping him on leash, continue the tour inside your house.
- Show her where her water and food dishes are. Drop a treat in the food bowl.
- When your tour is complete, remove the leash.
- He will likely begin sniffing around the home, getting acquainted.
- Do not allow anyone to force themselves on the dog. She may be "hand shy", afraid of new humans (this is especially true of dogs that were abused). If you have other animals, keep a watchful eye on how the new dog is fitting in. Don't force anything.
- Your dog may be startled, stressed, and nervous about anything he hasn't smelled or encountered before (including the car ride!). Don't be alarmed by unexpected behavior.
- Dogs need a structured schedule. As nearly as possible, feed and walk the dog at the same time everyday. This lets her know what to expect and when to expect it.
- A well-trained dog will ask to go out (to the bathroom) when he needs to, but it's also important to let him out first thing in the morning and before bedtime. This too should be part of his schedule.
- If your dog is behaving badly, is out of control, or is listless, it may be due to a lack of vitamins or to having her food changed. She may not have eaten nutritious food before. If you are changing her diet, add the new food slowly into the old diet.
- Check food and treat labels carefully. Do not buy any food made in China.
- If you have other animals, the new dog may try to dominate the others or it may be fearful of the others. It may be fearful the other animals will take its food, or he may try to grab their food.
- It may take time for the dog to learn to walk well on a leash. He may refuse to move, or bite and pull at the leash. She may not have been walked before. Take baby steps. Use treats to move the dog calmly forward. Use a relaxed hold on the leash when walking.
- If the dog has been caged for a while, he may have excess energy with his first tastes of freedom. Exercise is always necessary, but more may be required.
- if the dog seems too restless. Walking frees a dog's mind and helps the dog release stress and forget past problems. It also tells the dog you are his parent. It's great to have 20-minute walks twice a day, after breakfast and dinner.
- Your dog may be fearful or aggressive with other dogs. Move away from what frightens the dog and continue walking calmly. Don't pick up or soothe the dog, as this is rewarding fearful or nervous behavior. When you are removed from the situation, and the dog is calm, then you can touch or talk to her.
- If your dog does not know proper manners when interacting with other animals, slowly introduce him to other animals in a calm setting. Do not force the interaction.
- Some dogs will experience separation anxiety when left alone. It takes time for them to learn you will always come back home and love them and care for them. If the dog is destructive when you leave, you may need to crate or fence your dog until he learns to adjust to your comings and goings. But do not leave a dog in a crate for a long period of time. Release her immediately when you return home.
- Give your dog time to adapt. He may not be used to trusting other animals or humans. He may not be accustomed to being loved and well cared for. Play games with him and teach him some obedience skills. Give him time to feel secure in his new home.
- If you need assistance helping your dog adjust to her new life, it is a good idea to seek the services of a certified dog trainer and to join a group class. Group classes help the dog learn to socialize with other humans and dogs. You may need a few private classes for special issues.
- Find a trainer who uses positive training methods, not harsh or punitive methods. Dogs should obey out of love and respect, not out of fear. A rescue dog has had enough fear in his life.
Yes, it may take some effort and attention to create a harmonious relationship with your dog, but if you put in the time for the first month or so after adopting your rescue, he will have a wonderful life with his new family.