Are You Ready to Adopt?

The top two reasons given by people who relinquish their dogs to shelters are 1) moving; and 2) landlord issues, which leaves our shelters full of wonderful, family-ready dogs. Shelters are also full of misunderstood dogs as well, usually for two very simple reasons – a lack of exercise and/or a lack of leadership. People forget that they are dealing with a canine animal so many times they just don’t give the dog what it needs. So when the dog doesn’t act like the perfect pet they imagined, they just assume they “didn’t get a good one” so they “get rid” of the dog.

Fortunately for us, dogs don’t dwell in the past or think about the future so it’s very possible for a full grown dog to be capable of starting over again. In order to start off on the right foot with your new best friend, you need to adequately prepare, both for your sake as well as theirs.

Gather and/or Purchase Dog Supplies
You’ll need to get several things ready in advance – a collar and leash, food and water bowls, food, and, of course, some toys. And don’t forget to order an identification tag right away. At first, you should keep your dog on the same food he’s been eating at the shelter, even if it’s poor quality. Suddenly switching to a new diet will cause gastrointestinal problems. You can always change his food after he settles in by slowly weaning him onto a better quality of food.

Do Your Homework
Next, you need to do some research in order to narrow down the right dog for you. This should begin before you even set foot in a shelter. Not every dog is a match for every family so study different breeds until you have a general idea about their temperament and their needs. There are two main things you should look for: the dog’s energy level and the dog’s dominancy level. By studying a wide variety of breeds before you get to the shelter you should be able to make a more educated decision regarding what type of dog will fit into your lifestyle.

When you start visiting shelters, don’t be determined to come home with a dog on the first day. They receive new animals every day, so keep checking back with them. Some groups also keep a waiting list, so they can call you if an animal matching your preference becomes available. And try not to make an emotional decision when choosing a dog. Visiting a shelter can be very sad but if you lose focus of your goal, you may end up adopting a dog that isn’t right for you. Dogs that are repeatedly returned to the shelter have a higher rate of being killed, so take your time and choose wisely.

Don’t Overlook Senior Dogs
Senior dogs need homes just as badly as the cute puppies. They may not be suited to a home with very young children, as they’re not as accustomed to being around kids’ high energy. But they are wonderful companions for homes that are not as active. They may need less exercise and more health care, but the love they give in return is the best reward.

Before You Take Your Dog Home
After you’ve chosen a dog and done all the paperwork, there are some key actions you can take that will help set you up for success. Do not go straight home. Take your new dog for a nice long walk, longer than normal as he will have extra energy he will need to burn off. Walking him as soon as you leave the shelter is best. If this is not possible, then drive somewhere you can take him for a walk. You will also need to walk around your own neighborhood.

The First Day Home
Try and arrange the arrival of your new dog for a weekend or when you can be home for a few days so you can spend quality time together. If you have other pets, make sure they’re up-to-date on their shots and in general good health before bringing home a new dog. You might want to consider isolating the new dog from your other pets during the first entry to your home – he will appreciate a safe and quiet environment as he explores his new home for the first time.

Have a place already set up for your dog, whether a crate or a dog bed. Show this place to your dog and allow him to smell it. Place a dog bone or some treats on his new place so your dog associates this place with something positive. While keeping him on a lead, take your dog to each room he will be allowed in and allow him to smell it.

Be Patient!
The first couple of weeks you and your pet will be getting to know each other. When he’s first settling in, your dog may display shyness, anxiety, restlessness, excitement, crying or barking. He may drink water excessively, urinate frequently, or have diarrhea. His appetite may not be good. If any of these symptoms last more than a few days, call your veterinarian. Otherwise, be patient and try to anticipate any problems before they occur. Don’t leave tempting shoes, clothing, or children’s toys within his reach.

Refrain from hugging and kissing your dog right away. To a dog, a hug symbolizes dominance and invasion of space. By hugging your dog, you’ll be invading his space by wrapping your body on top of his before he has gotten the chance to know you. Don’t pet the dog if he is scared, nervous, anxious, or if he is showing any signs of dominance. This will lessen the stress level for the dog and possibly prevent a bite due to a lack of human-canine communication.

Try to develop and use a consistent daily routine for feeding, exercising, and bathroom duties. Dogs are creatures of habit and routine translates into security for them. If you do the same things in the same way and in the same order, he will settle in more quickly and learn what is expected of him and when.

Socialize Your Dog
After your dog has had time to settle in and is starting to display some confidence, start providing new socialization opportunities. Introduce new people gradually. Introductions can take the form of petting, playing fetch, even going for a walk. Don’t force the dog to accept new people. Do it positively, with lots of praise, allowing the dog to approach people rather than new people approaching your dog. Be sure to tell your visitors that your dog is a rescue dog so they need to be more sensitive. Then start taking your dog new places – nearby parks, dog-allowed beaches, and especially to obedience classes.

Always keep in mind that as dogs do not yell and scream, neither should humans. Everyone near the dog should be confident, but calm.

Consider Crate Training
Every dog needs a place to escape to, a place to call his own, and a crate provides an answer to these needs. Your new dog may have some separation anxiety when you leave him for work or alone at home. Crating the dog in the beginning will eliminate accidents, chewing destruction, and other mischievous activity that is rooted in nervousness and insecurity. Your dog is safest in the crate when you’re not home until you can totally trust him loose in the house. This is especially true if you have resident pets because you can’t supervise their interactions while you’re away. Crates are also great for traveling with your dog – he will always have a familiar den to retreat to and feel comfortable and reassured. While crating a dog helps make everybody safe, crating should NOT be abused by locking the dog in the crate all the time. You should also never use the crate for disciplining. The crate must be a dog’s sanctuary in order for crate training to be effective.

Below are several links with more information about choosing a dog that’s right for you, and how to prepare to bring him home: