Bringing a Rescue Home: The Do’s and Don’ts

rescue-dog1With the ever-increasing number of dogs ending up in shelters, often abused and in need of a loving home, it’s no wonder more and more pet-owners are taking to adopting a rescue, rather than opting for a pedigree from a breeder or pet shop.  The problem lies with the owner not doing their research or ‘giving up’ on the dog and returning them because “it didn’t work out”. Fortunately, dogs are very much “in the now” creatures, so they tend to forget their unfortunate pasts pretty quickly and can just as quickly learn the “correct” behaviours associated with a happy, well trained pet. So to avoid having to return your rescue and ensure that his introduction to your home is a happy one, follow these simple steps:

Do your homework first:

– Firstly, choose the right breed. Rescue or not, different breeds have different needs. If you are not able to take your dog for regular walks, don’t get a high energy dog.

– Take your time with your decision. Go back to the shelter a few times to make doubly sure and choose wisely. Spend some time at the shelter, and watch how your potential dog interacts with other dogs, humans and yourself.

– Ask for a full history. This is to ensure that you are aware of any abuse or potential behavioural issues you might be dealing with.

The initial meet and greet:

– Don’t look the dog directly in the eyes; rather greet him side on. If not, the dog will see you as a threat and will either display aggressive behaviour or be fearful of you.

– Let him smell you and get used to you.

– Be calm, yet assertive at all times (This remains true throughout the introduction process).

– Don’t feel sorry for the dog – they will interpret this as a sign of weakness and act up even more.

– Don’t hug or kiss the dog. First establish leadership in the home before showing any sign of affection. This might be hard but you need to speak “dog” first in order for the dog to listen to you, his new leader.

The journey home:

– Make sure your dog is safe and secure in the car for the journey home.

– Before you get home, if possible, park somewhere and walk the dog home on a lead – this will not only rid the dog of any excess energy but also give him time to get to know his new environment. You will also be establishing yourself as the dog’s new leader.

Once home:

– When you get home, take your dog (still on the lead) on a tour of the garden before entering the house, so he can get to know the lay of the land. Show him where he will be relieving himself, and encourage him to do so now.

– When you do enter the house, make sure you enter first (again establishing leadership).

– Keep the environment as calm as possible so as not to overwhelm the dog. Again, take him on a tour of the house, each time when entering a room making sure you enter first (dog should still be on a lead).

– Show the dog where he will be eating and sleeping.

– Remain calm the entire time, with no sudden movements.

In the following weeks:

– Establish routine. Dogs thrive on routine, so stay consistent with toilet times, meal times, walks and play time and family time.

– If your dog remains fearful of human contact, here are a few things to try;

  • Hand-feed him tasty treats. “The quickest way to a dog’s heart is through their stomach”.  Get them to trust you by taking food from your hand.
  • While remaining assertive, be aware of your body language. Dogs will feel threatened by confrontation so remember to not look at them directly or make any sudden, threating movements.
  • When grooming, start by just using your hands, rather than any grooming tools.
  • Even though it might seem cruel, remember to establish yourself as the leader and set boundaries. You and your dog will appreciate it more as time goes on.

– Remember that the dog probably had to scavenge for food prior to entering your loving home, so be prepared for begging.  Make sure he has a balanced meal (in his set place) and don’t encourage begging. He should not be encouraged to sit with the family at mealtimes and definitely should not be provided with scraps.

– All the usual training tactics apply when it comes to your dog acting up; be it through digging, chewing, barking or separation anxiety. Read our various blogs on the subject. If you feel additional help is needed, take your dog for training or enlist the help of an animal behaviourist.

But most importantly, have patience! Don’t go rushing back to the shelter at the first sign of your dog misbehaving. Give it time, be consistent, provide a loving and supportive environment and you’ll soon be enjoying a special time with your dog. The positive feedback is endless – adopting a rescue is supremely satisfying for both owner and dog. Enjoy it!

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