Rescue Dog Prep
Set yourself up for success; what to do before (and after) you bring them home
According to the American Humane Society, shelters and rescues take in about 6 dogs per minute in the United States, that’s a whopping 3.3 million dogs per year. Of those, about 48% are rehomed. The others? They’re not so fortunate, and they never make it out of the shelter. In the South, the situation is much worse.
But you – you’ve decided to adopt! You’re making a difference in the life of a dog who desperately needs a chance. When a dog is rescued, it’s actually two that are saved – the one going home sweet home, and the one there is now a space for in care. That’s the new math of compassion, and you’re earning a Ph.D.
When your new dog comes home, it’s like landing in a foreign country without a guide book. There are a few simple things you can do to ease this transition and set your new family member up for successful repatriation.
· Set up a quiet area where your dog can go to relax and regroup. A cozy crate on the outskirts of the action with an open door for coming and going gives your pup the freedom to decide when they need a break. Place it against a wall versus in the middle of the room as dogs prefer a more den-like atmosphere when they relax. Allow them to come and go in and out of it at will.
· You’re no doubt super excited about your new addition, but they may be needing some decompression time. Gauge their energy and emotion before you invite the extended crew over to do introductions – it’s a lot of pressure on that first day. Let them relax and get to know you. Fear and anxiety can look like bad behavior, when it’s anything but.
· Begin how you want to end. Is your dog going to be sleeping in the big bed? If not, don’t start with them doing so. Don’t want them begging at the dinner table? Don’t give them bites while you’re eating from there. Think about routine and consistency; there is a comfort and a joy in the known. Where and when will your dog eat? Where will they sleep? When will they be walked or taken to potty? What will happen when you leave the house; will they crate or free roam?
· Don’t expect perfection, mistakes are going to happen as you get to know each other. Think of it this way - every mistake is a chance to learn and build confidence. Remember that this dog sees ten doors in your house, but isn’t sure which one leads to the yard for tinkle time. In the case of a shelter pup, they’ve come from a loud environment without enrichment or the comforts of home. Some have never known kindness. They desperately want to please you, and though you’ve chosen a dog that you want to be right for you, you must be right for them. Correct mistakes with softness and patience, and look in the mirror when it's necessary.
· Allow time to get to know each other. You may want to tweak some of your routines when you learn more about your dog’s individual personality. Some may do fine free-feeding while others need dedicated meal times. Some need more exercise while others are happy to loaf on the sofa. For whatever reason, and usually through no fault of their own, this little one has been let down, and finding balance again takes time. Good relationships are built on trust, and trust takes time to build. Once you have it, tend to it like a garden so it will flourish for years to come.