Considering Adoption? Adopting a rescue dog is an incredibly rewarding experience. With so many dogs in need, adoption saves a dog’s life and gives you a loving companion, exercise partner and best friend. Before making a decision on dog ownership, we’ve compiled a list of important tips which we hope are helpful for you!
Which dog is best for me? Selecting a family dog should be a well-researched and thoughtful activity. Too often people choose a pet because they like the “look” of a breed or want a puppy to play with. But is the breed suitable for your lifestyle and is their age and (often) corresponding energy level are the right match for your family?
A special note on puppies: Cute and cuddly, puppies are the most popular choice for new dog owners who want to bond with the dog from a young age. If the dog you are considering is 2 years old or younger, be prepared for more work! While it’s fun to interact with a puppy, house-training, socializing and exercise are all required on a much grander scale than a mature dog. Many people underestimate the work involved in adopting a young dog so please ensure you do your homework beforehand!
A special plea for older dogs: Older dogs are often overlooked for a variety of. A mature dog will usually have a calmer temperament (all that puppy energy has been burnt up!), a more certain behavior profile and less exercise needs. If this is your first dog, or if you cannot devote the necessary time to train, socialize and exercise a young dog, an adult dog mightbe a better option for you. An older dog that has found itself without a home is in this position through no fault of its own. He or she will love you just as much as a puppy and is as deserving as any other dog looking for a home.
Do you have the time? Adoption is for life and requires a 10-15 year commitment. Good dog ownership requires a tremendous amount of work. The younger the dog, the more time you should be prepared to spend in making your pup the best dog he or she can be. House-training, obedience training, socializing with other people/dogs and doggy exercise are just some examples of the effort you will need to invest .. If your work requires you to spend long hours outside of home, or you travel frequently and cannot in either case arrange for third-party care, a dog is probably not the best fit for your life at this time.
Do you have the resources? Vet visits, grooming, dog food, unexpected medical issues, boarding/daycare can all take its toll on a pet parent’s wallet! A dog is a financial commitment for life and will require an owner to have the financial means and willingness to provide for their pet as needed and to ensure adequate care is received.
Big life events on the horizon? Planning on moving to another city or country? Having a baby? Changing careers? Life events can be stressful on even the most well-organized people. A dog does not have a say in these changes and will not understand why there is a disruption to their routine. Dogs are sensitive creatures and may become stressed if they experience major disruptions to their lives. If there are big changes planned for your future please consider whether bringing a dog into your household is the right decision.
Congratulations on your new family member! The first few weeks and months after adopting a pet can be an exciting time in your life. To help ensure a well-balanced dog and family member, the following are some tips for new dog owners:
In the lead up to adoption day: Establish who the primary caretaker for the dog will be and determine where you want your dog to be spending most of his time (ex: will he be limited to certain parts of the house vs. free roam, are there certain parts of the home which are desirable in case of any house-training or chewing accidents or in the event of excessive barking). Will you elect to crate train your dog when you are out of the house or at night, or will he be sleeping on the bed with you? Are there any items in your home which may pose a safety issue for a new pet? Take the time to think of how you want to train your dog and what kind of schedule you will be looking to follow so that you are ready to execute and implement on day one! If you are looking to register your dog in obedience classes (an excellent way to bond with your pet and one we highly recommend), do your research and phone or visit different locations beforehand.
The first few days following adoption: Bringing a dog into a new home can be stressful for both the individual and dog, as both need to adjust to a changed living environment. Be patient and give your pet space and time to get familiar with his new family members.
We sometimes get messages from new owners who are concerned they are not connecting with the dog or worried the dog isn’t bonding with them quickly enough. Like human relationships, dog/owner relationships take time to build. Depending on the dog, he/she made need some space until a level of trust is established. Do not try and force the relationship or overwhelm the dog by encroaching in their personal space excessively, or picking them/forcing affection up unnecessarily. Be cautious when introducing your pooch to new people or strangers and look for cues given by your pet (such as the “whale eye,” stiffness in posture or growling) when they need space. In time a loving relationship will develop!
At the outset, keep your dog in a calm environment and avoid dog parks or unnecessary interaction with children to allow him or her to settle in easier and to allow yourself the ability to learn their likes and dislikes.
Please do not let your dog off-leash until you are 100% certain your dog will come back to you when called and will not run away because he/she is spooked or distracted, and some dogs will never be off-leash dogs due to nervousness, high prey drive, etc. Unfortunately, many well-meaning owners allow their dogs’ off-leash too early, putting their dogs at risk of going missing. We know of a few rescues who have had to deal with this issue and the outcome is not always positive. This is especially important for our Colombian rescues who are adjusting to a new country, not just a new home. Their environment is unfamiliar and they need time before they can be fully trusted not to run away. We strongly recommend keeping your dog on a 6 foot leash where he/she can be controlled at all time and where any undesirable behaviors with other dogs can be easily corrected.
A new home may mean new changes to diet, especially if the dog is coming from a background where he was exposed to poor nutrition. At the outset, expect some loose stool or diarrhea as the transition to better quality foods take place. To help in the transition, you can offer your dog some cooked rice or sweet potato mixed in with food. Enquire as to the foods your dog has been eating and mix the lower quality foods with higher quality product, gradually transitioning to the latter over time.
Follow the schedule you had devised for your pet in the lead up to adoption and try to be consistent in executing right from the outset! Begin your training or obedience courses early on. If you are going to be crating the dog or confining him or her to one room start the day they arrive for a brief period of time, gradually increasing it. Expect some barking and upset-ness as these dogs are not used to being alone and everything is still new!
A dog’s behavior can change when they are on-leash vs. off-leash area, as well as in a group setting with other dogs. For example, a dog that is not reactive on –leash when alone might start to act out when a new dog arrives. Be aware that this may happen and be prepared to correct with treats, redirection or leash correction.
Watch the dog around high-value items like toys and food to make sure there isn’t any conflict or resource guarding. If there is, remove the toy and address the food issue immediately and at the outset to avoid escalation.
If you have brought your dog into a home with an existing pet, make sure the introduction is gradual. When both dogs are together, make sure it’s in a space where you have control. Do not expect the dogs to be playful or “best friends” right at the outset, as it’s an adjustment for both animals and it takes time. A natural hierarchy will form in the weeks and months that follow. For a best 2-dog household, we often suggest a male/female mix, followed by a male/male mix, a female/female mix is often the least desirable combination.
The first few weeks and months: It can sometime take a few weeks or months for a dog’s true personality to be displayed, and as the dog gradually gets to know you and its new living environment. Be patient and understanding and remember to be consistent with your schedule so that both parties know what to expect from each other! Any undesirable behavioral issues should be addressed immediately before they escalate or become “normal” behavior, which will become harder to correct. Seek the advice of a professional or speak with your veterinarian if you are unfamiliar with this behavior or need help managing.
Please feel free to contact Save a Friend at any time at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or concerns or if support is needed. We understand how difficult the adjustment to life with a new pet can be and we are here to help! There is never an issue too small or insignificant, we are always available and would rather you get in touch immediately before any problem or situation deteriorates.