Adding a new member to the family is a big responsibility. When people think of adopting a dog, they mostly think of getting a dog from a breeder. Fortunately, nowadays more and more people are getting involved in adopting rescue dogs from shelters and the streets instead of buying them. In this blog post, I will discuss how you can take care of a rescue dog. Whether you get the dog from a shelter or directly rescue from the street, there are certain things you need to do to make sure that the dog settles in easily.
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Before I get into how to take care of a rescue dog, you need to know what a rescue dog is in the first place.
A rescue dog is one who does not have a family to call his own. Maybe the dog was born on the streets. Or abandoned by his family at the shelter. An alternate scenario could be that he spent his entire life on the road. Maybe he has known human affection before. Maybe he has had no human contact in his entire life. Rescue dogs have led a very hard life before being rescued. Deciding to get a dog and deciding to get a rescue dog are two different things.
When you decide to get a dog, you are mentally prepared to get a puppy who is well-nourished and does not have past trauma. When you decide to get a rescue dog, you commit to the trauma and the horrors that the pup has witnessed in his life. Your commitment is towards changing the life of that dog permanently.
Adopting a rescue
Adopting a dog from the streets, shelter or any other rescue organization provides that dog another chance to have a happy life. In most cases, you are providing the dog, a new lease of life. Therefore, the decision to adopt a rescue dog should not be made in a hurry. You need to get your house and yourself mentally prepared before getting the dog. You will also have to spend a ton of time, energy and patience to show the dog that he has a loving home and can rely on you for his every need.
Many people feel that just because they are getting a rescue dog, they are doing the dog a favor. If that is your mentality, please do not adopt. If you are saving a dog, the dog is saving you in the process as well. Dogs teach us compassion, unconditional love, how to put someone else before our own needs and how to find happiness even when everything around us seems dark and unforgiving.
Understand the responsibilities
When adopting a dog, there is much more than just getting a food bowl and a bed. Your dog will lead your company, training, bonding, love, attention and patience. Therefore, first you must identify if your house is ready to get a dog. Next you need to understand if you are ready to get a rescue dog. If you can check these points, you are ready to get a rescue dog.
If you’re getting a dog who is in the puppy stages, the adjustment would be much lesser. However, if you’re getting an older or a senior dog, they have seen their share of hardships. For them to adjust to a new home and family will take a bit of time. Remember to see things from your dog’s eyes before you judge your dog for not opening up to you.
Tips for adopting and raising a rescue dog
In order to make sure that you are ready to adopt your rescue dog, both physically and mentally, you should look into the following tips.
Discuss with the family
If you are living with your family, your dog will not only belong to you. Your dog will be a family dog. Before you bring the dog home, you need to have a discussion with your family. Get the opinion of each and every person in your home and identify their level of comfort with having a dog around. In most cases, people have a serious puppy fever and they get a dog. However, they do not realize what caring for a dog actually means. Eventually, they find out that they cannot handle the responsibilities and put the dog in the shelter.
To make sure that this does not happen to you, discuss with your family all potential scenarios that may occur after the adoption of the dog. Certain factors like, ‘where will the dogs sleep, will the dog be allowed on the couch or not, will the dog be allowed on the kitchen floor, who will be in charge of meals, who will take the dog to the parks and walks, etc. should be discussed before you even go to the shelter.
The rules that you decide must be consistent across all your family members. If there is inconsistency in the rules it will confuse the dog. For example, suppose the plan was to not give your dog any tables scrap. However, one of your family members ignored the rule and gave the dog table scraps. This will create confusion in the mind of the dog. Since one person is providing table scraps, the dog will expect to get table scraps from all the other members of the household as well. Therefore, the rules must be laid down beforehand.
Schedule a vet appointment
Even before you get a dog, you must find a good veterinarian near your house. It’s important to find a vet close to your place. This is because if your dog needs immediate help, taking him to a clinic that is further away will take longer. If your vet is close by, you will not be wasting precious time. You can also ask the vet about tips and tricks on how to take care of the rescue dog in the best possible manner. If the dog you are planning to adopt has underlying medical conditions, your vet can prescribe you medicines and treatment for the same. Therefore, you can stock your house with the necessary items before your dog even gets home.
Decide on the location
If you go to a person’s house who has a dog, you will notice that the dog has a designated place where you will find the dog most of the time. Decide on this factor before the dog gets home. Discuss with your family members and find out where your dog will be spending most of his day. Since you plan to get a rescue dog he may suffer from past abuse and trauma. Thus, the rescue may seem extremely withdrawn, scared or in pain. Under such conditions, having a place which the dog can call his own is imperative. This allows the dog to acclimatize to your house and environment much faster. Therefore, before you get the dog decide where he will spend most of his day.
Get a crate
If you are planning to crate train your dog, it would be a wise idea to get a crate beforehand. Whether it’s a puppy or an adult dog, moving into a new place with new people and smells can be very strange and stressful. Having a place which the dog can call his own is amazing for him to unwind. You should also start crate training the moment your dog gets home.
Doggie proof the sections
The place where your dog will be spending most of his time during the initial months in your house should be doggie proofed before the dog is brought home. Any item that is chewable should be removed, Shoes and socks be kept inside the cupboard. There should not be anything that can harm your dog. Remove any plants, rugs and store all the household chemicals on high shelves. If there are electrical boards or cords on the floor, remove them. Alternatively, you can put up a playpen so that your dog’s movement is restricted to a specific section of the room and away from anything that can harm your dog.
Arrange for an ID tag
Before you get your dog from the shelter, arrange for a collar and an ID tag. Ensure that you microchip your dog before bringing him home if there is an option for it. Remember to register the microchip with the company if you have already microchipped the dog. Suddenly acclimating to a new house can be very difficult for the dog. He may even attempt to escape. Therefore, having a collar with the ID tag or getting the dog microchipped beforehand save you a lot of hassle later. Suddenly acclimating to a new house can be very difficult for the dog. He may even attempt to escape. Therefore, having a collar with the ID tag or getting the dog microchipped beforehand save you a lot of hassle later.
Start to read up on how to train your dog. You can also watch YouTube videos on the same. Having a basic idea of how to train your dog will be very helpful when your dog first gets home. You can start establishing boundaries and telling him what behavior is expected of him right from the start. This will help prevent a lot of confusion.
Which dog to get?
When you visit a shelter, you will notice that there are many dogs in need of a forever home. Most people look for the dog who seems the cutest and fluffiest and bring it home. However, this is not the criteria on which your selection process should be based. Your selection process should instead be based on your lifestyle. What type of lifestyle you have will determine what type of dog you should get. If you have an active lifestyle, you should get a dog who requires plenty of exercise. On the other hand, if you have more of a sedentary lifestyle, work from home or a busy lifestyle, you should go for breeds that are more laid back and do not require ton of exercise.
This should not be your only category of choosing a dog. You must also check if you can connect with the dog or not. It has been rightfully said, “you don’t pick your dog. Your dog picks you.” Go for a dog with whom you feel a bond and connection. For further help, you can discuss with experts and take into account factors like how many dogs you already have at your home, the number of members in your house, etc.
Be ready for difficult attitude and behavior
As I mentioned before, the reason the dog landed up in a shelter is because it has had a hard life. Usually rescue dogs make amazing companions. Most people do not face any challenges or problems with them. However, in certain cases, you may face behavioral issues. These behavioral issues may not be apparent before the adoption. Therefore, you must educate yourself a bit about dog behavior before you actually get ready to adopt a dog.
Some of the common behavioral issues that your dog may display are fearfulness, anxiety, food aggression, indoor urination etc. Depending on the condition the dog had to live in, it may have developed challenging attitudes and habits. This does not mean that the dog is untrainable for life. Dogs are very malleable creatures. With the right training and patience, any undesirable attitude can easily be changed. Just remember to be patient, gentle and calm with your dog as he gets used to the new home. Focus on building your relationship and bond. Finally, focus on building the trust.
Get the toys and blankets
If your dog was using a toy or a blanket in the shelter, ask them if you can take the materials with you. These items will carry the scent of the previous location the dog was in. It will be comforting to your dog in the new environment. Don’t wash the toys or blankets in the initial days. Allow your dog to acclimatized to the home first before you wash them off. This may take a couple of weeks.
Having pee pads in the area where your dog will be staying is still a better option, even if you have previously house-trained your dog. Due to the anxiousness of being in the new environment, the rescue dog may not follow the training they have undergone previously.
After getting the dog
Remove excess energy
Your dog will be high strung by the time you get home. Therefore, before taking your dog inside the house, take him for a walk around the block. This will help release excess energy. If your dog wants a pee or poo break, allow the same. This way, when the dog enters the home, he will be much more relaxed. This will also help your dog get familiarized with the sights and sounds of the neighborhood.
Before your dog goes into the house, introduce him to every member outside the house itself. Make sure that the introductions are very calm and in order. Talk to your family members beforehand and ask them to talk in low tones in front of the dog. Squeaky tones, high pitched noises or high volume can scare the poor pup. Allow the dog to approach the individuals by himself. If he asks for pets then pets should be given. If he walks away then he should be allowed to.
Once inside, take your dog around the house while keeping him on the leash. This will acclimatize him to the different sights, sounds and smell inside the house. Do not take your dogs to the areas that are out of bounds. Finally, take the dog do his personal area at the end.
If the dog has not already been checked, the first thing you would begin with is a vet appointment. This is one point that many of the dog guardians either ignore or totally forget about. Since they are adopting the dog from the shelter, they assume that the dog has already been checked and has no medical issues. However, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Once you bring your dog home, the first thing you should do is schedule an appointment and get your dog checked by your vet. This way if there is any minor underlying medical issue you will be made aware of it. Also, your vet will get acclimatized with your pup and vice versa.
In case there is no health history available, your vet will get the blood work done. It will give you a health history and let you know if there is any health issues that your dog is currently facing. Do not ignore this step.
Understand your dogs history
Dogs are like an open book. If you look hard enough, you will be able to see every nook and cranny of their personality. The moment your dog sees you for the first time, your dog starts to learn things about you. The same goes for you. You also learn things about your dog. During the initial few days, you must watch your dog’s behavior very closely. This will give you a fair idea of what your rescue dog has been through previously, his fears, concerns, quirks etc. To know more, you can also get in touch with the people working in the organization from where you adopted the dog.
Just like training a puppy, when you’re training a rescue dog, you have to exercise a ton of patience. Puppies are like a clean slate. In case of rescue dogs, the slate might be partially or completely full. You will have to undo all the past trauma and damage that has been done to them. This is why, guardians should be very sensitive and not be harsh do the dog in any manner. If it seems that your dog is being pushed beyond his limit, please stop the training and give your dog some time to rest. If your dog seems fearful of any situation, person or thing, do not force your dog to interact with it immediately. Work on desensitizing your dog towards the item before exposing your dog again.
Always use positive reinforcement
Never punish your dog for any mistake. Punishment never works in dog training. If you use excess of force, punishment or aversive training methods to train your dog, your dog may become fearful of you, start displaying aggression or become totally submissive. That is not the dog you want. This will not lead to a healthy relationship between you and your dog. Your dog will also not understand the difference between discipline and punishment. Thus, if your dog is displaying any unwanted behavior say a stern ‘NO’ and redirect your dog’s behavior. The moment your dog’s attention is shifted, reward it. Positive training goes a long way and establishes trust between you and your dog.
Allow your dog to gradually acclimate
Allow rescue dogs to take things slow. Gradually acclimating is best for both the dog and the guardian. During the first two weeks, try and keep noise levels to minimum. You need not walk on tip toes though. Gradually start to bring the noise to the usual levels so that your dog can get used to it. Add the television noise, people talking cooking noises etc.
For the initial period of 30 days, allow your dog to stay more in his den or comfort zone. Once 30 days have passed, you can start changing and switching things up. You can move the bowls out of the area and into another room. You can invite other dogs more. By this time, you rescue dog has got used to the people and the specific area where he was living in.
If the organization tells you that the dog is social and not highly reactive, you can probably allow your resident dog to interact with the new dog. If the dog has a history of trauma or abuse by humans, your dog will open up to another dog much easily than humans. Thus, allow your dog to socialize with the new dog. In case the dog has not been previously socialized, start socializing him gradually but surely.
In case you notice that something is triggering your dog or there is something in the environment that is making your dog fearful or frightened, do not push your dog to deal with the problem immediately. Allow your dog plenty of space to first get acclimatized. If your dog feels that he is being cornered, he may either lash out or flee. This can seriously hamper the relationship you want to develop with your dog. Therefore, always allow your dog to have a space of his own where he can retreat if he is afraid of anything in the environment.
Dogs also need a well-rounded diet for proper maintenance of their health. The food intake is something that should not be taken lightly. As I mentioned before, the moment you get your rescue dog, you should immediately consult your veterinarian. Discuss with your veterinarian which type of dog food would be best for your dog. Your veterinarian will recommend you treats and meals that are based on your dog’s nutritional requirements. Your dog will most likely require a diet that contains high calcium, fiber, iron, protein, magnesium and other nutrients essential for his body. You can also add some superfoods in his regular diet so that it is nutritionally rich.
Training cannot be ignored. Many dogs may lose their training because of their past abuse. The moment your dog gets acclimatized to the home environment, training should begin. As I mentioned before, always use only positive reinforcement methods. Never use any aggressive or negative training methods. Reward-based dog training goes a long way. You can start by teaching some basic commands like sit, stay, come etc.
Getting a new dog is an exciting time. However, it also brings with it, its own set of responsibilities and challenges. Don’t get swept up in the excitement and forget about the responsibility. Getting a rescue dog is amazing. However, in this journey, you will not be the only one healing your dog. Your dog will heal you as well.
You must give your dog the time to accommodate to the new environment before introducing new things. There’s a chance that the pup may have forgotten previous training. Therefore, start with the basic training the moment your dog enters the home. Finally, make sure that you take your dog for regular health checkups, get proper blood work done if it has not been previously done and give him a high-quality diet.
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Have you adopted rescue dogs? How has your experience been? What were the challenges that you faced? How did you overcome your hurdles? Please mention your experiences in the comments section below. If you feel that I have missed out on any crucial point, please let me know. I will be glad to add it to the blog post.
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Frequently Asked Questions
A rescue dog is a shelter animal that has been brought into a new home, rather than being sold at an auction or pet store. In many cases, these dogs come from difficult backgrounds and have endured abuse, neglect or abandonment. Adopting a rescue dog can be incredibly rewarding and is a great way to give an animal the second chance they deserve.
Adopting a rescue dog is not only rewarding but it can also greatly benefit both you and your pet. Rescued dogs are often very loving and loyal, providing a strong bond with their owner. Also, adopting helps reduce overcrowding in animal shelters while helping to preserve limited resources. Additionally, adoption fees are typically much lower than buying from a pet store or breeder.
When you bring home a rescue dog, there are some important steps to follow for a successful and stress-free integration into your family. Make sure your home is ready, create a safe environment, prepare for possible behavior issues, allow time to settle in, give plenty of love and attention, set boundaries and routines right away, and finally – never give up!