Bringing Home A Rescue Dog
By Dawn from pawsitively does it
So you’ve decided to make the commitment and adopt a new four legged, waggy tailed family member! Whilst this is a really exiting time for you, its important you are prepared for the new arrival.
Where will the dog sleep? What will the dog be fed? Will the dog be housetrained? There’s sure to be so many questions you have and it’s wise to get every bit of history you can from the rescue.
Being prepared can really help you with getting your dog settled in and feeling at home. You probably have visions of fun filled days out with your new best friend. Sadly, the reality is, it’s rare to not encounter a few bumps in the road when it comes to bringing home any dog (be it rescue or a puppy).
A general rule you can follow is the “3-3-3 rule”: 3 days to decompress, 3 weeks to learn your routine and 3 months to start to feel at home.
Whilst this is generally a good rule to follow, it’s important we recognise that all dogs are different and some may struggle more than others. There are no set rules and each dog will adjust at their own pace.
Picking Up Your Dog
When collecting your dog, ensure the dog has a well fitted collar/harness and lead (or slip lead for additional safety); you don’t want the dog slipping the collar or harness and escaping.
TOP TIP! 🐾
Remember also its illegal to not have a dog tag and to not have your dog secured in the car whilst driving. With the help of the rescue decide what is the safest option for transporting your dog home.
When you first bring your dog home, allow them to have a good sniff around the area in front of your home before bringing them in. If where you live is busy then maybe your back garden would be a better idea.
TOP TIP! 🐾
Allow your dog to take the time to have a sniff around and investigate or toilet if needed, remember to reward the dog if they go where you want them to use in the future.
It’s hard for us as humans to imagine how overloading it can be for a dog to enter a new home, our world is visual whilst a dogs heavily relies on scent and sound. Once in the home again allow the dog to have a good sniff and investigation of the home.
Remember, starting off on the right foot can make all the difference; don’t get angry at your dog if they have any accidents in the home whilst they are trying to adjust to the new surroundings. For the first couple of months, we would suggest keeping the dog on a long line and supervised whilst In the garden as some dogs are more than capable of scaling 6ft fences.
If you already have a dog in the home we would advise firstly doing a few meet and greets at the rescue to see how your dog reacts to the new dog and vice versa. When bringing your new dog home keep your current dog (or dogs) out of the way for the initial investigation of the home by the new dog.
Wait for signs to see that the new dog seems to be a bit more relaxed and seems to be interested in finding and meeting the other dog or dogs in the home. Ensure you have a helper available if you can so you have an extra pair of hands. It may be best to allow dogs to meet on a loose lead in the garden where you can monitor the dogs body language. Move any items such as toys that may cause arguments and don’t feed the dogs in close proximity to each other.
The majority of dogs will find the experience quite stressful and its really important for the first few weeks that we keep this in mind so we don’t overwhelm them. We need to avoid over excitement and putting added pressure on the dogs by thinks we might not have considered… Simple things like inviting family members/friends over, bathing the dog or going to the dog park might be too much in this time. The dog needs time to get to know you and the other family members and to feel safe. Trust takes time to build.
Kids & Dogs
Teach children to be calm around the dog and not to fuss them in the first few weeks, never leave children unattended around dogs no matter how good with children the dog may appear to be. Your dog has an entire new routine to figure out where they sleep, when and where they get fed and go the toilet etc. It is ideal to create a nice safe, quiet space where the dog is able to sleep, relax and be left alone.
When dogs are feeling stressed they will give us some fairly obvious signs and some more subtle ones. Signs to look out for are:
• Excessive lip licking
• Barking or whining
• Frequent shaking
• Raising of a paw
• Showing whites of eyes
With stress, some dogs will show behaviours that may initially worry us. These behaviours might include chewing, digging, shredding, or in some cases the dog may shut down and not move.
How To Help
Remember most of these things will ease in time, and we can help the process by giving some safe, natural dog chews. This can be a massive benefit to the dog, as chewing releases a natural chemical to help calm the dog. Care should be taken when giving the dog such items as the dog may guard them initially. Giving the dog the chews in their safe space where they won’t be disturbed is advisable in the initial stages.
We can use what is known as ‘canine enrichment’ to help calm and settle our dogs. There are many books available to purchase, Facebook groups and YouTube videos that have a wealth of advice and ideas for enrichment. Canine enrichment provides ways of allowing our dogs to do natural behaviours in ways that are acceptable for us. Most destructive behaviours we see in dogs are entirely natural; canine enrichment can help us easily manage them to keep both our dogs, and us, happy.
The Adjustment Stage
For the first couple of days it is advisable to try and not leave your dog alone whilst they are in the adjustment stage. It’s common for dogs to become distressed in new environments. Having a routine in place will help your dog to relax and settle in during the first few months.
Be sure to have clear boundaries on what you will allow the dog to do for example if you don’t want the dog upstairs invest in a baby gate on the stairs, if you don’t want the dog on the couch make sure this is something you consistently stick with and ensure the rest of the family also do. Remember the dog will be reliant on you to teach them what is and what and isn’t acceptable in your home. Should you encounter issues with your dog that you’re unsure of how to deal with, contact your rescue or get in touch with a qualified dog behaviourist.
Once you feel your dog has settled enough to be able to go out of the home, keep walks as quiet as possible to start with. Keep walks short and simple, allowing your dog ample time to sniff and explore their new environment. Sniff walks are an excellent way to help your dog adjust and help the dog feel less stressed.
We don’t advise letting your dog off lead for the first couple of months. Here a long line will come in useful as your dog can still have a run around and be free to explore but in a much safer way.
Training can be done as soon as your new addition starts to settle and relax in the home. Remember, a rescue dog may have had negative experiences, so care should always be taken and positive reinforcement should always be used.
Shouting at, or physically punishing the dog can lead to altercations and the dog may lose trust in you. Your dog may not have had the best start to life so always remember to treat your dog with empathy and compassion.
Take It Easy
Allow your dog to settle into life at a pace they are comfortable with. Visits to the vets and groomers can prove to be quite stressful; contact practitioners in advance and see if they can help you with a desensitisation period to help your dog adjust if you need to visit them.
A Helping Paw
At Pawsitively Does It, we highly recommend using Vidivet for any initial concerns with your dog. It’s much less stressful and this can avoid the stress of a vet visit if it’s not urgent. Ben and the team can help you with many issues from health to nutrition and keep you on the right track. At Pawsitively we are also on hand to help with any behaviour or training issues you may encounter. We can help remotely or in person. Don’t delay in getting help if needed.
With a bit of time, training, patience and love, your new dog will be feeling happy and safe in their forever home.