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Adopting a Dog – Making it work

August 2, 2016

By Sue Asten & Deb Mickey

Dog lovers everywhere dream of rescuing a dog from a bad situation and giving the dog a loving, permanent home. While our hearts are in the right place, we must keep in mind the upheaval the dog is experiencing. Below are some suggestions to help make this adoption a success:

  • Respect the dog’s space. Your new dog may not have a strong bond to humans and might not care yet for your hugs, pats, and kisses. Or, he may have been physically abused and sees any attempt to touch him as a threat. In time, your dog will find human company and touch desirable and will welcome the attention but, at first, resist forcing yourself on him – give the dog space and time when he first comes into your home.
  • “I am a survivor!” These dogs don’t consider themselves victims but survivors. All of us want to make it up to these dogs for the past treatment they received, but sometimes we are over indulgent or too lenient with these dogs. Dogs, like children, respect and can comply to fair, consistent and just expectations and rules. Resist thinking of them as victims and head off future problems by establishing fair and just expectations and humanely teach these expectations to the dog. Consistency with house rules is key. Don’t ignore a certain behavior one time and then discipline it the next time.
  • Don’t expect this dog to be like your previous dogs. This dog won’t come into your house knowing your house rules – he may not have any training at all. He might not even know his own name! If he was a stray or an outside dog, being inside a house may be strange and unsettling for him at first. Training him not to soil in your house and learning other house rules will take time and patience.
  • Try to find out as much as you can about his previous life. With this knowledge you may better understand why he does what he does. Use this information in his training to help him feel at ease with his new life and with you.
  • Don’t trust the dog. By this we mean beware of giving him too much freedom too soon. When outside, keep the dog on a long line or a leash or only let him loose in areas where he can’t run off. Never leave him outside unattended. Remember, he doesn’t know you and he may try to run off to his old home even if it was undesirable in your eyes. Be aware he might try to jump a fence or dig under it. Restrict where he can go and what he can do in your home. As the trust grows between you, slowly give the dog more freedom.
  • The dog might not know what children are. Be aware the dog might not have ever been around children or that children may have teased him in the past. Closely supervise both the dog and the children when they interact. This applies to the dog’s interaction with the elderly as well.

    Respecting the dog’s space especially applies with children, and they must be taught to act responsibly and respectfully in regards to their new pet. Here’s where crate training a dog can be very useful. Crate training the dog correctly teaches the dog that the crate is his “safe space” and children need to learn that when the dog goes into his crate he is “hands off” (please see additional literature about safely crate training your dog).

  • Build the dog’s trust in you with humane training and treatment. After having your new dog about a month, enroll both of you in a quality dog obedience school. Be sure the school’s techniques are humane and motivational, not harsh. Even if your dog knows how to sit and lie down on command, working together in this obedience class will form a closer bond between the two of you.
  • Give the dog time. Being adopted is a major upheaval in this dog’s life. He has been removed from the only life he knew, no matter how horrible that might have been, and placed in an alien, strange world. Give the dog time to adjust and realize that this is his new home, he is loved, he will be taken care of, and he will not be abandoned again. It will take time for him to learn to trust you and form a bond with you and your family. This adjustment won’t come quickly . . . it may take 6 months, it may take a year, but the time it takes is well worth the effort!

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