Things to Remember When Bringing Home a Rescue Dog
By Sudipta Maity
Bringing home a new dog can be a wonderful and daunting experience. The first few weeks can be overwhelming for many people. For starters, dogs usually don’t settle immediately into a new environment, and they take to bond with each family member.
In order for your new pet to settle better with you, there are a few things to keep in mind and prepare for, that will make sure your journey with your pet is as fulfilling as it gets because “well begun is half done?”
Gather supplies in advance
One of the more common mistakes people make is buying essential supplies after a dog has been brought home rather than stocking up in advance. Dogs have a knack for getting themselves into trouble, and it’s best to be well prepared! Gathering supplies in advance makes sure that you are ready for any unprecedented situation to come with the new family member.
Modify your house
Before you even bring the pet home, pet-proof your house for their safety! Strengthen and check your yard, barricades, gates, windows, grills, etc. A house without a pet can afford to have wirings exposed and plastic lying around but a house with a pet can not, as dogs, especially young ones, don’t understand the difference between a chew toy and a wire.
Dogs who come from shelters or rescues are usually living in the shelter/foster environment for a long time, where they do not have exposure to the types of furniture and products found in a home. Hence, their understanding of furniture, etc is little-to-none and out of curiosity, they can chew, eat or ingest parts of furniture and other household products. It is also important to know which house plants are safe to be around pets as exposure to toxic plants can be fatal. Check the grills, windows, and yard as dogs in a new territory have a tendency to get lost or run away in order to explore or in fear. It is the responsibility of the adoptive parents to understand that dogs don’t understand or look at household objects the way we do, and hence it is on humans to keep them safe in a new environment.
Patience and Time
Dogs are intelligent animals but not the way humans are. Intelligence in dogs is limited to pleasing their humans, playful behaviour, responsiveness to stimuli and triggers, and obedience.
While the smartest of the dogs understand the concept of a new family soon, most dogs take wherever they live as their home and take time to settle in a new home. Despite most people’s expectations, dogs don’t usually form an immediate bond with whoever they meet, and even the dogs who have a tendency to warm up to new people take weeks before completely molding their schedule and behaviour around their new humans. It is also the responsibility of humans to make changes in their behaviour to suit the new pet.
Each pet is different and each new addition to your family requires you to make changes in your life to provide a safe and suitable life for your new family member.
Unexpected Health issues
Dogs can’t speak, nor are they capable of explaining any small physical discomfort they face. Dogs can get unexpected health issues in a new environment. Especially dogs living in a shelter or on the streets co-exist with hundreds of other dogs where their caretakers have to equally divide their time equally among all the dogs. For the same reason, very minor health problems take time to get noticed in a shelter or road, when compared to the time taken for a house pet’s discomfort to be noticed. Furthermore, dogs get affected by major changes in their environment.
A total change in the living space (i.e. foster or adoption) can bring out uncomfortable health conditions. Another reason for new illnesses surfacing after adoption can be the presence of allergens and germs in the new environment. These symptoms can be addressed with the help of a vet and will disappear.
Be ready to hire a trainer/behaviourist
Mental health is important not just for humans but also for dogs. Dogs suffer from a variety of trauma that can affect their mental well-being, and there is an ample number of trainers and behaviourists who can help decipher their behaviours and help address issues. Dogs can also show behaviour issues after adoption as a result of the movement or triggers unknown to both the adoptive family and the previous caretakers.
Under such a circumstance, it is the responsibility of a good pet parent to hire a trainer or behaviourist, take help from the previous caretakers and bring changes in their lives if necessary. A good trainer/behaviourist will always involve the family equally in the training process to make them understand where they are faltering. Dogs are like the toddlers of the family, where even the smartest of them need human guidance to understand how to behave correctly. As a responsible parent, you have to be patient and show them the right way.
Be prepared for accidents
Irrespective of how many precautions you take or how prepared you think you are, accidents are bound to happen. Any new member of the family is bound to make mistakes that can end up in unwanted incidents or accidents. Accept them as a part of life and try to do better to avoid them next time. Sometimes, some accidents are isolated incidents that needn't be taken into account but noted for future reference in case it becomes a pattern.
When you live with a human, accidents occur and the frequency reduces as you spend time with them and develop a better understanding of each other. You don't abandon a human for a few accidents, so treat your companion animals the same way where you forgive them for accidents and develop a better understanding of each other to avoid it in the future.
Think about the next 15 years
It's not about a day but a plan for the next 15 years or so, that you have to prepare and it should include preparation for every untoward incident that can happen. While most of the points above were said from the perspective of a rescue or shelter dog, in reality, they apply to almost every pet you bring home.
Any pet can develop behavior and health issues that you should be prepared for and as a particular rule, most people believe that dogs take 3 weeks alone for decompression in a new environment during which you and your dog are bound to make the most amount of mistakes. This shouldn't deter you from adopting a companion animal, but instead, help you make mature decisions and avoid unrealistic expectations from a dog.
Keeping a pet isn't as easy as it may seem, and there are crucial steps and understandings that are involved in raising a happy pet in a family. For the same reason, our adoption coordinators often spend a large portion of their time counseling potential families and matching them to a suitable pet. Every pet is different and every pet deserves time and chances in order to be your forever friend. If you wish to adopt a dog or understand more about keeping a pet or adoption, feel free to contact us and visit our shelter for the same!