You already know that your local animal shelter is the first place you should look when you make the decision to welcome a new dog into your life. Shelter dogs make wonderful companions and often find themselves in shelters through no fault of their own, such as when an owner passes away or a family decides they can no longer afford a dog. By choosing to adopt, you are literally saving a dog’s life and providing a home to a deserving animal.
However, the transition from the shelter to a new home has the potential to be very stressful for a dog. Here are a few ways you can make the transition to a new home easier for your companion.
1. Research Your Dog’s Background
Prior to taking your new dog home for the first time, be sure to find out all you can about their background from the shelter or rescue group where you adopt them. Information regarding your dog’s age, health, likes, and dislikes will help you to better prepare to provide a good home.
You should also try and find out whether your dog was abused by previous owners, or whether they were rescued from a puppy mill, as this might affect their behavior as they adjusts to new people and places. For example, a dog who was abused by a man may be fearful of all men until they realizes that they won’t hurt them. A puppy mill dog may have never before walked outside in the grass. Having this knowledge will help you know what to expect, and this will make it easier for you to help your new dog adjust and heal.
2. Plan for Your Dog’s Arrival
Before bringing your newly rescued dog home, be sure to get all the supplies you’ll need to care for them. Quality food, bowls, a bed, toys, and a collar and leash are all things you should have ready for your new companion. For a previously abused dog or a puppy mill dog, a safe space where he can retreat when they feel overwhelmed is a must. A comfortable kennel covered by a towel is a good option, and will provide a den-like environment for them.
3. Establish House Rules
Decide early on which behaviors you will tolerate and which behaviors you will discourage. For example, will your dog be allowed on your bed? On the couch? How do you expect him to behave around guests? Once you’ve established house rules for your dog, be sure to be consistent about them. If you allow your new friend on your bed one day but not another, you are likely to confuse them.
4. Be Patient and Understanding
It’s important to remember that your new companion is likely confused and unsure. They are in a new place with new people, and that can be scary! It will take them a few days or even weeks to settle in to this new home. Be patient and forgiving during this time, and allow your dog to learn to trust you and feel comfortable in his their home. Talk softly and give them space when they’re is feeling overwhelmed.
Even though you may be excited about your new companion and want to show them off to all of your family and friends, try and give them a few days to get to know you and settle in before bringing more strange people to meet. Taking things slowly will keep them from feeling overwhelmed.
5. Get Active!
Dogs need exercise in order to be happy and healthy, just like people. Be sure that your pet gets the amount of exercise appropriate for their age and breed. Try throwing a Frisbee, going on a long walk, or taking your dog on a jog. Just get active!
6. Socialization is Key
Many dogs who are adopted from shelters have never been properly socialized with people and other dogs. This is particularly true of puppy mill dogs, who often spend their entire lives in cages without any meaningful interaction with people. Once your dog has settled in to their new family, try enrolling in a socialization class, where your dog will gain valuable exposure to other people and animals and learn to feel comfortable around them. These classes also provide more time for you to bond with your new companion.
Rescued dogs make wonderful and loving companions when they are treated with love and understanding. Give your pet time to grow into their new family and life, and then enjoy your new best friend.
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