Rescue Guide For New Adopters
Congratulations on your new family addition! What an exciting, fun, uncertain and maybe even confusing time! Young, old, big, tall, short haired or long … dogs are a gift. Embrace them for all that they are. Rescue groups put a great deal of time and energy into preparing your dog to be adopted. Now it’s your turn and responsibility to protect, nurture, teach & play with your new companion. Enjoy the journey!
The first few days, weeks and months can be and often are challenging for a rescue dog. Heck, they are challenging for a dog that’s from a breeder! The moment you bring your dog home is the moment the relationship begins. You have friends, work, sports and things. Your dog only has you. Make a pledge to find your dog friends, a job, and an activity!
The trauma, stress, fear and worry that they’ve experienced before they were rescued could’ve been insurmountable. Your dog needs you to help them acclimate to their new family and world. Rescue dogs go into an incredibly deep sleep; a cataphor, the first few nights in their forever home. They appear to be sinking into whatever they are laying on. As they slumber it’s as if their sorrows are being pulled out of them. Let them be. Give them time. These are “do over dogs” and they need you to help them through the next several months in particular. The first couple of weeks may very well seem uneventful. This honeymoon period will soon come to an end and your dog will begin to feel more comfortable in his / her surroundings. Exercise patience with each stage that your dog goes through. And remember, each stage is an opportunity for learning – both for your dog and you. Take advantage of it!
We ask a lot of dogs. More than any other animal. We have domesticated the most social being & have sadly successfully de-socialized & de-natured the dog. Please, join me in restoring the integrity of the canine species to help them THRIVE! The more prepared you are the better equipped your dog will be. Begin this beautiful journey right.
The first few days and weeks your main role is to provide safety, security and a welcoming environment. This includes assessing the surroundings that your new companion is in and making sure that it’s stress -free. Identify any triggers that may cause uncertainty. In order for a dog to learn effectively, their stress levels must be low.
It’s a good idea to keep a “dog log” of everything the first few weeks in particular. Doing so in perpetuity is not a bad idea either! Noting their habits: eating, eliminating, sleeping, chewing, licking, growling, barking, socializing, etc. This will come in handy if / when you need to focus on a particular area or seek professional assistance.
The goal of this info sheet is to provide you with information, tips and strategies that will help facilitate the first year of adopting your new companion. It’s a process folks. Begin on the right path and you’ll both reap the rewards.
Patience, intelligent rearing, time, effort and understanding will provide your dog with an auspicious start.
In a world where dogs are misunderstood. Be the one who understands,
Dogs talk with their bodies – Learn to Listen
Dogs aren’t born knowing how to navigate in our homes under “our rules”. Since it’s our responsibility to teach them the skills how to do that, we will have to manage many situations at first. Gates, clean counters, clutter free, etc.
LET’S TALK ABOUT EXPECTATIONS
They need to be realistic. Don’t kid yourself that you can be gone all day and when you get back your dog hasn’t chewed, soiled, destroyed things in your home. IF you sought your dog out for adoption, YOU need to provide adequate outlets for your dog. They have needs that have to be met, just like you and me. Give your dog a job to do, provide them with a sense of purpose. Include your dog in things that you do, while providing necessary down time.
SUCCESS VERSUS FAILURE
Set your dog up for success (not failure) so they are well equipped to move into the next leg of their journey. If you don’t want your dog to counter surf, don’t leave food unattended on the counter the first few weeks. If you don’t want things chewed, don’t leave your dog unattended. That simple, period.
SAYING YES! Not NO needs to be your mantra!
Catch your doing what you want him/her to learn and reward. Redirect whenever your dog may forget things. If you’re hearing yourself saying “no” your dog is not only not learning but they are stressed because of the negative connotation and suppression associated with saying “no”. Animal behavior is pretty black and white – a behavior that is rewarded is repeated. Similarly, an acceptable behavior that is ignored is extinguished. If you like/want your dog to not jump on people and things, praise them when they are not jumping instead of reprimanding them for jumping. Use canine enrichment to channel your dog’s energy! It works!
CUES AND SKILLS TO TEACH YOUR DOG – Always, always use Hand Signals. Dogs see before they hear.
WATCH ME – teach your dog to look at you and maintain eye contact/attention for a few seconds. Use food!
GOTCHA– desensitize your dog to their collar being touched, moved, grabbed. Work slowly to avoid causing fear.
DROP IT – exchange their toy with a high value real food reward. Not a dog treat, real food. Underscoring Real food!
EATING – while your dog eats, leave them alone. Do NOT stick your hand in bowl instead toss real food near their bowl.
STEADY – walking on a leash takes time to teach. Allow your dog to sniff while walking. Make it a fun experience!
COME – every time you feed your dog and give them a treat preface it with “Buddy, come!” Praise, Praise, and Praise!
WAIT – think of this as an informal “stay”. It helps them exercise self-control; particularly w/ doorways leading outside.
It’s up to us, as human to make educated decisions on dog food, vaccines, toys, grooming, etc. Be our dog’s advocate and create a healthy lifestyle that provides enrichment and joy! The blessings that come with having a dog in our life are countless, yet often times it’s easy to overlook many of them. Bringing any dog into your home, regardless of his/her background is an arduous task. While dog training has come a long way over the past few decades, there is still the overarching principle to use dominance with a “misbehaved” dog. This couldn’t be furthest from the truth. It’s an archaic approach with dangerous consequences to both dog and person. No one wants to live with a despotic person; especially your dog. Keep in mind that dogs will do anything to avoid conflict. Force free training is where it’s at! Teach to learn; not to fear – there’s a difference. Dogs are eager students that yearn to learn with positive rearing. Umwelt –(oom–velt): Look at things from another’s perspective. Look at everything from your dog’s.
A few secrets to training or teaching a dog. Hint… it’s not what you think
- Build a relationship with your dog based on trust, fun and safety. Spend time getting to know one another.
- Resist falling into the trap of “having your dog obey you” INSTEAD focus on “teaching your dog a skill”
- Identify what motivates your individual dog and use it to reward behaviors. Ie: real food, toys, praise, etc.
TIME AND SPACE
- Power of 3 -The first 3 days are critical, 3 weeks you both become familiar w/ each other, 3 mo. stress eases.
- Introduce your dog to something new daily. Be sure that it’s within his/her comfort zone. Use distance/space.
- 6-9 months is the minimum time it takes for a dog to become acclimated. Work at your dog’s pace.
THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS AN EASY BUTTON
- Management – dogs don’t come to us knowing how to behave. Manage situations first before teaching.
- Consistency – if you lack this your dog will be confused and make his/her own decisions on how to behave.
- Conflict free – resist yelling and suppressing behaviors that are normal. Dogs shut down from the latter.
MIRROR, MIRROR ON THE WALL
- Your dog is your mirror. Self-awareness is critical when living with a dog. Ie: If you’re stressed, so will your dog.
- Dogs communicate with body language. Be mindful of yours and your dogs.
- The quieter the better. Yelling will cause your dog to shut down. Speak calmly and gently.
GEAR TO HAVE FOR YOUR DOG
- Martingale collar with Identification! Your dog NEEDS an ID tag! A microchip is not sufficient.
- Harness (Not one that restricts the dog’s range of motion) This and a collar are a good idea early on.
- 6’ nylon leash (not a retractable leash) AND a “bait bag” –a pack that serves to hold valuable, healthy treats!
MOTIVATES YOUR DOG?
- You! – Be kind, patient, consistent and be a fun companion.
- Real food – Don’t underestimate the importance of real, whole, healthy food. Avoid processed at all costs!
- Toys – Kongs are where it’s at (Remember – work on the “drop it” cue right away)
LOW STRESS HANDLING
- We must earn the right to place our hands carefully on a dog. Remember to respect your dog’s boundaries.
- Harsh handling of a collar/leash causes a tremendous amount of stress for dogs. Be mindful & use it carefully.
- Resist chasing & corning. When you approach a dog stay calm & talk softly. Praise them each step of the way.
- Food – Real balanced, biologically appropriate food. It’s tied to everything: behavior, health & longevity.
- Everything is connected food, environment, exercise, socialization – dog friends, stress and your energy.
- Lure / Shape / Condition / Praise / Reward / Repeat
Species Appropriate Food