Advice for Adopting a Rescue Dog

Starting with a puppy can be messy, but adopting a rescue dog can mean working through some baggage.

by Guest Blogger, Victoria Smith

Rescue dogs may be very skittish or anxious, which means you will have to do more to comfort them and help them adjust to their new life. To keep your dog as safe and happy as possible, you will need a 6-foot leash, a collar, food and water dishes, a bed, and a crate. ID tags should be your first purchase.

Start Small

Keep your new dog in just one area of the house to reduce risks and questions. If you keep them in the kitchen, make sure the garbage is closed up. If you keep them in the utility room, ensure that all cleaners and chemicals are put up.

Try to bring your dog home when you will have a few days to spend with them and make sure there aren’t many people or other animals in the house. Consider keeping them on a leash inside the house for the first day or two to prevent them from actions you do not want. However, if your new dog seems scared and wants to hide, make sure you don’t use the leash to keep them out of its hiding spot. They may react intensely if they get too scared. Do not yell at your new dog for climbing on the couch if your children or your spouse invited them up there, and make sure everyone in the house is familiar with the dog’s anxiety. Make sure you also agree as a household about how you will treat the dog, what the routine will be, and what is and isn’t okay.

Keep loud noises to a minimum if you can, and provide a safety point in the house for the dog. This safety point can be their crate. Just put a dog bed or blankets down in the crate to go to when they feel nervous. Keep a chew or treat near the crate, so they know to be there, and try to place the crate against a wall rather than in the middle of the open space.

Make it Fun

Keep your new dog on the leash and take them into the backyard. Let them sniff the perimeter while on a leash, and if they choose to go to the bathroom, have a party. Give lots of pets and treats for the actions you want to see, but if your rescue dog is anxious, give gentle, positive reactions so that they aren’t spooked.

When walking your new dog, try to teach commands such as Hold, where the dog stands within the circle of the leash, and Sit. Sit is helpful at traffic lights, and Hold is beneficial when you are scooping up after your dog. Every time you get a good response, give a reward. Tiny hot dog or cheese pieces may be better than too many biscuits, but it’s best to buy some dog treats with healthy ingredients.

Watch for the Flinch and Anxiety

Many rescue dogs come from rough situations. If you notice your rescue dog flinching or cringing when you pick up a broom, do not be surprised. While holding the broom, or whatever they may be scared of, talk gently to the dog and approach them. They may lay down, roll over and show their belly, or they may get aggressive. Never touch your dog with the broom or any object they seem scared of, and as they allow you to approach them while holding it, be sure to give them a treat. Eventually, they will learn there is nothing to be scared of in their new home. As mentioned before, be sure to give your dog a safe space in the home that is theirs. A dog crate where they sleep is a great safe space for your dog, and you can keep them in the crate overnight or when they are alone if they need it.

The most important thing when caring for a rescue dog is to be patient and gentle. Depending on the history of your dog, they may need a while to adjust fully to both you and their new home. Always have treats ready for good actions, and try to stay calm and gentle with your dog, even when they do bad things. Training any dog takes time, but training a rescue dog can be even more difficult. If you have young children, be sure they can maintain this patience and be gentle with your rescue dog. When getting your dog from the shelter, be sure to ask for any information on the dog’s history and anything else you need to know about the dog before bringing it home.

Groom Gently

Rescue dogs are often not accustomed to being groomed. To get them comfortable with the habit,

  • get down on the floor with the dog
  • brush them and speak softly
  • when the dog has had enough, let them up

Never hold a rescue dog down to groom them, and keep an eye on that tail if you get down to wrestle or pet them. You could get bit if they feel that you are going to hurt them. If you have more than one dog, your rescue dog may feel protective toward the other dog as well, so make sure tails are up before you start trying to engage your dog in play.

Make the Vet Visits a Celebration

Get affordable pet insurance, so regular vet visits are not a burden and make a party out of it. If your vehicle allows your dog to ride in a crate, fill a chew toy with peanut butter or cheese and treat them after the vet visit. If you need to buckle your dog in with a harness, make sure that the experience is loaded with praise and positive reinforcement.

Your dog needs to learn their new home and that you can be trusted. A rescue dog is taking a big risk in learning to rely on you and your family. Ensure that everyone in the house knows the rules the dog is supposed to follow to save confusion. Rescue dogs have just as much love to give as all other dogs. Just be patient and gentle with them. Soon they will be your new best friend.

Let’s talk dogs, or even better, let’s learn about dogs.  Set aside some time to receive Spike’s dog blogs by Acme Canine.
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