So – you have been through the process of dog adoption and you’ve brought your new rescue dog home. What should you expect?
Stress and the rescue dog.
Bringing a rescue dog home can be scary for you and your family. You may have never had a dog before. You don’t know each other yet. You may wonder whether you’ve done the right thing.
Don’t worry. Even experienced dog owners can feel like that – I certainly do. It’s not a bad thing because it means you’re taking your responsibility seriously.
But if you’re anxious about it, think how worried your new rescue dog will be. You can’t explain what’s going on. He (or she) has no idea what you’re like.
He may have been neglected or badly treated and wonder if he’s going to get more of the same. He may think this is yet another temporary home – so he’s wary about becoming too settled. And he’s in a strange environment – he doesn’t know the place, or the people.
Don’t make assumptions – we have had six rescue dogs and none of them have been any problem after the first couple of days. Some (including our current Italian Spinone rescue dog) will settle within hours. But you need to be aware of some of the issues you may come across when you finally bring your adopted dog home.
Symptoms of stress and how to deal with them.
* Panting: dogs pant to keep cool but it’s also a way of exhibiting stress. Don’t worry unless it carries on for more than a week, but mention it to your vet so he can check for other underlying causes. Ensure your dog always has a supply of clean, cold water, and a quiet place of his own to go when he’s feeling stressed.
* Whining: particularly common at night when the dog is left alone in his new bed, away from company. Remember your home is not familiar to your dog. He has been taken away from familiar surroundings, people and possibly other animals.
You should expect whining at night for several days. Some people like to go to their dog a couple of times in the first couple of nights so the dog knows you haven’t left the house – but that can become a habit hard to break.
* Following : again a common symptom of separation anxiety. Your dog may not want to let you out of his sight until he’s sure you’re not going to abandon him. Try not to let this drive you mad! – it will stop within a couple of weeks, as long as he’s feeling settled. Don’t reassure your dog with constant petting, but do reassure with kind words in a low, calm, quiet voice.
* Dirtying: anxious dogs will often soil in the house. Make sure you let your new dog know where he should be going to the toilet, and for the first several days make sure you let him into that place several times each hour.
* Fear of noise: Loud or sudden noises can be a problem for some rescue dogs. Both our greyhounds have been terrified of the washing machine – because in racing kennels they have never come across one! Your dog will eventually become used to the noises of everyday life, but if you have children try to ensure they don’t indulge in high-pitched screaming near the dog.
* Fear of people: remember that your dog may have been badly treated at some point and need to develop trust. Dogs have long memories, and that may cause your rescue dog to be very wary of you for a while. One rescue dog in our family spent the first six months hiding behind the settee! Gentle, calm reassurance will eventually settle him down.
* Attempts to run away: you dog might try to get back to his original home. Don’t take it personally – keep him on a lead until you’re confident he will come back to you when called. Keep some treats in your pocket when walking (my Spinone loves cheese!) and give your dog one when allowing him off the lead and at intervals during your walk.
* Depression: this is more common in dogs than you may think. Remember that the dog’s previous owners may not have wanted to give him away. One of our dog’s previous owners just couldn’t have her when she moved into a nursing home. Both owner and dog will miss each other. Reassurance, attention, and coat-brushing are all antidotes to depression. Let your new dog know you love him!
This sounds like a potential nightmare. Is it worth it?
Don’t let this put you off adopting a dog. Good rescue centres will know the kinds of difficulties you may have with an individual dog and will be able to give you advice as to how to handle it.
Taking on any animal is a big responsibility. Taking on a rescue dog can have particular problems. There must be allowances made, and time given for both the dog and your family to adjust. Taking on a rescue dog means taking on his or her past and dealing with it.
But if you do your homework before you adopt, be honest during the process, and persevere once you have your dog at home, you will forge a bond with your new pet which will give you and your family many years of pleasure.