Congratulations, you’ve decided to bring a new dog into your home and life. I have to commend you because you’ve decided to adopt a dog instead of buying one – good for you.
There’s so many great dogs out there just waiting for the right person to come along and give them a chance. Many people see rescue dogs as damaged, coming with lots of baggage and requiring a lot of time and effort.
Although this is sometimes true, it’s not typical. In fact, getting a pure bred dog comes with no less possible problems. Dogs are dogs, whether you get them from a breeder or your local animal shelter. Some will adjust effortlessly into your home, while others will drive you crazy from day one.
There’s no guarantees either way.
Understand, but Don’t Dwell, in Their Past
The one thing you have to remember with rescue dogs is that their present behavior has been shaped by past events. The events themselves don’t matter anymore, but the behavior patterns do. All dog training is repetition and consistency, so whatever they have been doing is what they will continue to do, unless we step in and show them a new behavior to do.
To accomplish this you have to let go of the past. If you hear the sob story of what has happened to a dog and get stuck there, dwelling on it, you will keep your dog stuck in past behavior patterns.
Dog’s don’t think about or remember the past – they’re all about the here and now. If you show them a new present, their future behavior patterns will change. However, if you keep focusing on their past, you will prevent them from moving on.
My advice is to think of it this way: your new dog’s life begins the day you bring them home.
Don’t dwell on anything that might have occurred before you picked them up, just concentrate on giving them a great here and now so that they will have a much improved future.
Okay, you’ve got a fresh mindset with your new dog, now how can we make sure you guys start off in the right place?
I treat any new dog coming into a home like a puppy. We don’t know if they’ve been in a home before, or if they did, what kind of rules they had. Don’t assume they know how to behave in your house. Instead, assume they don’t and make it your job to teach them.
The best way to do that is to keep their world small and slowly expand it as they do good and learn your rules. Using a crate will be the best way to accomplish this. Remember a crate is a den, not a prison and you should make your dog feel at home there. Than means making it a very rewarding place to be and never using it as punishment.
Get to know your dog by going for long walks together and supervising your time with them inside. Keep in mind that the first 3 to 4 weeks after you bring your dog home you might not have seen his true behavior. This is what I call the “honeymoon period” when your dog is still adjusting to his new environment.
Somewhere around a month your pooch looks around, kicks his feet up and say, “Ahhhh, home.” Then he lets his fur down and acts normal (for him). That’s when you may see some behaviors like chewing or barking suddenly appear.
So I like lots of structure, restrictions and supervision during that first month. You want to do everything you can to set your new dog up to succeed and take a little extra time and consideration.
No matter what you know about your new dog, I recommend hand feeding him for the first 3 weeks. Even if there’s no history or indication of food aggression I like to start off showing your new dog that it’s cool to have you near his food. Hand feeding is also a nice way to bond with your new dog and develop a positive association with him.
If you start off in the right frame of mind, forgetting about your new dog’s past, provide lots of structure and guidance, combined with nice long walks together with a period of hand feeding you’ll be creating the right environment for your dog to adjust comfortably into your world.
Enjoy every day with him.