This Blog is in Memory of Alice The Bull Terrier.
Welcome to the wonderful world of owning a rescue dog! Rescues are wonderful companions you will cherish and love, but they also sometimes come with baggage that requires dedication to overcome for continued success!
Before you decide to jump into the world of rescues there are a few things to think about.
First being, what breed or breeds are you interested in?
Usually, people focus on what a dog looks like. In fact, flashy-looking dogs always get the most interest no matter what their issues are.
Stop and think! Do I want a calm companion? Do I want an independent dog with tenacity? Am I willing to exercise daily no matter the weather? Am I willing to deal with aggression? Anxiety?
You will want a dog suited to your lifestyle; getting anything else will result in a poor rapport and possibly even surrender because you may be unable to meet the dog’s lifelong needs.
Remember: Not every rescue is created equally.
I strongly suggest not rescuing a dog from outside our Country; millions of dogs in Canada need homes. Bringing dogs from other locations increase so many risks for a failed adoption, and cause heartache and financial strain on an unknowing family.
You want a Rescue who performs proper temperament testing; this will give the Rescue an idea of what this dog’s temperament is like and assists them in finding a home that will match. Without testing, the Rescue may not be aware of possible behavioural issues this dog could have.
A dog should never be with a Rescue for less than 3 weeks before going up for adoption. This allows the people to properly asses the dog, and the dog to feel comfortable enough to act like himself in this new environment. It also allows for time to train and work on potential issues. Some dogs could be in rescue for months or even a year pending on their specific needs.
Stop and remember this dog is going to become your responsibility, this includes legally. You will want to know everything you can to make proper decisions.
Get a dog trainer.
Most people only call for help when things are bad but if you consider seeking help before anything may happen, we can take proper precautions and set you both up for a successful relationship. A trainer can help you understand your dog and how to deal with all the changes and issues with this new dog coming into your household.
No matter your level of expertise – get training. We can all use constructive criticism and make the best possible changes for our best friend.
Your new dog is finally here. Your house is dog proof, you have purchased a crate and all the necessary supplies.
The second you meet this dog, he or she is learning about your expectations. Are you feeling horrible about his past experiences? Worried she won’t love you?
Stop. Now. This dog now has an excellent home with you, so we no longer need to pity or feel sorry for this dog. Should you allow the dog to do as it pleases because you feel pity, most dogs will take full advantage of this situation and gain control in the household. If you give them unlimited affection, constant access to food and treats, and expect nothing from them, they will not treat you with the respect you deserve as they feel no need to please you.
Dogs are, and will always be, all about themselves. Dogs like Lassie or Rin Tin Tin are not real, and dogs do not have emotions like we humans do, no matter how much we would love to believe that.
Keep in mind this dog could live 10-13 years more and you’ll want a dog you can manage – not a devil dog.
During the First Two Weeks
When you get your dog home, remember this is all new to him.
Personally, I don’t give free access and I keep the dog on a leash. This way, boundaries are created immediately – like not getting on the bod or couch unless invited. You may not want the dog in certain rooms or to use the bathroom in a certain location. Apply these rules immediately.
It’s important to remember most rescue dogs are surrendered due to behavioural issues so we need to take care that we do not allow these behaviours to continue in their new home.
Generally, your new dog will take 2 weeks to act like their true self. Be cautious and slow when handling or when taking things away. This dog may be touchy about his personal space, or possibly be food aggressive. Be aware of the dog’s body language and ready to change this quickly and efficiently as you move along. Watch for reactions to noises, introductions to family and friends, how this dog interacts with other animals, etc.
During the first two weeks, I am hyper-vigilant with this dog. The first few days should be spent with the handlers, creating a bond and trust.
I do not bring the dog out in busy public places during this time. I do not allow strangers to say hi or other dogs to approach at this time. While you may have an idea how this dog will react, you cannot be certain there won’t be an issue or confrontation.
When bringing this dog to new locations, pay close attention to the dog’s body language. Is she confident and happy in a new place? Is he fixated on little dogs? Is she stressed? How you treat the dog during these reactions is important, and managing the environment around them can potentially save their life.
The First Month
After a month with your new dog, you should have a good idea of what needs to be worked on and improved. Getting into classes will only increase your bond and control and improve confidence with your new best friend. Ensuring the dog’s mental and physical needs are met will create a great environment and a successful adoption.
Only once you know how your dog acts around new people should you allow the dog to interact with them. All it takes for some dogs to become scared or reactive is eye contact or quick movements. Knowing your dog’s weak points can help you prevent issues from occurring.
Taking precautions when meeting new dogs apply in the same way. If I know my dog is struggling with strangers I’ll have strangers throw treats from a distance for a while. They will come closer and closer until the dog is willing to take food from them. This may take minutes to months pending on the dog and their temperament. I do not allow dogs to interact with new dogs until they can remain calm and focus on me first.
Be aware that depending on age and your new dog’s issues, this could be a lifetime commitment of training and hard work. If you are not willing to provide this to a dog with issues, please do not adopt them and keep on looking – I promise you’ll find the perfect companion with patience.
Ok, you have now gone through a few months with your new dog! Now we can start pushing boundaries and limits.
Now they know our expectations – so we can increase them. If you want that impressive dog who does all his master asks you will spend hours and money to get there – nothing comes free. Those dogs with impressive skills have handlers who work hard and consistently.
Be aware of the risks of genetic temperament issues and the lifelong effects that come with them. Be aware that 4 months of training may not be enough and your dog may need to attend classes every year to keep up with your level of expectation.
DO NOT add another dog until you have reached your goals with the first one as your time split between two may not be beneficial for your current rescue.
The organization you adopted from should offer you LIFETIME support for your new dog. Should you need help, ask.
You are responsible to meet all the dog’s needs for the rest of their life – this includes financial.
Should you have questions about rescue dogs – never hesitate to contact April!
April has been actively involved in rescue since 2003.