Dog Adoptions: Adapting Your Shelter Dog to His New Home
Why buy a dog when you can bring home a new best friend from a local animal shelter almost for free? Purebred dogs come with health issues of over breeding and special grooming requirements - and these issues are often totally absent among dogs of mixed breed.
If you insist on a purebred - you should still go to your local shelter. On a recent visit, I saw one Great Dane, 2 German Shepherds, 2 Dalmatians and 3 Labrador Retrievers that were most definitely purebreds. They end up in a shelter because of owners who don't know how to train them - or have no time for them. Labs in particular are often dropped off at shelters for "chewing things up" - but that is the nature of that breed when young. They are "mouthy" and will chew everything in sight until trained what is and isn't permissible as a chew toy. Many Lab owners take drastic steps to control this chewing behavior, buying special gates and pens or confining the dogs to special rooms when the owner is absent.
Although it's true that a few dogs may end up at the shelter due to barking or antisocial behavior, those problem animals are usually not considered adoptable by shelter personnel. Most shelter dogs simply need a bit of obedience training to become valuable companions.
Some shelter dogs may have been through various situations before landing at the shelter. They may have been mistreated, abandoned by a roadway, become lost and wandered alone for some time. They will not understand at first why they are being moved to another new location - they will not know that you are giving them a forever home.
The best method of helping your new dog adapt to your home and family is to establish a regular schedule for the dog and adhere to it for at least a few weeks. Regular feeding times, regular walks and/or play time will help your new pet fit in easily and quickly. Dogs are quick to adapt to the schedules of their people and some canines seem to have their own internal clocks. Many dogs have been documented going to the door where their owner will enter - and doing so while the owner is still miles away.
Dogs also can set their own schedules. Your dog may want to play early in the morning and again in the late afternoon - and may insist on bringing you his toys and trying to get your attention at those times of the day. For that reason, the schedule you have should be adjusted as you see what best fits your dog.
When disciplining a shelter dog, you should start with the barest minimum of correction - using your tone of voice to indicate approval and disapproval. That is often all that is needed as a disciplinary tool. Remember that some dogs may have been mishandled or mistreated. If you quickly raise an arm or make a sudden movement and notice your dog will cringe or growl - you know there is some history there to overcome. Kindness and patience will solve the problem but it will take time to gain the total trust of the animal.
From the first day you bring your adopted dog home, put your hands on him often. Look at his ears, his paws; look closely through his fur or at the skin of his belly. What are you looking for? Nothing. You are letting the dog know from the first meeting that you will be touching and looking at him closely. Many dogs will become very nervous at this attention but it is important to establish your "right" to do this as ease of grooming, dog baths and veterinarian visits depend on being able to handle the dog in this way.
You also start basic behavior training the moment you bring the dog home. Spoil him with doggie biscuits - but make him "sit" before getting each biscuit. Take him for walks - but always go through a doorway first to establish yourself as his leader. Let the dog know what is expected of him and through your voice let him know what is good and bad. Knowing what is expected of him allows a dog to settle in and learn to trust his new owner.