Dog adoption: how and why

Dog Tips Sep 10, 2020


Financially, ethically and morally, doggy adoption is an attractive option if you're thinking about adding a fur baby to your family.

Whether you've had dogs your whole life or this is your first time welcoming a pup into your home, adoption is a big deal. Not because rescue animals are necessarily difficult or damaged, but because giving a stable and happy home to an unwanted pet will profoundly and positively affect both your world and the world of your adopted fur baby.

As well as being a rewarding experience, you'll be giving a dog a second chance in life and freeing up space at the animal shelter. And while you might imagine that you're only saving one dog, more room at the kennels means other canines can be rescued rather than euthanized.

But, if you are serious about dog or puppy adoption, there are essential things about the process that you need to know.

So, here's our top tips around how's and why's of dog adoption.

The Process

There's lots to consider before adopting a pet. And not just from your perspective but the shelters too. Matching the right dog with the best family is crucial for successful adoption.

Think long and hard about what type of dog you are after, and what kind of canine is the best match for you and your family. And if you don't know much about dogs, now is the time to learn.

  • Choosing a pup based on appearance alone may be a wrong decision long term. For instance, you might like the look of a kelpie, but do you have the time or energy to manage that dog's needs?
  • Once you have spotted that perfect puppy, shelter staff will explain its particular needs and as much background information as they can. But suppose you talk to them first about your expectations before looking at available dogs. In that case, staff can match you with the ideal dog before your initial introduction, which can make the decision easier and chances of a successful adoption better.  
  • The animal shelter will want to get to know you quite well. Adoptions officers will need to see how the dog will live, so visits or photos of your backyard, for instance, are essential.
  • When it comes to other family members and pets, shelter staff will likely suggest a meet and greet so you can make the decision together. The welfare of the dog is the shelter's top priority. They want to find all dogs the perfect 'forever home' and minimize failed adoption.
  • Shelters need adoption applications, and often a 24-hour cooling-off period is necessary. This gives you ample time to make your decision. Interviews with adoption officers mean that the best possible match has happened.

Remember that some breeds need more than unconditional love. Bringing a new fur baby home is a beautiful, exciting experience. But it's also a lot of responsibility. You'll be expected to provide all their feeding, health, training and exercise needs.

Preparation

Often, rescue pups have been shuffled from place to place, and this can be confusing. There are things you can do to help them transition easier into their new home.

Structure home life to make your pup feel safe and secure. This includes making it clear straight away, which areas of the house are out of bounds and which spaces are for your dog.

  • Close doors and use a baby gate to block these areas off. Just until the dog becomes familiar to your home routine.
  • Set up a sleeping area before the dog comes home and implement a good routine from day one.
  • Think about where food and water will go and, again, have this area set up for their arrival.
  • Outdoor areas should be secure with appropriate fencing and working gates.
  • Talk with family about expectations around routines. This includes feeding, walking and cleaning up after the dog.
  • Doggy-proof your house and keep precious items and medicines out of your pups reach.
  • Buy essential accessories before arrival. This includes things like an ID tag, a collar, leash, food, water and food bowls, a crate and bedding. And of course, don't forget the toys.

It can also be helpful to have treats on hand. This way, you can reward and encourage good behaviour from the get-go.

The pick-up

Ideally, you need to spend some time with your new puppy in the home, so consider taking a few days off work when they first arrive. This is a great time to monitor and bond with your dog while they get to know the rules, and settling in will be a lot easier. But don't underestimate the importance of the actual journey from shelter to a new home.

  • It's a good idea to bring someone with you when you pick your puppy up from the shelter. That way, one person can drive, and you can focus on the pup.
  • You should also harness or crate dogs whilst in the car to keep them safe.
  • Perhaps bring a chew treat to make the car ride more enjoyable and relaxing.
  • Dogs like to take a moment to explore unfamiliar spaces before they feel safe, so let your pup smell and explore the car before you begin the journey home.

Home sweet home

Once you arrive home, keep your pup on the leash and give them a tour of the house and garden.

Other animals already in the home need to be introduced to them calmly. You may even want to take other dogs to the shelter to meet their new fur sibling.

Ask the shelter or foster carer about your dog's feeding schedule. Replicating this at home in the first instance will help prevent stress. Any changes to food should be introduced over several days.

Other important things you can do in the early days:

  • Make sure family members give your dog a balance of affection and space, at least for the first few days.
  • Before you invite people over, wait a couple of days, so your dog has time to settle in.
  • Introductions to younger children should be calm, and without a lot of excitement.

Managing expectations

Often, a rescue dog's past before they came to the shelter is unknown. And a dog's etiquette in a shelter environment can be quite different from their new home. Notably, for long term rescues, the shelter can have a massive impact on a dog's manners.

So expect the first few weeks, perhaps even months, to be a learning experience for both you and your new fur baby. You'll discover new things about your rescue dog almost daily:

  • Likes and dislikes.
  • Fears and passions.
  • Level of training.
  • How well they are socialised.

It is, of course, going to take time to figure it all out. So, be patient with your new fur baby and with yourself.

Early days

Leave your dog for brief periods, such as when you check the mail. Gradually leave your fur baby alone at home and go for a short walk. Slowly increase this time alone. Getting used to alone time will help limit separation anxiety.

  • There may be accidents if your pup hasn't been house trained or if they are anxious.
  • Poor socialisation during puppy-hood or conflicting training commands can lead to fear. Be forgiving if things don't go the way you want immediately.
  • Remember that structure is key to a happy dog so establish routines around meals, toileting, sleeping, exercise and play.
  • Try reward-based training as soon as you get home. This helps with bonding and training.

Over time

The first few weeks are about getting to know each other. Here are some things you can do to keep your dog happy and healthy.

  • Organise vaccinations so you can start socialising your dog at the beach or park. A group training session is an excellent way for you both to interact with other humans and canines..
  • Track your dog's body language when introducing them to other dogs. And make sure you are confident, friendly and happy before you let them off-leash.
  • If your dog has settled into their new home, you can now invite friends and family over for some low-key visits.
  • A dog trainer or behaviourist can help with any issues that come up with meeting other dogs or humans. Your vet can recommend a specialist near you.

Conclusion

Adoption is an enriching experience. But it takes boundless patience with yourself and your new dog. Watch for any changes, both behavioural and physical that come up, and seek professional help if any issues arise.

Remember that mistakes will happen in the early stages of the adoption journey. Everything is new, and you're both still adjusting. You mustn't expect too much of your dog. And if you're struggling with the whole experience, that's OK also. Reach out to the shelter or your vet. Both will be able to point you in the right direction and to the appropriate resources.

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