Tomorrow is our first-ever Coldwell Banker Adopt-a-Pet Event at the Oshkosh office on Omro Road. We have over twenty volunteers coming to help and we are so grateful to everyone who is donating a part of their Saturday to help us walk dogs, manage puppies and children together, clean up the inevitable accidents, and answer questions of those who are out looking for pets.
I say pets because Deb’s Kitten Rescue will be on hand with many of the cats we rescued from our Kentucky shelter since cats are equally important.
Getting a new dog is exciting, scary, intimidating, and in some ways is like bringing that new baby home from the hospital the first time. At the hospital, they had trained professionals to help with the transition from simply being pregnant to actually being a parent to a living breathing baby. You had that little call button and someone would magically come and help. There might have been lactation specialist, someone brought you food, I’m so old I was brought red wine with my babies, and there were visitors and people to answer questions. And change the diapers.
Maybe you’ve been searching for a furry friend forever. Maybe it will be an impulse stop and then you found the one. Maybe you believe that your children are finally old enough to be responsible. Maybe your last dog died and you are ready to open your heart and love again. So many hopes and dreams involved when you get a new dog.
We obviously believe that rescuing is the perfect option for the majority of people. But most rescue dogs have their backstory that we will never know. But we do know what happens in our shelter.
The time following your dog coming home from a shelter is important and can go a long way towards integrating your dog into the family. Yes, your dog is getting to know you and them, but it’s also a time when you are laying down the foundation for your new life.
I’m constantly telling people that a shelter is not a home. We love that our dogs are not kenneled all day but a shelter is noisy! And dogs come and go and then there is the fear of something new, separation anxiety, in many times the grief and sadness that comes with being away from your human.
Maybe your dog’s human died or moved or could no longer afford a dog. Maybe your new dog ran away and there was no microchip or tag and they weren’t registered. Maybe it was living as a stray, struggling to survive on the streets. The animal may have lived with an abusive or neglectful owner.
We just don’t know. But we do know that the day you adopted that dog everything changed. All the surroundings, the people, and perhaps other pets inside the new home are new and confusing. Maybe worst of all is that the routine is new and different. Dogs are for sure creatures of habits and new routines can be unsettling.
Even if a dog comes from a great shelter and is entering a loving home, there’s a lot of stress associated with so much change. New-to-you-dogs need time to decompress, to learn about you and the home and other people. They need to a reset as we do from time to time. Like your baby who was swimming around in utero feeling all cozy and hearing mom’s heartbeat being outside the womb is a huge adjustment. And so it is with your dog.
There’s a saying in the dog rescue world: “Three days, three weeks, three months.”
The first three days your dog is home she is usually just trying to cope with being in a new place (again). Who are these people? What am I doing here? What’s going to happen next? You probably won’t see her personality start to come out until around the fourth day home.
By the end of three weeks, your dog has usually figured out she is going to be living with you. She probably understands who else lives there, when/where she eats, sleeps and goes potty, etc. She’s starting to settle in.
After three months she has usually blended into your routine and lifestyle. She’s become part of the family. Welcome home, new dog!
During that time treat the dog with respect while giving gentle guidance, exercise – walking and playing – and bonding through quiet times together.
Here are some things to do to make for a smooth and fun transition.
Set up a place for food and water (we sell awesome feeding stations made and donated by inmates. Please feel free to ask about them because all the proceeds go to rescuing more dogs and they come in different heights.
We can tell you about the food we’ve given your dog and we will usually give you a gift certificate for a starter kit from Fromm Foods. If you decide to change the food, do so gradually so you don’t upset the digestive system. Stock up on appropriate treats for training and rewards.
We will do the microchip on adoption day and we can also make your tags and we have leashes, collars, and harnesses. We love Lupine! But whether you buy from us or elsewhere get a sturdy leash, collar, and a properly fitting harness.
Before your baby was born you figured out where he or she would sleep, you got a bed or a bassinette, you got everything settled. Where will your dog sleep and eat and where are they allowed to be? And what about crates training. Making these decisions before the big day when your dog comes home will go a long way towards the reset period. My dog does not sleep on the bed. He’s not allowed on furniture except the sofa. He obviously used to live where he was allowed on everything. It only took a few days before his new normal because okay with him.
For us crating my dog when I was gone helped a ton. I sure wish I had done it on day one but at least I have a great albeit expensive first night story to share. Crating or kenneling is really for the dog’s own safety and to avoid any disasters that could happen if the dog panics when you leave. Once the animal understands that you will always come back, you can decide if the pet can stay free while home alone. Separation anxiety is very real. There are tons of great blogs and sites on this topic and every rescue has it to some degree. Set up the crate ahead of time. Make sure it’s the appropriate size and has comfortable bedding.
There are many other things to consider and do when you bring a rescue home. I’ve learned that the biggest thing is to be patient with your dog but also with yourself. I made a zillion mistake and I still have the best dog in the world. Don’t break their spirit, know that they love unconditionally, and you’ll be fine.
Check our FAQ link and our blog for tons of stories and suggestions. Our adoption counselors are there for you even after the adoption during those critical 3:3:3 times.
Just remember; three days, three weeks, three months, welcome home!
This infographic is for puppies but it’s also good for bringing home an adult dog. You may not need everything on the list but it’s a good place to start.