Many dogs find themselves in a shelter through no fault of their own. There are any number of reasons an owner would have to give up their pet. Sometimes a life-changing situation is the cause (most often moving), other times it has something to do with the animal.
Sometimes dogs are given up because of behavioral or other issues that their former owners couldn’t deal with, but are not difficult for a caring new owner to overcome. For example, “behavioral” issues may simply result from a lack of training.
Many dogs are surrendered to shelters at about one year of age, when they are no longer cute puppies and have entered canine adolescence. At this stage they are high-energy full-sized dogs, sometimes hyperactive. Without enough exercise or attention, young dogs engage in destructive behaviors, particularly if the original owner did not spay or neuter the animal. However, with proper training and guidance, these dogs can become first-rate companions.
Purebreds and mixed breeds
It’s not just “mutts” that end up at shelters. Plenty of purebred animals are surrendered, too, although breed rescues may take in many of them for fostering and rehoming. For those looking to adopt a dog, mixed-breed dogs make fine pets, and their hybrid vigor often makes them healthier overall than their purebred counterparts.
Shelters often describe mixed breeds as the type of purebred dog they most resemble, such as “cocker spaniel mix” or “border collie mix.” Most of the time that’s simply a guess, so keep in mind that a particular dog may or may not have the traits — good or bad — of the breed dominant in its appearance.
Middle-aged and senior dogs also end up at shelters and are often overlooked by folks intent on adopting a pet. However, for many people a calm older dog makes a better choice than an active young canine. You’re also saving a life, as shelters are more likely to euthanize animals with lower chances of adoption. Older dogs are rarely high energy and are generally housebroken and leash-trained.
Many rescue organizations have volunteers who foster dogs in their homes prior to adoption. Not only do these volunteers help socialize the dog, but they soon learn an individual animal’s quirks and personality. An advantage of adopting a foster dog rather than one directly from a shelter is that the person fostering the dog can give you all sorts of information about the dog’s behavior, information not always available from observing a dog in a shelter setting. The foster can tell you whether the dog is housebroken, walks well on a leash and is good with kids, other dogs or cats.
The dog you bring home from the shelter or rescue group may not show her true personality for a couple of weeks. She has to acclimate to a new home, new people and a new routine. The first couple of weeks in a new abode are emotionally overwhelming for many canines. She’s likely experiencing elevated levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Give her time. A dog that appears nervous and shy may blossom into a friendly, confident dog once she realizes she is safe and loved by her new family. Once she knows she is loved and cared for, she is more open to trusting her new owners and bonding with them.
While obedience training is important for any dog, it’s especially true for a shelter animal. It’s absolutely crucial if you suspect the dog was given up for behavioral problems. All dogs should know how to walk properly on a leash and know the commands for sit, stay and — most importantly — coming when called. The latter is a potential lifesaver.
Used correctly, crate training is a good tool once your dog is in your home. As The Humane Society of the United States notes, “Crate training uses the dog’s natural instincts as a den animal.” Not only is crate training an effective way to housetrain your dog, but it also prevents him from wreaking havoc when no one is home.
However, that certainly doesn’t mean the dog stays in the crate day and night, or that the crate is ever used as punishment. Once the dog is housetrained and you trust him not to destroy things when you are watching, leave the crate door open so he can come and go as he pleases. Until that point, crate training a rescue dog sets him up for success, not failure.
Patience is a virtue
There’s a simple key to living with a rescue dog, and that’s patience. All shelter dogs have experienced some degree of trauma. Imagine being torn from everyone and everything you love and stuck in cage surrounded by noisy, possibly hostile neighbors. It’s a scary, stressful scenario, and even if a dog is only in the shelter a short time, he’s affected to some extent. Some dogs adjust relatively easily to their new homes, while others can take a while.
Just remember to be patient, kind and train your rescue dog. He or she will reward you with their love and devotion.
—The Alternative Daily