7 Things you Must do When you Rescue a Dog

©Scott Sheaffer, CDBC, CPDT-KA, USA Dog Behavior, LLC

Rescue dogs are great. They come in every flavor and each has quite a story to tell. My Great Pyrenees, Luke, is a recent rescue (from SPIN rescue) and I’ve had other rescues.

Let your dog just nest, relax, chill and cocoon.

As a professional dog behavior specialist who works with many rescue organizations, I have a few recommendations that will make your newly adopted rescue dog’s transition from foster/shelter to your home much easier.

Before I provide the list, let me give you the most important rule that will guide your dog’s first three weeks with you: Let your dog just nest, relax, chill and cocoon.

1. Most rescue organizations want you to do a test introduction at the shelter/foster location with the dogs that already live with you. While this idea is not bad, it’s not always the best predictor of how a new dog may do in your home. Your job is to properly introduce the new dog to each of the dogs at your household. Please, do not just bring a new dog in the front door – even if this dog has been previously introduced to your other dogs at a foster or shelter facility.

2. Avoid dog parks for at least the first three weeks, and if/when you do take the newest addition to your home to a dog park, please watch him carefully for stress. If he’s showing signs of stress, go home.

3. Your new dog probably does need a good cleaning and trimming; however, waiting a few weeks before you take him to a groomer isn’t going to kill him. New dogs to your home do not need the trauma of a groomer.

4. Veterinarians can be a bit tricky. Many rescue dogs are not completely comfortable with veterinarians (that’s putting it mildly) for a number of reasons out of your control. You probably won’t need to take your new dog to the vet on his first day in your home. After checking with your veterinarian on when you need to schedule your dog’s first visit (wait a few weeks if possible), do the following once there:

  • Go at a time when there won’t be a lot of other animals in the clinic.
  • Use a side door when entering the clinic to avoid the drama and trauma of the waiting room.
  • Use plenty of treats to help make the experience pleasurable.
  • Watch your dog for signs of stress; if your dog is overly stressed at the vet’s office it can make him forever fearful of vets (vet phobia). If things are getting overwhelming for your new dog, leave and try again later. Traumatizing vet visits, especially early on, can have negative long-term behavioral effects.

5. Your new puppy doesn’t yet know the 100 rules that your other dogs have learned about living with you in your home. Be patient as he learns all of the rules required to live in your household. For more information, see 100 Reasons Why You Need to Give Your Dog More Respect.

6. I don’t know of one dog trainer or dog behavior consultant who doesn’t use crates for his or her personal dogs. They are a valuable safe haven and a great way to introduce new dogs to your home. Immediately start to acclimate your new dog to a proper crate. And by “proper crate” I mean one that is enclosed, not the open-wire kind.

7. Select a positive rewards dog trainer or dog training school and get you and your dog enrolled. This is critical for many reasons and will pay dividends for years to come for you and your new dog.

Whether you are thinking about rescuing a dog or even buying a puppy, for more information about breed selection see How to Select the Right Dog for You.