Shelter dogs make incredible pets. They can be loyal, grateful, and generous with their affection. They could also have some special issues that make parenting them a little more complex than dogs with simpler origin stories.
The key to being a successful rescue dog owner is understanding – and being compassionate to – these challenges.
When I adopted my dog I made a ton of mistakes. Some were incredibly costly and made me want to take the dog back to the rescue shelter. I’m so glad that I didn’t because my dog is my best friend, he saved my life, and opened a whole new world to me.
Change is stressful for all dogs, particularly for those who might associate change with danger or resource scarcity. Rescue dogs generally have a persistent fear of change.
There’s so much
I never knew about rescuing a dog until I started helping at our local rescue shelter. NEW PAWSibiliies has sadly closed due to the financial struggles all rescues and shelters face. As the owner said, “The little rescue that could has run out of steam.”
The most important thing to remember when it comes to
helping your dog settle into their new home is that it takes time. The Rule of Three will help you to understand the phases your dog will go through within the first three months. Some dogs settle in quickly and other dogs will take longer. So much depends on your dog, their background, and training.
In the four years I worked with the rescue I managed their Facebook page and created content for the website. Most of the content I wrote, but I am not a vet or a trainer so I curated the following resources for our adopters. I will continue to add sections and links as I find them. I hope you find these helpful and please feel free to share this page with others. The links will open in a new window.
Here are some frequently asked questions about life with your new rescue dog. Always consult a vet and or a trainer if you have specific questions.
Q- My dog won’t stop chewing on things in my house!
“Exercise Frustration” is a real term and a common reason for behavior issues. For the average healthy dog, try two thirty-minute walks a day. Let them stop and sniff along the way and they’ll be even more content with life.
Q- Why is my new dog acting differently now that I have her home?
A- There’s a saying in the dog rescue world: “Three days, three weeks, three months.”
3 DAYS: 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.
3 WEEKS: 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.
3 MONTHS: After three months she has usually blended into your routine and lifestyle. She’s become part of the family. Welcome home, new dog!
Q- Isn’t my dog house trained?
A- Most rescues don’t know your dog’s history and that includes potty training. At your house, they need to learn where you want them to go potty and how to tell you they need to go. Even if your dog has lived in a home before it does take time to adjust your schedule and cues to his. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®) has outstanding articles on everything from adopting to potty training and so much more.
Q- My new dog doesn’t get along with my old dog.
A- Even if it went well when they met at the rescue, now there might be toys and treats to squabble over and people paying lots of attention to the new dog. It might not be going so well at home.
Q- Can I change my dog’s name?
A- Yes. Teach the new name by saying the name and giving your dog a treat when she looks at you. If she ignores you try making a “kissy sound” (technical term) or patting your leg along with saying the name.
Q- My dog was fine and then she turned two and now she’s a maniac!
A- She’s probably out of the puppy stage and into adolescence. As in “teenager.” Full of energy. Out of control. She needs training and exercise. Find an obedience class. Give her more exercise. She needs you to help her become a well-behaved happy adult dog.
Q- My dog is misbehaving for no reason.
A- Always look for a medical problem first. Take your dog to the vet. (Because no amount of training is going to fix an ear infection, toothache, etc.) Once your dog’s been declared healthy, if the problem doesn’t disappear, find a certified trainer, behaviorist, or behavior consultant to help you figure out what’s going on.
Q- My dog needs training but I can’t afford to hire a trainer.
A- Ideally, when your dog is having behavior issues you should get advice and training from a certified dog trainer, behaviorist or canine behavior consultant. Some of them can seem expensive, but usually, they are worth it. (One training session probably costs less than the shoes your dog just chewed up.) Plus getting professional help will hopefully get you a decade or more of joy living with a well-behaved dog.
If a private trainer/consultant just isn’t in the budget, try enrolling in a group obedience class. At the very least, try to educate yourself by reading or searching for advice online. Be careful to choose competent sources. We think one good place to start your search is the ASPCA’s pet care web page.
These are helpful tips and articles but never a replacement for seeing a vet.
The foreword in my book was written by Rudd Weatherwax, a third-generation professional dog trainer, the grandson of famed Lassie trainer Rudd Weatherwax, and owner of Weatherwax Dog Training. His movie credits include “Beethoven,” “K9,” “Dennis the Menace,” “Top Dog,” and “Lassie: Best Friends are Forever,” and his TV credits include “The Flash,” “Married with Children,” “Just the Ten of Us,” and “The New Lassie.”
This is a complete guide to dog ownership and basic training manual using the Weatherwax method, which hasn’t changed in almost a century; though Robert has added a few enhancements over the years from his exposure to other great trainers.
This book will teach readers to:
Learn how to raise and train their dog using an approach customized to their dog’s needs.
Understand the correlation between our behavior and our dog’s behavior.
Implement techniques that will allow their dog to interact well in all situations.
Find answers to the questions that plague the common dog owner.
Train their dog the right way—from day one—as well as address any inherited behavioral issues.
Send the right message to their dog, even when no verbal commands are being given.
Alter the negative reaction their dog may have to certain situations.
Understand the most appropriate tools for their own dog and dispel some of the rumors that exist regarding dogs in general.