Tips for Taking in a Rescue Dog
Rather than buy a puppy from a breeder, you may decide to give a home to an abandoned dog from an animal shelter. You may successfully acquire a perfect companion, but pleasure will sometimes turn to disappointment when a dog is found to have unforeseen behavioral problems and cannot adapt to family life. There is a certain amount of luck involved, but you can improve your chances of success if you are aware of the pitfalls and have sufficient knowledge to cope with any setbacks.
Dogs in rescue centers range from small puppies to the old and sick. Everyone comes to the center with a previous history. Dogs are sometimes abandoned when owners lose their jobs, divorce, move to a new location, become ill, or die. The dog itself may have fallen sick or caused allergies in a member of the owner's family. It may have been rejected because it was constantly fighting with another family pet or causing a nuisance in the home. Some dogs may have been beaten, neglected, or kept chained up alone for long periods.
Adolescent dogs (ages 6-9 months) are one of most common groups of dogs in any rescue shelter. They are frequently abandoned because their owners had failed to give enough thought to the responsibilities or practical aspects of owning a dog. Once their pet has passed the sweet puppy stage they lose interest or find they cannot control its unruly behavior. Often this is because they chose the wrong kind of dog for their circumstances or neglected its training.
Matching Dogs and Owners
Unfortunately, when owners give their dog to a shelter, they do not always admit the real reason. More than half the dogs in a rescue center are likely to have behavioral problems, ranging from nuisance barking and jumping up on people to aggressive and dangerous behavior. Many can be retrained successfully, particularly if the new owner is used to caring for dogs and is prepared to give time and patience to the task. Some rescue centers go to considerable lengths to match problem dogs to the right new home. Dogs that have had more than one previous home can be particularly difficult to place successfully.
Tell the staff at the center just what kind of dog you are looking for. Do you want a puppy or an adult? Have you kept a dog before? Do you live in an apartment or a house? Are there children or elderly people in the family? How much time do you have for training, exercising, and grooming? Ask to visit the center at least once to take the dog for a walk and get used to handling it before bringing it home. That way there'll be more successful adoptions, far fewer dissatisfied owners, and happier dogs.
What do I have to do if I take a dog from a rescue center?
You will normally be asked to pay a small fee, and the rescue center will probably require that you have the dog neutered. It may offer reduced-cost vaccinations. If not, you must arrange for a full health check and vaccinations as soon as possible.
Is it better to choose a puppy or an adult?
Only you can decide. Ideally, a puppy should be adopted before it is 10 weeks old because time spent in kennels after that age can be damaging to its development. If you choose a puppy, you are starting with a relatively “clean slate” as far as training and behavior are concerned. However, the puppy's age, parentage, and health status may be unknown, and its likely size as an adult will be difficult to predict (though big feet indicate a large adult). An adolescent or adult dog should already be housebroken but may take a longer period of time to adjust to a new home.
My friend got a dog from our local dog pound last week, and it has a terrible cough. She wants me to visit with my children. Is the cough likely to be infectious? Could it be passed to the children?
The most likely causes of the dog's cough are kennel cough or distemper. Both diseases are highly infectious to dogs but do not affect humans; they can both be prevented by vaccination. It is extremely important that your friend's dog be examined by a vet to establish the cause of its cough.
Dos and Don'ts of Adopting a Dog
- Do decide if you want a puppy, adolescent, adult, or older dog before contacting the center.
- Do Consider your own circumstances. Always busy? Don't choose a dog that needs daily grooming. Getting older? Avoid an athletic type. Got a young family? Make sure the dog is used to children.
- Do take your time. It will not help you or the dog if you make a mistake.
- Do find out all you can about the dog's history and personality. Take it for a short walk. Watch how it behaves with other dogs and people.
- Do have it checked over by a vet when you get it home. Make sure it has had all its shots.
- Don't choose a rescued dog simply because you think it is a cheap option. You must be prepared to give it plenty of time and patience.
- Don't rush your decision. Spend time with the dog before committing yourself.
- Don't expect to find the perfect dog the first time you go looking.
- Don't choose solely on the basis of appearance. It is just as important to see how the dog behaves. Smother your new pet with love and affection, however adorable it is. A dog with an unstable start in life can very easily become over-attached. Allow it time and space to adjust to its new home.