Considerations: Adopting a shelter dog
October is Adopt a Shelter Dog month! A time when activist groups and shelters encourage people to consider adopting a shelter dog, instead of to purchasing a puppy from a breeder. Although purchasing a puppy can be an exciting and rewarding experience there are so many dogs waiting to find their forever homes and many more who can’t find room in a shelter and must be euthanized or sent to crowded unpleasant no kill-shelters.
Choosing your fur-ever friend
It pays to do your research. This may seem obvious but before you adopt a shelter dog do your research first to collect as much about the dog’s history as possible. You’ll want to understand any behavioural issues, temperament, concerns around children or other pets. The shelter in most cases can provide you with some history or understanding about their personality to help you find a good fit.
Look into a dog’s breed as well to help understand their needs. If they are an energetic breed they will need a yard and active pet parents. If you are not a very active individual or live in a small apartment a lab may not be a great fit, even though they are so lovable and sweet.
It’s important to look into their health history to understand if you have the means to take after this pet. A puppy or younger dog can be a lot of work to train and will lead to some inevitable messes and accidents. While an older dog may prove calmer and have fewer requirements for activity. A senior dog, however, may need more health care as they age, which can be costly. This isn’t to dissuade you from adopting a shelter dog, but to help you choose the right pet rather than causing undue stress for you and your future dog.
Understanding what they are going through
If you’re considering adopting a shelter dog understand that they are going through a huge transition and a somewhat of a (or very) traumatic time in their life. Imagine being given up from your family, to be taken to a shelter with many new faces, a strange environment, and limited love and care. Then to be taken to yet another new environment with new people you don’t know. Many adopted animals take time to adjust to their new life. While at the shelter it can be hard to get a good feel for the animal’s true personality. They may be aggressive, shy, or sad. Once you’ve adopted them it may take time for their true personality to show. Give them lots of love, patience, and consistency so they can learn to understand that they are now safe and loved.
Consider the time you have to care for your new animal. This is especially important during the first 30 days which can be extra stressful. Your pet will need extra support to learn the ways of their new home and to feel safe and secure. Make sure that you won’t be leaving them at home for too long, or leave them with strangers for the first month. After they get used to their new routines and begin to feel comfortable you can start to expand their comfort zone and establish a nice routine that suits you both.
Dog proof the home
Because the first 30 days are the most stressful for your pet. Determine where your dog will spend most of their time for the first month or so. Because the new environment may cause added stress they may forget any housebreaking they’ve previously learned. We recommend choosing an area that offers easy cleanup of messes should they occur. This is normal at first and they should eventually learn where to pee and when.
In choosing this area we also recommend choosing an area that you can dog proof. You may want to tape loose electrical cords to baseboards, store any cleaning chemicals out of reach, and remove any other things you wouldn’t want them to get into such as plants and breakables. Many new shelter dog parents will install baby gates to keep your new dog in this area until they are more comfortable with you and your space.
We recommend setting some training guidelines right away. Take the time and consideration to determine what vocabulary you want to use for your dog, and make sure everyone is using the same list to prevent confusion. Your dog may have already learned some commands and if you know them it can help to keep those commands consistent such as saying sit versus sit down or using hand gestures. Be consistent with your commands and guidelines for behaviour.
Your dog is coming from a different situation which had different rules and then was placed in a stressful shelter environment. It will take your dog some time to be able to calm down and feel secure. Consistency will help them to feel secure and understand what to expect. Compare for example, if you were to let your dog on the couch sometimes when you wanted to cuddle, but another family member later scolded him for jumping up on the couch later. He might feel that he doesn’t know when he will get in trouble, which can feel scary.
Although your dog may be housetrained the stress of the new situation could make this difficult for her. When you get home, take them to where you would like them to pee. Spend some time there, ideally until they relieve themselves. Rewarding them afterward can help to reinforce this good behaviour.
Consistency is also key when it comes to scheduling. If you can, find out what any previous schedules were like for your pooch and adjust slowly if needed. Keeping a consistent schedule when it comes to feeding, walks, pee breaks, and training to help your dog to feel more safe and secure by knowing what to expect.
It’s great to get your dog used to new people and pets. Give your new pet some time to acclimatize to his or her new home before introducing new people. Once they’ve had time to get used to their new situation it can benefit them greatly to socialize. Pay attention to signs of distress so you can avoid stressing your dog out such as their ears down, tail between their legs, aggression, or seeking out a place to hide. Some strangers may feel okay and some might not. Say for example if someone looks similar to someone who hurt them this could cause them to become aggressive or anxious.
There are many different opinions on the use of crate training. Because most often you won’t know the full history of your pet’s training and whether or not they were crate trained we recommend offering them a crate to give them a space they feel safe to turn to when they’re feeling overwhelmed. However, we recommend leaving the door open. A crate can be very damaging to the psyche of a growing puppy or an adult dog if they haven’t been properly trained with one. So offering them the option so that if they want it they can go there while also giving them the option to leave when they want.
Adopt a shelter dog: Health care
It’s common when you adopt a shelter dog for them to come with some common but easily fixable health concerns. As we mentioned above they will almost always experience some level of stress and anxiety. Consistency, patience and loving energy will help to reduce your pet’s anxiety. Another great way to support your pet’s mood is by using NaturPet Be Calm. Be Calm includes calming and adaptogenic herbs that help to balance their stress levels.
Problems with Skin and Coat are also a common issue shelter dogs deal with. Sometimes dogs are coming from abusive or neglectful situations and as a result, their diet and hygiene have been neglected. As a result, their skin and coat have started to become dry, itchy, brittle, and irritated. These are signs that they need nutritional support as much as they need good personal care. Their outer health is a reflection of their inner health. Dr. Maggie Skin and Coat supply them with the nutrients your pet needs to make healthy skin and coat. Skin & Coat includes anchovy oil, olive oil, flaxseed oil, sunflower lecithin, vitamin A, vitamin D, and vitamin E. These nutrients will not only provides healthier skin and fur but will also benefit their brain health, joints and inflammation.
Similarily, it is common for shelter dogs to come with digestive issues such as parasites, worms and difficultly with the digestion of vitamins and minerals. NaturPet Intesti Care is an easy supplement to can add to your dog’s food. The diatomaceous earth in it is naturally toxic to worms and other digestive parasites but harmless for pets. It’s an herbal, non-toxic alternative to deworming drugs. It doubles as a mineral-rich supplement and naturally supports joint health. Safe to take every day, pet parents use this daily to prevent worms and parasites from occurring.