Tips for adopting a rescue dog

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There are loads of great dogs that need to be paired up with great humans, so if you have the opportunity to rescue a dog then you should definitely give it thought. Dogs bring some much joy to our lives so it’s important that we do the same.

Moving from a rescue centre to your home is a big move for a dog, so don’t be concerned if they are nervous at first as this is completely natural. It will take them a little while to get used to their new surroundings, but there are some things you can do to help them along.

1) Prepare your home for their arrival

Simple things like making sure there’s no small objects laying around that they might swallow, to ensuring your garden is secure and they won’t be able to get out or jump the fence is important. Every home is different, but with a bit of effort you can make your home dog friendly in no time and the rescue shelter can help you out with advice too (many will conduct a home visit before releasing the dog to ensure it’s a good environment for them).

2) Make a space for them

Dogs like routine and it’s important that they have their own safe space that they can retreat to when they want. There are some simple ways you can do this:

  • Buy a good dog bed for them. If the dog is particularly nervous, then consider an enclosed bed or crate that they can sleep in. This creates a shelter for them to feel safe in.
  • Keep their area clear of your belongings.
  • Tidy up their toys and leave them near the bed.
  • Ensure their food and water bowls are close by too (and they have easy access to them).
  • If you will allow the dog on the sofa (and let’s face it, you probably won’t have much choice!), then get them their own blanket to lay on and train them to use it.
  • Keep the chaos to the minimum – soon after getting a new dog is the wrong time to have a house party!

3) Choose the toys you get for them carefully

Rope toys are great as you can play with your dog and this encourages them to play with you. For a more nervous dog, it might be worth avoiding squeaky toys – although a lot of dogs love them, the noise might disturb them.

4) Establish a routine

Not knowing when they might eat next or when they might get out to go to the toilet can be a source of anxiety for a dog, particularly in a new home. Get them used to a routine and stick to it – it won’t take long for that anxiety to leave.

5) A good harness and a short lead will help maintain discipline

While extendable leads are good, it may be better to use a harness with a short lead to keep your dog nearby when you are out for a walk. You should be a source of confidence for your dog, so if they’re nervous when out it’s good that you are close and you can control their behaviour or give them encouragement if need be.

6) Encourage good behaviour

Part of anxiety comes from lack of positive reinforcement. If your dog isn’t confident around you, they won’t be confident around strangers so it’s critical that you regularly reinforce good behaviour with treats, belly scratching and general enthusiasm. Your dog will quickly build confidence and learn positive behaviours.

If you’re worried about leaving them home alone, then consider a dog camera. Many come with a treat dispenser and two way audio chat and even alert you if your dog is barking or howling a lot. They can be a good way to reinforce good behaviour even when you’re not a home.

7) Don’t punish bad behaviour

You should never hit your dog, but if you’ve taken the time to read up about this topic then it’s likely you already know that.

But, shouting or aggressive behaviour of any kind should be avoided.

Just like with humans, negative actions can have a much stronger and longer lasting impact on the confidence of animals, so you could undo the positive work you’ve already done.

Communicating a bad thing to an animal doesn’t need to be the polar opposite of excitable, treat-giving, tummy rubbing positive reinforcement. It just needs to be the lack of positive “vibes” – a more serious voice so they know what they did was wrong and then move on. Anything more aggressive than that can have much more negative effects, particularly for rescue dogs with existing anxiety issues.

8) It’s also worth remembering to socialise puppies from an early age

Although older dogs can become more anxious through their experiences in life, younger dogs can also grow to be nervous if they don’t learn to socialise early on.

The first few months of a puppy’s development is a great time to introduce them to new people and other animals if you have more pets. I’m fairly certain you won’t have any problem finding willing petters when you take your puppy out for a walk.

Do you have any tips for first time rescue dog owners? Let us know below!

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