By Jessica Beganski
Through her work as Our Companions Canine Operations Director, Marie Joyner has witnessed first-hand the transition hundreds of dogs have made from shelters to homes. She and her team of dog trainers have developed an approach that works with typical rescue dogs – even those who might be less socially outgoing than others.
Socialize, Socialize, Socialize
Much like puppies do, adult rescue dogs seem to have a socialization window that is open for only a few weeks after they enter their new home. During that time, dogs form their new “inner circle.” The more positive experiences the dog has, especially within that important timeframe, the more confident the dog becomes.
The single most important thing you can do when bringing a rescue dog into your home is to expose the dog to the people, pets, places and activities he will regularly encounter as a new member of your family. According to Marie, “It is a mistake to take a wait-and-see approach.” During the first few weeks in his new home, your dog is forming behavior and habits that will be much harder to change once they become established.
Within the first few weeks of bringing your new dog home, Marie suggests that:
● If you have family and friends who visit frequently, invite them over for a quick visit.
● If your dog will be interacting with other dogs while with you, arrange to meet those other dogs on neutral ground – on a walk, for example.
● If your dog will be a regular guest at boarding or daycare, bring the dog there for a tour.
● If your dog will visit a groomer regularly, schedule a grooming.
● Bring your dog to the veterinarian. Your dog will already have had his required shots but a quick visit to the vet will help your dog be more at ease for subsequent visits.
One very crucial caveat: Marie advises that these encounters should be brief. While exposure to people, places and other animals is important and helpful, it’s equally important that you watch your pet carefully for body language cues indicating that they have had enough for one day. Stress behaviors may include lip and nose licking, yawning, panting and avoidance. Remember never to force a dog into a new situation – guide him gently and patiently, and be sure to give lots of rewards.
Enroll in Training
Our Companions’ policy is to provide positive reinforcement training to all adoptive families at a reduced rate – that’s how important we think it is to the long-term success of your adoption. Training not only teaches skills that you and your new dog need – for example, recall, leash-walking and basic commands – training also helps to create a lifelong bond and encourages your dog to develop confidence.
Give Your New Dog Space
The first few weeks after adoption represent a time of transition for your new dog. While it may be loads of fun for your family to play continuously with this new playmate, paying too much attention to your new dog is not necessarily the best thing for him. Give your newly adopted dog space and time to adjust to his new home. Within a relatively short amount of time, your new family member’s personality will reveal itself and he will seek attention from you.
Welcoming a rescue dog into your home is exciting and rewarding for both you and your canine companion. Following Marie’s advice will help to reduce some of the behavioral issues that less socialized dogs may have. Please keep in mind that Our Companions is here to help if you ever encounter a behavioral problem you cannot solve.