October is Adopt a Dog month, and to celebrate we have a guest post by John Woods, founder of All Things Dogs, member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and former shelter volunteer for Cheshire Dogs Homes; one of the UK’s leading rescue dog homes. Thank you John.
Three Lessons from a Shelter Worker for a Perfect Life with Your Rescue Dog
Guest Post by John Woods
Dog adoption can bring overwhelming joy, love and even healing into a lucky rescue dog-parents life.
Few things can be more joyful in life than a dog’s unconditional love and unfailing loyalty. Friendship and trust are words which beautifully capture the bond between canine and human. Experiences shared between rescue dog and parent, from late nights spent playing fetch to early morning walks, create an incredible bond.
If you have experienced rescuing a shelter dog, or temporarily fostering an animal, you are all too aware of the important responsibility, and role you have as a dog-parent, to rehabilitate and re-socialize your rescue dog.
As October is Adopt-A-Dog Month® and November is senior pet month, there isn’t a better time to talk about and share experiences of dog adoption. Here are some lessons from a shelter worker to help prepare you for a life full of joy with a rescue dog.
1. You Are Responsible
There are many reasons why people choose to adopt a dog, from companionship to improved health benefits. Throughout all of these reasons, responsibility is a core tenet which must be understood by rescue dog-parents.
Unfortunately, up to one in five rescue dogs are no longer owned by their adopted parents within six months of adoption.
There are many reasons behind this: changes in circumstances, moved home, new job and impulse decisions to name a few. However, a responsible owner will know, there are very few reasons which an owner can justify to return a rescue dog. When you adopt a dog, it is a commitment for the dog’s life—and that can be up to 15 or more years.
From experience, some rescue dogs will require a little bit more loving, care and attention than a puppy; re-training, re-housebreaking and re-socializing are the responsibility of the new parent.
Responsibility is a commitment to loving, boding with and caring for your rescue dog. This starts before dog adoption (to ensure compatibility and readiness) and last throughout the dog’s life. This involves training your dog, maybe to even become a recognized canine good citizen, re-socializing your dog into a loving household and being financially responsible for the costs of dog ownership.
The typical cost of annual dog ownership in the united states is $1,500. This includes food, grooming, walking expenses and vet bills.
2. Temperament and Compatibility
There are many circumstances that can change across a decade in our life. With change comes new life and opportunity, but, we mustn’t forget commitments we have made in the past and honor them.
In order to ensure responsible dog ownership, it’s important you understand compatibility and temperament of dogs. The temperament of a dog is terminology used to try and describe the internal or acquired traits of a dog which may regulate their response to a given scenario or environment.
First of all, it’s important to be clear. Temperament is typically used when we talk about purebred dogs (i.e. a recognized breed). When rescuing a dog, you may get a mix, hybrid or mongrel; not necessarily a purebred. Therefor it is more difficult to identify their “temperament” based on a specific breed. Each dog must be considered as an individual.
Having worked in a national rescue center for dogs and cats, the best method is for to-be rescue dog-parents to spend time and consider their lifestyle and activity before adopting a dog. How much time do they spend at home, what activities do they enjoy, how active are they? These simple questions will reveal important information about your commitment levels and the type of companion you are searching for.
3. Adoption Day One
As a rescue worker, day one of adoption can be a very exciting day. Typically, this means the shelter has performed a home visit and successfully matched rescue dog and parents. Day one is the day a rescue dog is given a new life and adopted from the shelter to a new and loving home. Excitement and energy are high during the first few hours; especially for the dog-parents.
However, your rescue dog may be feeling anxious, uncertain and stressed during these first few hours, so understanding about dog body language and taking some basic steps can go a long way:
· *Transport the dog in a crate and make sure this crate is placed in their home and is always accessible to them.
· * Give them time to acclimate to your home, have areas safely prepared for their arrival.
· *Get the feed from the shelter so you don’t drastically change his diet in the first couple of weeks and transition any new food gradually.
· * Stick to a feed, play and toilet schedule during the first few weeks to get your dog adjusted to their new life.
I hope this advice and experience will help you on your journey to finding and adopting a loving canine who will bring lots of joy and love into your life.