Bringing a rescued dog into your home

So you’ve rescued a dog.  Congratulations on your new family member!  Now what?  Well, in my experience the best advice I can give is not to treat them like a rescue.   We rescue dogs and it makes us feel good – and it should.  That doesn’t mean that we should hold the past against them.  Rescues need rules too.  Most dogs function better if they have clear and concise rules to follow.  You should let them know what the rules are right away.  I have met a lot of people who bring home a rescued dog and give them no boundaries because “they’ve had a rough life so far, so I’m going to spoil them now.”  If the rule of the house is pets are not allowed jump up on the humans, then follow that rule right away.  You are not doing your new addition any favors by allowing something today that you will correct in a week or a month.  That is confusing to the dog and they may start lacking self-confidence.
Of course we all want to spoil our dogs – especially if we have gotten them from a shelter, off the streets, or removed them a bad situation.  You can spoil them without giving up rules.  Here are some things that everyone can spoil their dog with:
  • A nice, warm bed
  • Good, quality food
  • Fun toys
  • Safety from the outside elements
  • Fun walks, trips to the dog park, doggy day care, etc.
  • Lots and lots of time spent with you
  • Good manners (obedience classes) so others will want to spend time with him
As you and your new dog get to know each other, be sure to provide a safe “retreat” for them to go whenever they feel overwhelmed with all of the new sights, smells, sounds, activities, and visitors in your home.  Set up a crate with a soft fluffy blanket, toys, and maybe some treats in and out of the way where they can still be involved with the family – when they feel comfortable doing it.  Keep the crate door open.  You will enjoy seeing him coming out to join in more and more as his comfort level increases.  That is self-confidence.
Make a list of the “rules of the household” before you get a new dog.  This will help with consistency and clarity for everyone in the household.  Some basic rules to consider are:
  • Potty outside only
  • No jumping on humans
  • No begging at the table
  • No dogs on the furniture or beds
Every household has different rules – and every dog will try to find a way around them.  If one person sneaks food from the table, the dog will always go to that person and never stop begging at the table.  If one person lets the dog on the bed, it is no longer a rule.  It’s best to institute as many rules as you want in the beginning.  It’s easier to relax existing rules than it is to add new ones later.
Rules are made to be broken – sometimes
As your new addition gets used to the rules and you learn your dog’s personality, you may want to relax the rules.  For example, I allow my dogs access to the furniture and beds, but when my boy gets his “big boy” pants on and decides that the couch or bed is his, I take away that privilege for a while.  He needs a reminder that I am the giver of all good things and bad behavior has a consequence. Most of all, have fun with your new dog and allow him to be a part of family activities.  You will have a best friend for life.

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