The Do's And Don'ts When Adopting An Adult Dog
Adopting a dog can be a great thing for the dog and can be a great thing for you. The keyword there being "can." It "can" also end badly. How do we prevent that? And what can we do to increase our chances of everything going smoothly when welcoming an adult dog into the family? Let's get started.
● The internet made adopting dogs better and worse. Better because there's more awareness. Worse because people will see a dog's picture on the internet and say, "I have to have THAT dog." It's fine that you want to adopt THAT dog. But is that dog right for you and your family? Because that's far more important than how much you like that dog's photo, or story, or want to help that dog. You need to selection test the right dog for you. There's plenty of information on selection testing dogs on the web, so we won't get into it in this article
● Take it slow. Training can come later. Fun can come later. This isn't the time for that. This is a time for laying down a strong foundation of structure and routine so that later on down the road, you can build a relationship on that foundation. Don't try to get this dog to learn anything except a schedule and that you're no threat. I'm sure you've read stories about rescue dogs mauling their new owners in less than 2 weeks after being adopted, right? Yeah, well this is where they messed up.
Again, take it slow. This is an adult predator that we have a loose pact of interspecies cooperation with that comes with a few warning labels such as: "If I don't know you, don't get too personal with me." "If I don't respect you and you try to force me to do something that I don't want to do, I will push back." "If you become aggressive with me, I may return the sentiment." And of course "If you make me afraid, I may lash out with violence."
In the beginning stages of introducing yourself to a new dog, keep it simple. Crate, food, water, potty, repeat. Low stress, not a ton of kids doing cartwheels and backflips, no quick motions when interacting with the dog and if you pet the dog, don't turn it into an excited circle running hyper-fest. A strange dog that doesn't know you who is hyper isn't a good thing.
After a few days, integrate the dog more into the family. Give the dog treats for no reason whatsoever. Just mark with a clicker or marker word such as "Yes." You're teaching the dog the mark to use later in training while half ignoring the dog and sitting on the couch. You're teaching the dog how to be taught and the dog doesn't even know it. As time progresses, you can move to positive only training, getting more familiarized with the dog etc. Slow is the way to go. Don't end up in the local newspaper.
● Don't hug your new dog. Don't hug any dog you don't know very well. You'll get bitten eventually. I promise. There are videos circulating on the internet as you read this of people hugging dogs they don't know and getting bitten in the face. One was a young lady who had just rescued an adult German Shepherd. Just ... don't hug strange dogs. That's not a dog's love language in any way, shape, form or fashion to begin with.
● "I read in a book that's 60 years old, or from a 'trainer' that you should be able to put your hand in a dog's food and if they don't let you then you do this or that or the dog is no good and you should get rid of it." Get rid of that book or trainer, keep the dog. If your dog lets you put your hand in its food, that's fine. But you still made a horrible, useless, and senseless decision to find out if your dog would let you play in its food.
And if your dog does allow it, what did you prove? That your dog probably, yes, I said probably, won't bite you over food? It isn't a certainty that they won't bite you the next time you do it. Or bite a guest, or your kids, or your spouse. You've proven nothing at all except that you'll take the risk of having your fingers or part of your hand removed by a vice clamp with big teeth that are covered in bacteria and carry a 15-20 percent chance of getting infected. This is old, outdated information and if you get bitten doing this because you've already decided to ignore this advice? It was 100% preventable by simply not putting your hand in your dog's food bowl and feeding him or her in a crate.
Don't create problems that don't exist to prove things that don't matter.
● Don't introduce new people and guests to the dog just yet. The dog barely knows you, you barely know the dog, your guest probably barely knows dogs or what to do in a situation like this where you've barely began to build a relationship with a new dog. And the dog just flatly doesn't know the guest at all. There's a whole lot of "barely" and "don'ts" in this paragraph and multiple parties and a big window for confusion. Confusion is the father of 3 children named Mistake, Chaos and the youngest of the 3 we call Oops.
● Last but not least, a lot of this article sounds like how not to earn getting a bite. But it's just as much about making the dog comfortable. Imagine being in a household or chained up somewhere, to being dropped off at a shelter or rescue and put in a cage where you can barely sleep because the other dogs bark constantly and strangers walk by sometimes, to more strangers picking you, putting you in a car, and taking you to a new house that's unfamiliar, new people you don't know, new smells and these people are happy and acting like they've known you your whole life and you have absolutely no idea who they were. Sounds pretty horrifying and stressful doesn't it? And don't forget, even a 4ft tall person is twice your height. Imagine how confused you'd be.
Pick the right dog for you, don't do anything that might get you bitten, leave guests and strangers out of the equation for a few weeks until real training starts, and let your dog get to know you and get some rest. It isn't so much about what to do, but what not to do and not pushing your luck. Sometimes the hardest thing for people to do is to not do anything. Be patient, don't cause issues that don't exist yet.
Thank you for the read. We hope this can help you and others for as long as this is up and there's an internet! Please leave a like and share, it helps more than you know.
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