Rescuing a shelter dog can be very rewarding, both for you and the dog, not to mention it literally saves a life. But recent statistics show that as much as 20% of dogs adopted from shelters are returned within the first couple of weeks. There are a few common mistakes that people make when bringing a shelter dog home. Knowing and preventing these mistakes will help make a smooth transition of introducing your dog into its new home, and help stop behavioral problems before they start.
Most mistakes people make with shelter dogs is giving them too much love, freedom and items. They feel bad that the dog came from an abusive family, or had to live in a cage for weeks, so they let the dog have what it wants. But this is not what the dog needs. Moving homes is a very stressful transition for a dog, and they need rules and boundaries to feel secure in their new surroundings. So with that said, lets start.
- Leash up: Once your dog is safely ushered into his new home, your first inclination is to take the leash off. But this will be the first mistake you make. The leash is a very important tool for safe corrections and guidance, especially for the first couple of weeks you have your dog. Leave a short 3 to 6 foot leash attached to your dog until your dog has a good grasp of the boundaries you are going to set. This may take a few weeks, or just a few days.
- The couch: When we first fostered our Pointer Jake, he went straight for the couch and made himself so adorably comfortable it was nearly impossible to tell him to get off. But giving your dog free access to the couch and other items of furniture is a recipe for behavioral problems. So, take that leash I was talking about earlier, and gently lead your dog to his own bed. If he jumps back on the couch, do the same, until he gets the point and lays down on his own bed on his own, then give him lots of praise and love for doing the right thing. Do not be angry, or forcibly jerk or push your dog off the couch, as you do not know this dogs past, and he may lash out protectively, which will cause bigger problems.
- Giving to much attention: It's our natural inclination to bathe our dogs with love at first, but this can be overwhelming and detrimental to their mental health. Our love should be an item that they must work to get. They cannot become dependent on our every move, as this creates separation anxiety, and they cannot develop protective behaviors over us. If your dog is glued to your side, try safely tying him down in a central room of the house where he can sit and observe the ins and outs independent from you.
- Proper exercise: If this is your first dog, you may not realize how much exercise a healthy, balanced dog requires to stay that way. Getting into a steady exercise routine, like a sixty minute walk a day, is very important to having a dog. A tired dog is a good dog. Training becomes way easier, and both you and your dog will be happier and healthier.
- NILIF: I have mentioned NILIF many times. Nothing In Life Is Free is a training technique that should be in place the moment your dog steps inside your house. He does not get glorious toys or treats until he knows not to become possessive, and he does not get anything, ever, unless he does something for you first.
Follow these guidelines, and you should have a happy, respectful and highly rewarding relationship with your newly adopted dog, and have no reason to ever surrender him to the pound.