Adopted a Shelter Dog? Top Tips for the First Few Months

By Hannah Whittenly on Oct 12, 2017 at 10:00 am

Adopted a Shelter Dog? Top Tips for the First Few Months

One of the great things about a lot of shelter dogs is that they are mutts. Mixed breeds dogs are less prone to health issues unique to purebred dogs, and they typically have longer lifespans. Plus, if you are looking for that unique personality and doggy cuteness, mutts are so diverse. Keep in mind that the best dogs can be made to be bad, and the worst dogs can be made to be good. It is all up to your commitment, and here are the best tips to help your new furry family member fit in at home.

Acclimate Your New Family Member Slowly

Imagine being lifted up out of what you know as home, and the next thing you know you are plunked down in a new place. You do not speak the language, everything smells and looks different, and you have no place in which to retreat to feel safe. You would feel terrified, and you would likely want to run away. However, once you figured out that no one wanted to harm you, and, in fact, they actually love you, your fear would subside. You might even find that this new place is stable and safe, and that you can finally be someplace where you can fit in and be happy.

Your shelter adoptee needs a safe place, such as a training crate, to retreat to when stressed. You should introduce your new dog to other pets slowly and under direct supervision. Children should be strictly supervised as even puppies can nip and scratch when afraid or even when just playing. The first few days are the most challenging. If you maintain a patient resolve to help your shelter pet adapt, you will have a loyal family member for life.

Stay Positive and Consistent in Training Methodology

Training should begin immediately, and two things are critical when it comes to training an adopted pet. The first is using positive reinforcement training, and the second is being consistent. Punishment-based training just creates a dog that is afraid, and dogs that are afraid often act out aggressively.

Consistency in training prevents your dog from receiving mixed signals that can be so confusing that your dog does not learn anything. Dogs can learn incredible things, but to accomplish that absolutely every person in your household should be 100 percent consistent in the training of any dogs that are part of your family. Therefore, some of your best training feats are going to be in getting others to not undermine the milestones your new dog reaches. Food begging is an example. If grandma is sneaking Rover some bacon at breakfast, Rover will expect a little bacon from you when you eat it.

Establish Veterinary Care Immediately

Though your new family member is going through a huge amount of stress being brought into your home and learning his place within his new family, a visit to a veterinarian should be the first thing on your list to get done. Your dog should have a complete exam to look for any health-related issues from congenital concerns to active issues that need corrected immediately.

Shelter pets are highly likely to have internal and external parasites from roundworms to fleas. Show your vet the vaccination record the shelter provided you. Booster shots or the second or third series of common vaccinations are very likely needed. Shelters often give core vaccines, such as the initial rabies vaccine, but you may wish to have your pet receive some non-core vaccines such as protection from Lyme disease or leptospirosis.

Feed Your Dog Right

The truth about commercially prepared dog food is that it is a convenience item. That means that it is convenient for you in being able to quickly provide meals for your dog. Also, not every table scrap is bad for your dog, but, equally so, not every food you eat is good for your dog. In fact, some things, such as Macadamia nuts and grapes or raisins can be highly toxic to your dog. Xylitol, which is sugar alcohol used as a sweetener in human food items, candies, chewing gums, dry mouth remedies and more, is extremely dangerous for your dog even in tiny amounts. The safest and best way to feed your dog right is to provide him with a premium quality kibble type dog food.

Keep in mind that your shelter dog is not a wolf, and the domestication of canids has resulted in varying abilities to digest food items. Though domesticated dogs primarily rely on meat products for nutrition, their many years of living with humans has actually caused their digestive tracts to change from that of their wolf cousins. Dogs have slightly elongated digestive tracts that assist in the digestion of some grains that wolves cannot digest. Also, dog typically are much more sensitive to eating things such as bone fragments. Whereas a wolf may successfully pass pieces of bone, they are more likely to pierce your domesticated dogs intestinal tract, resulting in a life-threatening condition requiring surgery to correct.

The first few days and nights with your new dog are the most important, so help him get used to consistent routines at your house. Whether your dog will sleep in a crate or on your bed, or whether he is allowed on the sofa or not, is not the important thing. What is important is that your new dog gets to know what is expected of him in a gentle and loving fashion.

Posted in Training Tips by Hannah Whittenly on Oct 12, 2017 at 10:00 am

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