…The Proper Housewarming For Your New Shelter Dog

By Katy Cable/A 3 min Read

If there’s an upside to the pandemic and the “stay-at-home” orders, it’s that the shelters have quite literally been cleared. It’s wonderful to see all the new dogs out and about in my neighborhood. Typically they’re easy to spot. Usually they're the ones barking and snarling as other dogs pass by. They’re often pulling on their leashes and their owners look completely baffled and embarrassed by their behavior.

Most often, it isn’t the dog, but the negligent OWNER that’s to blame. Many people are completely clueless when they get a new dog. Especially when it comes to proper training.

Many dogs get dropped off at shelters more than once, because of problematic behaviors that haven’t been corrected and continue in the new home.

The top issues include:

  • Excessive Barking
  • Aggression towards other dogs
  • Lack of obedience training
  • Lack of adequate veterinary care has caused health issues.
  • The owner did not anticipate the time and attention a dog requires each day.

A majority of these issues can be resolved but I do want to warn you, they may take a bit of extra patience and time. When a dog is surrendered to a shelter, it brings a tremendous amount of stress to the animal. Here are tips to help them make the transition from rescue dog to family pet much smoother!

It’s so important for adoptive pet parents to understand what their new dog may need in order to reach his full potential as a beloved family pet. A rescued or adopted dog will react a bit differently when introduced to a new home, but common behaviors can include:

  • Fearful body language and facial expressions (Tail hung low, droopy head, not making eye contact. Shaking their head, shaking)
  • Finding places to hide
  • Wariness and general inhibited behavior
  • Lack of appetite

This conduct may or may not linger as your dog adapts to their new family and living situation. You should keep in mind your new pet’s personality and temperament may not emerge on his first day home, or even during the first week or two. Heck, I feel like it took me 2 years to get Olive out from under the table after I rescued her.

Before bringing your dog home, be sure you’ve puppy proofed it for safety. Even an older or seemingly well trained dog will be curious of their new surroundings and needs to be kept safe from harm.

Set up a crate with a few toys in a slightly out of the way spot of the room. Find a place where your new pup can still see and hear his new family, but from a safe distance. Leave the door off or open so they can use this as a quiet, safe retreat. NEVER force the pet into the crate. Keep in mind, some dogs may be extremely fearful of them after possibly living exclusively in this type of quarter.

When it comes to attention, affection and new experiences for your dog, set a slow, consistent pace. As difficult as it is, lavishing too much attention on your new pup can result in major separation anxiety behaviors when you must leave. After all you’ve probably just saved them and watching you leave is extremely scary.

​Some dogs will be very uncomfortable with too much affection. Hugging and snuggling may be a ways off. Start slowly and let your dog take the lead as they get to know you better.

In the beginning, less is more. Aim to have a slightly bored dog. The worst thing is to over-stimulate them from the get go! Try and get them on a regular routine that works for you. Start with a few short walks and tossing around some new toys. This fun interaction will help their physical and mental state.

If your dog doesn’t walk well on a leash or has anti-social manners, consult with a positive-reinforcement dog trainer immediately. Don’t delay beginning to work on forming new, appropriate socialization skills. Most dogs that act aggressively towards other dogs are simply feeling scared and trying to protect you/themselves. It’s necessary to practice proper socializing skills ASAP!

Mealtimes may also be a challenge. While some dogs, live for food, others might not have much appetite in the first few days at home. Try to keep their diet as familiar as possible, slowly adding more nutritious, fresh foods. Feed them in a calm, quiet setting. After an appropriate amount of time, pick up their food dish and get them on a regular feeding schedule. I don’t recommend leaving the food dish out all day for “grazing!” It makes it much more difficult if down the road you need to administer medication or monitor eating habits. Don’t hesitate to call the vet if your dog’s appetite has not improved after a day or so of adjustment. -Or if anything seems off.

Building a strong bond with your new pet is a process. Expect some resistance at times. You are building a whole new relationship with a pet that might have severe trauma and trust issues to overcome. Every pet is unique and different and the bond will grow stronger over time.

A dog learns desired behaviors through positive reinforcement. There are dozens of techniques you can learn to effectively control your dog. Not only can you eliminate problem behaviors, you can build and reward good ones! In the beginning, I would carry small treats at all times and reward EVERYTHING they do correctly. Even looking at you when called is a great skill worth rewarding!

Physical punishment should never be part of the equation. It’s not effective long-term, and it backfires by terrifying your pet into submission. It rips away at the still-fragile bond you’re trying to form. There are a million great training videos on YouTube or ask for references from your vet or pet store. Ditto if you discover your rescued or adopted dog has a deep-seated behavior issue you can’t resolve on your own. Remember to INTERVIEW and get a feel for perspective trainers. They are your coach and you and your dog need to feel comfortable.

The keys to successfully transitioning most dogs from a shelter to a forever home are:

  • Consistent daily exercise
  • Nutritional species-appropriate diet
  • Good veterinary care
  • Socialization, obedience training and behavior modification as required. ​​

​By being aware and practicing these skills you and your pet can make a much smoother and happier adjustment. Here’s to a wonderful experience for both you and your pet! Pugs and kisses!😘🐾💕

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I love PUGS, cappuccinos and bad carbs. Spent my life as an actress, writer and now pet activist. Here’s “A little Kibble” if your children have paws!

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