Adopting a pet from a rescue or shelter:
If you are considering adding a pet to your family think RESCUE. Adopting a pet is a huge responsibility but you are literally saving a life. Keep in mind that rescue pets come from various backgrounds and we never know the full history. They might be surrendered by loving owners who can no longer care for them or abused and abandoned.
When you bring a rescue pet into your home you need to understand the impact their past experiences have on their behavior and emotional state.
Dogs need structure and leadership. They will be looking at you to provide it.
Cats are more flexible and independent but need to know that your home comes with rules.
Having these rules and structures established with all family members before bringing the pet home will make the transition easier. If everyone is on the same page in regards to what is allowed and what is not (jumping on furniture, sleeping in bed with you, access to rooms in the house) the pet will learn quickly and become a member of the family.
Establish who will feed the pet, walk the new dog, clean the litterbox before bring the pet home.
If you don’t make the rules your pet will!
Don’t bring your pet home to an empty house. You will need some time to prepare. Here are some items you should have at hand when bringing the pet home:
- ID tags
- Collar and, for a dog, a leash (avoid a retractable one until you’ve established control during walks)
- Food and water bowls — and don’t forget food!
- Toys, treats and bedding
- Training pads for a dog
- A crate, if you intend on crate training a dog
- A litterbox, if you’re adopting a cat
- A few grooming essential, like a brush and shampoo
Ideally you will bring your pet home when you can be there for a few days to establish the rules and routine. Eventually you want to train them to be alone for periods of time. If you bring home a dog take it for a walk around the house before bringing it inside. Establish the lines of communication and social structure (you are the Alpha).
With a cat you may limit their area to 1 room to start, especially if there are other pets in the house. They will get used to each other’s scent by sniffing under door frames.
The first days with a new pet are stressful. Just think back when you moved to a new city or new apartment and didn’t know anybody. Your new pet is making a significant change and they need time and space to adjust. If your new pet comes from an abusive situation or has been abandoned they will bring that baggage with them.
When we adopted our Diego he freaked out when he saw men with baseball caps. Over time he has gotten better but if we meet a man of a certain height and size wearing a baseball cap he still gets anxious.
At first, consider limiting your rescue pet to one room or area. Setting up baby gates in doorways is a great way to let them become familiar with their new environment’s sights and sounds, but maintain their own safe, private area. Go in and spend some time helping them to become more comfortable with toys, treats and, if they are open to it, cuddles.
Don’t force your pet to be cuddled, be a calming , gentle and consistent presence.
Don’t leave your rescue pet alone with other pets in the house until you have monitored their interactions for a period of time.
For the first little while limit visitors to give your new pet time to get comfortable with their new family. When guests do come over make sure they know the ground rules..let them know what you are working on in regards to socializing your pet and make sure they follow the same steps as you. For example, if they see your new cat scratch the furniture, be sure they know how to react.
Most shelter and rescue pets have been given vaccinations and have already been spayed or neutered. While it is important that your dog sees a veterinarian soon after adoption, a trip to the vet can be scary thing. Take a week to get them as calm and comfortable with you as possible. Get them in the car for a ride and, if you adopted a dog, take them for a few walks so they are used to leaving the house with you. And remember — treats! Reward all behavior you want to see repeated.
Don’t be alarmed or too angry about house training accidents. Even if you’ve adopted an adult rescue animal, being in a new territory and establishing a new routine means accidents will happen. If your new pet is excited, anxious or scared, he or she could go to the bathroom unexpectedly. This isn’t something they should be punished for, but it is behavior you need to correct so it doesn’t become a habit. Punishing them might make the animal think going to the bathroom is the bad behavior, not that they did it in the house. They might even become afraid of you. That’s why praising and rewarding when they do the right behavior is the best way to train. If accidents are frequent for a rescue dog, you may consider crate training.
Dogs instinctively like to den, and won’t use the bathroom in their den. It’s a place where they feel calm and safe. That’s why a crate can be an ideal place for a nervous or anxious rescue dog to sleep and get away from household cacophony. Crate training can also train a dog to hold their bladder longer, making house training and training in general easier. However, you should never leave the dog locked in the crate for long periods of time or use the crate for punishment — this is a safe, happy place, remember?
Crate training isn’t for everyone. If you’re considering it, really do your research. Take time introducing the dog to the crate and make sure it’s roomy enough for your dog to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably. An alternative to a crate is a creating a dog-friendly area in your home, such as a laundry or mud room. You can use a tall climb-proof baby gate or dog gate to block off the area from the rest of the house.
Another tip for dogs: never underestimate the value of a good training class! Remember, dogs are pack animals, and therefore like structure and order. They are also very social and their personalities can depend on the pack.
Your animal shelter may have given your rescue dog a behavioral evaluation, but rarely are these offered for cats. Cats are independent and will typically try something a few times before they recognize that it’s off-limits. Like dogs, cats also respond better to rewarding and praise, and are more likely to do what you want if their relationship with you is fun and interesting.
Bringing home a rescue pet is a very rewarding experience. Being prepared and making training a priority will help build a loving bond between you and your pet. Balancing structure, understanding and affection, your rescue pet will become a wonderful companion.
This article is based on information provided by https://www.redfin.com/blog/bringing-home-a-rescue-pet-tips