So you've decided to adopt. That's great!
You have chosen to give a new home to one of our cuties. One that possibly has been abandoned or abused. You should be proud of yourself. Without people like you, hundreds of abandoned and abused dogs of all breeds would be euthanized every year only because no one wanted them.
Here are some things to be aware of before you move forward.
There are many misconceptions about the quality of animals found in rescue shelters. The persistent stigma which shelter pets have been labeled is they are "damaged goods". Despite countless educational campaigns to educate the public, there still remain some individuals who believe shelter pets do not make wonderful companions, or else their original owners wouldn't have gotten rid of them. This is far from the truth!
• Their owners have passed away and no other family member could care for the pet.
• An irresponsible owner didn't get their pets spayed or neutered and ended up with unwanted litters.
• The animal's owners were abusive to the animal, so the authorities have removed the pet from the harmful environment.
• An animal was purchased or adopted by someone who did not take into consideration all of the responsibilities associated with caring for a pet.
Although it's true that the medical history and temperament of an animal adopted from a rescue shelter are not always able to be tracked down, its really no different than an animal you might get from a pet store, which normally comes from a puppy mill.
It certainly is possible that a pet adopted from a rescue shelter may have medical problems, however, the majority of the animals who are adopted from shelters are perfectly healthy, and just need a good home. If anything, you're more likely to get an honest answer about an animal's medical problems from a rescue or shelter volunteer - who is clearly there because they care about the animals - as opposed to a pet store owner or breeder that is only it in for the money. Animals in rescues or shelters are typically treated better than animals in pet stores, which typically have spent their short lives in cramped environments with little socializing and often, unsanitary conditions. Rescue dogs have had the benefit of living in a foster home for a time, so they may be even become more obedient and trained as a result of having someone to care for them in the interim.
Most animals coming from abusive homes will typically make a full emotional recovery - with proper care and attention. In fact, many of them are so grateful to be rescued from their previous situation, they end up being more devoted and loyal to their adoptive families than animals coming from non-abusive homes.
Your new dog may have been abandoned, abused or surrendered by a previous family. The dog had to adjust to life in a shelter or foster home and is now going home to a new, unfamiliar place with strangers. Pretty scary if you think about it! Being gentle, considerate, kind and patient will help ease your new dog into it's new family. Some may already be very friendly while others may be more reserved. This may be due in part by the dogs previous experiences with humans. No dog is going to be "perfect" and due to their past history some rescued dogs may require special consideration. Rescue dogs have a higher chance of being very submissive due to their past history. If you have other doggie siblings for your new adoptee don't feed the pets in the same room together until they are showing no aggression or jealousy at mealtime. Often a dog that has been starved, or forced to give up food to other dogs in the past, may be very protective of the food you give it.
Your new dog might be afraid and unsure of his new surroundings. If he appears to be scared, keep him in a small, quiet area to start, and take it slow. Don't allow children to bother the dog if he is afraid; fear can result in nipping. Give your dog plenty of time to adjust to his new surroundings, taking it one step at a time. Don't give up! Don't leave your other pets or small children unsupervised with the new dog until they are used to each other.
Even a potty trained dog can have accidents in a new home. He doesn't know which door to go to or how to tell his new family what he wants. Keep a very watchful eye on your new friend and confine him when you can't watch him. The worst thing you can do is to physically reprimand it. This teaches it that he must go someplace you can't see him to eliminate. A firm verbal sound when you catch him in the act and placing him outside or on papers will teach him where it is appropriate to go. Some experts say not to place the dog exactly where you want him to go when you take him outside, but nearby and calling it over to that place.
The main thing is to reward good behavior and use firm verbal cues for bad behavior. It is not advised that you let the new member of your household free reign of the house when you are away for long periods of time. Many small dogs have small bladders. Unlike larger dogs, they are not physically able to hold their bladders for long periods of time. For this reason small furbabies need to be taken outside more often, even if they don't seem to have to go, and need to have papers or pee pads available when you are away and cannot take them out.
Your new dog had a whole different set of rules in his previous home. He may have been allowed to sleep in bed or beg at the table. It's up to you to teach him your rules. Teaching proper behavior takes time and patience.
Allow several weeks for your new addition to adapt to his new surroundings and up to four months to fully adjust (older dogs may take longer than young ones). Adopting a pet is a lifetime commitment. We assume that you will make a patient and concerted effort to achieve a successful placement. Sometimes rescued dogs may exhibit behavioral problems that could include house soiling, destructive behavior, mild aggression toward other pets or humans, submissive urination, clinging behavior, licking behavior, and hiding or cowering in bed. All rescued dogs will exhibit some behavior when entering a new home. Most of the time, bad behavior is of very short duration as the animal becomes used to its new surroundings. The foster parent will advise you regarding any behaviors that have been observed while the animal was in foster care.
These are some of the situations you may possibly run in to with your rescued pet. For the majority of adopters, however, after an initial few days of adjustment they find that they have adopted a truly wonderful dog that wants nothing more than the touch of your hand, the sound of your voice, and the love of your heart. You may find it hard to believe that someone in the past, treated your new friend with cruelty and malice. It is difficult for us also but because of you that will never happen again.