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Young Man and His Dog Taking a Selfie
Sun, March 1, 2015
A Rehomed Pet Primer
I was a lucky seven when I got my first rescue dog. I didn't know it was a rescue. Dad took me to the city pound to get a dog after my cat crossed the Rainbow Bridge. That was 1960, before the 'rescue movement',  as I call it.  I never thought about how dogs got to the pound. Since I love dogs so much I did learn the answer as my life progressed.
 
I know part of my father's agenda was to have a family dog at a low initial cost. He knew most dogs were good and he believed he could pick one suitable to train for his family.  What a great lesson for me. I have never had a dog (or cat) that wasn't rehomed, whether from a shelter or the street.
 
In more recent years I volunteered weekly to walk and care for adoptables and eventually every homeless pet situation found at the local shelter. This experience was immeasurable in adding to my knowledge and handling of homeless pets. I liken their condition to a divorced person starting over, with no resources, after being forced out of a relationship. Not to mention lots of personal baggage that doesn’t come in a suitcase. They often grieve their homes.
 
Dogs and cats arrive as rescues with things like PTSD, separation anxiety, poor behavior due to lack of training (especially toilet training), and underlying issues including illness, abuse, and neglect. Many have not been spayed or neutered leading to unwanted pregnancies and males who became lost chasing the scent of a female in heat over distances up to a mile or more.
 
Even though a rehomed pet can present challenges, they are just challenges. The good news is that all these things are curable! Dogs are all about love and if they are handled and cared for in a fair and consistent manner in accordance with their needs, they will redouble the benefits back to their owners.
 
At the very beginning of your personal rescue story it is important to decide what kind of dog suits your personality and lifestyle.  High on the list is finding a dog that matches your energy level. A bored canine can bring havoc to the household. I recommend the “ASPCA Complete Guide to Dogs: Everything You Need to Know About Choosing and Caring for your Pet” by Gerstenfeld DVM and Schultz. I love this book!
 
Where should you look to continue your rescue story? Besides the internet and local humane societies there are also breed rescues. Pet stores have adoptable days with visiting rescues, radio and TV stations promote pet adoptions with 'pet of the day'. Your personal social network can often be an excellent resource for good rescue companies and locations. Additionally your social network will have reviews of animal professionals you will need once you’ve added your new furry family member.
 
Here is the other side of the rehoming equation: it's like a marriage. Becoming an approved adopter is done through a process of adoption forms, references, interviews, and often home assessment visits. The rescue organization may bring the dog you chose along to see how a social visit goes. Some rescues will spay/neuter the dog as part of the adoption fee and you pick up the dog after it’s completed.
 
Now that you’ve found your new bundle of furry love, this is getting exciting. In my opinion there are some basic things that need to be in place when taking your dog home.
 
First and foremost when the leash goes on to your new pet make sure the collar is secure and the dog cannot 'duck' it. No matter the type of collar or harness, before you leave the building check to see if you can pull the collar forward over the ears. The collar should not pull off the dog's head. Being able to fit 2-3 fingers inside the collar is typically a good measurement. Some dogs are magicians at this and the last thing you want to happen is to lose your dog the first day. They are nervous too, not knowing quite what to expect from a succession of new experiences and people. All kinds of things can spook them.
 
Secondly don't take your dog immediately to the dog park or let it loose anywhere but in a fenced yard where you know it will be safe and secure. The first thing you want to teach your dog is to come when called. A proven recall taught in a safe place is essential and should always be rewarded heartily.
 
Beware, as some dogs are fence jumpers and you might not know until it happens! In the meantime long leads are excellent tools to give your dog outdoor freedom while still having the safety of connection. Your dog knows you have the leash and feels your energy through it. Even if you drop that long (15-30 ft.) lead and the dog takes a run for it you have the advantage of a 'drag lead' to grab or step onto.
 
Thirdly, in the house, it is best to limit the dog's space until you get to know each other better. S/he may become confused in the new house - how to ask to go out or where to get out. Rehomed dogs often have accidents the first week or so. Give them some time to adjust with plenty of opportunities to practice with praise.
 
Drag leads of a shorter nature can be used in the house. If the dog takes that first leap for the couch and that is a firm no-no in your home you now have a leash to urge him off or stop him in mid-stride. Their own bed and space gives them a sense of confidence and safety where they can rest without being bothered.
 
I often hear new owners talk about how the dog was so good and quiet and then suddenly everything changed. Dogs have nothing better to do than watch us. New dogs do exactly that, and often become quiet and watch to learn where they fit in the pack. We need to provide leadership and direction for them or they will step up and do it on their own. 
 
Our bond with our dogs comes from time and activities with them.  A beginner’s training class is always a good way to learn and seeing others learning can boost our confidence.
 
I also suggest a visit to your favorite veterinarian for a check up to make sure everything is A-ok. Your new pet should come with its known medical history. It is still a good idea to start a relationship with your veterinarian.
 
In no time, your new dog will have bonded with you and your family and you will wonder how you ever lived without that special canine companion!

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