There has been an epidemic of dogs coming back to rescues only days, sometimes HOURS after being adopted. This is obviously a failure on the part of the RESCUE to explain how to properly introduce dogs to a new environment. Here are some ideas on the most common hurdles that a new dog must clear. Please set your foster dog up to WIN, not fail, by communicating the following ideas.
- Do not bring the dog inside a new house for a half-hour to an hour after arrival. Ideally, you would tire the dog out with hours of play before bringing it inside. You MUST spend time in the yard, that is the dog’s new bathroom, and the bathroom is most important place for the dog to know, before it knows where it will eat, sleep, etc. Give the dog plenty of water and plenty of time to eliminate that same water. Dogs who are nervous get diarrhea and ruined carpet has gotten more than one dog returned in less than an hour.
- In this same line of thinking, do not give the dog free reign to run the house immediately. Close off all rooms, introduce one room at a time. Over a course of several hours. Let the dog discover everything it is going to try to destroy, and get it up and out of the way. Ideally you would do this before the dog comes home, but it is always the items you least expect: just-removed shoes, chair legs, cords, throw pillows. Vigilance is key, a dog will go after tantalizing things when it gets comfortable and the honeymoon period is over. Don’t think that just because a dog leaves shoes alone the first week, that they won’t destroy one on day 8.
- Explain the importance of food consistency, and insist on it. Give a food sample to the adopter. Enough to tide the dog over for 3 days. Explain the importance of maintaining the same food for awhile after adoption. Even switching to a “better” food will upset a dog’s stomach. Giving samples of the dog's favorite way to "work its jaws" is a good thing, too, to prevent that chewing.
- Barking. A new dog is going to want to let everyone know that s/he is there and a force to be reckoned. Have your new dog meet all of your neighbors. Be super friendly. Take cookies. Explain that your dog is new and may bark because dogs bark at unfamiliar surroundings. Assure your neighbors that you will do your best to not let the dog bark. This small step could make the difference in a neighbor becoming your trusty back-up to let your dog out when you have car trouble, or that same person being the frustrated neighbor from hell who throws rat poison over your fence.
- Introduce all family members ahead of time. On neutral territory. And be vigilant about it being a calm, organized affair. A calm dog needs to have met each and every calm family member, including college-age kids who might come home to do laundry on the weekend, down to pet guinea pigs. If everyone in the family can depend on the dog not biting them, everyone is going to be happy with the newest addition. Dogs have predatory senses, and sometimes it can be to a new adopter’s advantage, as seen here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/13/dog-chases-away-burglar_n_1090893.html?icid=maing-grid7|main5|dl8|sec3_lnk2|112259