Millions of dogs reside in shelters or in foster homes just waiting for someone to make them permanent members of their family. The ASPCA says there are nearly four million dogs in shelters across America. Bringing home a puppy or an older dog can be an exciting, selfless endeavor.
Shelter dogs have the capacity to be loving, devoted pets. Unfortunately, many such dogs have been dealt difficult hands, ending up in shelters through no fault of their own.
Prospective pup parents should be aware that there can be a transitional period as dogs acclimate to their new homes. Understanding what to expect the first few weeks and months can be helpful.
• Creatures of habit: Dogs are creatures of habit and feel most comfortable when they know what to expect. Moving from a shelter into a home can be a big change. Shelter dogs will need time to understand the workings of a household. By remaining consistent and patient, dog owners can help their pooches acclimate to their new surroundings. Feed the dog at the same time and place each day. Take the dog for a walk the same time each day with the same route. Knowing what to expect can be calming for the dog.
• Housetraining regression: New puppies likely do not fully know the rules of housetraining, but even older dogs who may have been housetrained can regress in a new environment. Pet parents may have to go back to basics and reinforce housetraining lessons.
• Shyness and anxiety: It's impossible to know what dogs went through before landing in a shelter. Shelter workers may have conducted certain tests, such as food aggression or resource guarding, but that only paints part of the picture. It will take time for the dog to trust and understand, and dogs may be timid and experience anxiety for a brief period. Some may even act out by exhibiting damaging behavior.
• Safe space: The experts at Hill's Pets advise employing a crate that can serve as a den for the dog. It not only is an area that can keep the dog out of trouble as he or she learns the rules of the house, but it also can serve as a safe haven that is familiar and comforting.
• Training classes: Enroll in training classes so that the pup begins to learn commands. Obedience training also helps keep the animal safe.
• Vet care: Make an appointment to have the shelter dog checked over by a vet as soon as possible. This helps everyone get on a vaccination schedule and can pinpoint illnesses or behavior problems. Many shelter dogs have common communicable illnesses like kennel cough or worms that require prompt treatment.
Shelter dogs can become warm and loving pets with the right care and a little patience.