SHELTER DOG 101
Congrats! You brought home a ball of fur that needed saving from your local shelter. Now what? It can be tough to care for a dog when you don’t know their history. They may have hidden triggers or weird idiosyncrasies that you’ll find out along the way, but this new family member could use your help adjusting to life outside of the shelter. Here are some easy steps you can take to make sure your pup feels like he belonged in your home the entire time!
Question the Shelter Staff
When you laid eyes on the sweet face staring at you through the cage, you knew you wanted to help them out of their predicament. The shelter likely had you fill out an application to make sure you’d be the proper home for the pup, but did you ask your questions too? The shelter staff work with those dogs on a daily basis, so they’ll be the best look into the personality of the dogs. Some shelters even conduct behavior assessments, testing the dogs with other animals and rating what age children they can cohabitate with.
Shelters can be stressful, so a dog’s personality may change from when they’re in a cage, to when they’re entering a whole new world (cue the Aladdin musical number). The excitement level, barking or aggression shown in a cage may not be indicative of how that dog interacts with people in a home setting, so try not to judge the pups too soon! Volunteers, such as dog walkers, are another great source for information. They see how the dogs interact outside of their cages and can tell you how they change when they’re out and about.
Take Introductions Slow
It’s easy for dogs to get overwhelmed when introduced into a new situation; not every dog is a social butterfly! Family members should take turns meeting the dog, letting them smell an upturned hand or closed fist. Only pet the dog once they seem relaxed or if they initiate. People new to your dog shouldn’t look them dead in the eyes – it can be intimidating for your pooch. Instead, look at their ears or over their shoulder. It’s still easy to see what they’re doing, without seeming like a threat!
Taking it slow also goes for introducing your new dog to other pets. Start somewhere that you can close the door between the two animals. Feed the animals on opposite sides of the door, so that they are close enough to smell each other while they dine! It’s a perfect way to catch a scent without getting too close for either one’s comfort. After a few days of separation and when your pets seem comfortable, introduce them in an area that isn’t too confined. Remember, giving them space is important: if the fight-or-flight reaction kicks in, they hopefully won’t feel the need to pick a fight! If your animals aren’t best buds at first meeting, don’t give up! It can take days or even weeks to adjust to a new housemate.
Get a Vet Check Up
The shelter that you rescued your buddy from should’ve provided you with any medical records they have of your pup. If they didn’t, go get them! They’ll give you a place to start, but you’ll want a second opinion and a thorough work up of your dog from your trusted veterinarian. A vet checkup can tell you a lot about your pooch. Does their breed make them prone to allergies? Poor eyesight? Respiratory issues? Your veterinarian will also be able to spot any medical issues – such as raw foot pads, ear infections or rotten teeth. Your checkup will give you a good idea as to what care your dog will require. They may need anything from glucosamine supplements to a special diet.
Improve Their Nutrition
Many shelters don’t receive funds from local governments to operate; they’re at the mercy of their donors. In some cases, the shelter feeds whatever food is donated – without consistency or nutritional considerations. Food and nutrition are the foundation of health, so assuming you want years of fun with your furry friend, improving their nutrition is an important step. Whether it’s upgrading the quality of their kibble or switching to a diet that includes real food, anything that you can do will help!
Dogs are scavenger carnivores, meaning they need a large percentage of their diet (70-85%) to be meat and love food that they can chomp! Adding real foods like meats and veggies can provide the nutrients and crunch that your pup is looking for in a natural source, without anything synthetic. If you know your pooch isn’t getting all of the nutrients that they need, look into supplements! The market is flooded with solutions to vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
You don’t know your dog’s background when you adopt from a shelter, so there’s no telling how trained they are. To be a great part of any household, your dog should have some basic manners, like knowing when to sit and not to jump or bark. A jumping dog may be cute to you, but when it knocks over grandma or barrels through a toddler it’s not too cute anymore! If you don’t feel comfortable taking on the task of training your dog alone, attending classes or hiring a dog trainer are two great routes to take.
Your new companion is a bundle of fluff just looking for someone to love them! Adjusting takes time, but small tips and tricks will get you through the transition period with ease. Remember, you saved a life the day you brought your doggo home. They just might repay the favor!