There are a few pointers that might be helpful when thinking of adopting a rescue.
- Don’t be bullied into adopting a dog merely because the shelter makes you feel guilty. You need to really fall in love with the dog you are thinking of choosing. But you also need to let your head rule your heart.
- Rescue centres need to fit a dog to your lifestyle. For example, if you have a house full of cats, you won’t want a dog that has a history of hunting anything that moves!
- Ask questions. How long has the dog been in the shelter/centre? Will you be the first to adopt him or has he been returned? If the latter, why was he returned? And how many times?
- Try to get as much information on the dog’s background. It’s in everyone’s interest. If you know everything you can about the dog, you will have some idea of the problems you might encounter. Otherwise, if you get a shock at the dog’s behaviour when you get him home, your first reaction may be to send him right back. That only adds to his emotional baggage.
- Never assume that your rescue dog is toilet trained. You may well have to go back to basic toilet training. Can you cope with that?
- All dogs need the firm boundaries that come with basic obedience training. But rescues need those boundaries in order to make them feel safe and to give them confidence. If you’re consistent and they know exactly what you want of them, that helps the relationship.
- Don’t feel sorry for rescue dogs. Yes, they may well have had an awful life. By all means, acknowledge their awful start in life. Then ‘draw a line in the sand’. That was then. Now you are offering each other a new life together with the hope of a great relationship. If you’re always harking back to their past history, it’s easy for both of you to wallow in it and then make excuses for bad behaviour. Being adopted, learning the boundaries, and how to live in a new environment is a form of rehabilitation and helps a dog to go beyond his past.
I was privy to a conversation where a person was showing a photo on Facebook of a beautiful rescue that she had adopted. She wrote that the dog had a lovely nature and was so grateful at being adopted! That last comment really jarred with me. Grateful? Surely, we adopt dogs to give them a better life than previously and they should not have to feel grateful so that we can polish our halos? After all, generally it’s not the dog’s fault when he is dumped in a shelter. And, if we want our rescue to feel grateful, what does it say about us? It certainly doesn’t seem a basis for a future relationship based on mutual respect.