Looking for the perfect pet? Please do not waste rescuers’ precious time : unrealistic expectations adopters have of their new pet and realistic ways to deal with soon-to-be perfect dogs.
By Elsie Lodde
People oftentimes go into looking for the “perfect” pet with their blinders on. They do not realize that perfect pets take time, they forget how much work their old dog was when they brought them home. Only, they couldn’t return that dog, who turned out to be pretty amazing. But now, looking for a new dog to fill a hole in their hearts, they expect the ideal dog will walk in and be amazing from day one. Just immediately be their best friend and not care about their past life, but just follow them when they want them to and not follow them when they need their space. There are some behaviors you should expect when getting a new dog, and if you are not ready to deal with them, please save everyone a lot of time and consider adopting a build-a-bear.
This is something I have to remind my husband all the time when he thinks about our oldest Joey, who my husband never remembers him being difficult. Joey was the first dog we ever crated, as back then I didn’t believe in crating dogs because it was “mean” only to call my husband from Petco about a week after adopted him saying “we either need to buy a crate or kill him.” Ok, I wasn’t really going to kill him, but boy was he a pain. He had been returned previously as he was so problematic. As a dog who had been shot in the face and had his legs broken, he was spoiled… spoiled rotten. He would destroy the house, wake us up at 3 am wanting to play and was just the most defiant dog ever. He now, 8 years later, still sleeps in his crate, but it is by his own choice as it is his favorite place in the world. Sometimes he still wants to wake us up at 3 am, but it is a rare occurrence and we can tell him to go lay down. We were committed from the beginning and took that very seriously. The previous adopters had been elderly and were not equipped for dealing with him, but to death do us part right? Now doing rescue, it is so crazy to me how many people make fleeting commitments to animals. I will not understand how a couple can be married for 37 years, but cannot handle a little dog anxiety for 37 hours!
With the frustration we have faced in the last few weeks with people adopting dogs and wanting to return them within a few days, I thought I would write a quick message. If you think you cannot deal with the problems below, you may not be ready to adopt a dog and for the commitment that entails.
Imagine for a minute, you are forced to live in China. You don’t know anyone, the area is all new to you, and all the old schedules you used to know were completely gone and now there are just foreign people who don’t understand you and you don’t understand them. That might just be what it is like for a dog going from their foster home into your home. So while learning schedules and expectations, you should expect anxiety from your new dog. Pacing, barking, trying to escape, diarrhea, vomiting and neediness all might be some of what you see. What can you do about it? Well you can try a calming collar, thundershirt, exercise, crating with a delicious treat, some do better with a crate covered, give them space, but mostly it is just time! You will never see a dog’s real personality in less than a week. Giving shy dogs their space and extra treats might work well (as well as letting them sleep with you). When crate training, I have ear plugs because I know oftentimes it takes about a week for those who hate their crates to get used to them.
In a previous home a dog might be house broken, but now in a new environment without the same schedule and smells it may be much more difficult. Males may mark and accidents may happen. One way to deal with this is umbilical training (and crate training). Umbilical training means the dog is on a leash and with you at all times. That way you can see them so you know before they get into any trouble. Dogs generally sniff, go in circles and have other tale tells that they are going to go to the bathroom. Crate training when you cannot watch them also helps with this and then go outside with them and praise them when they go to the bathroom outside.
This is one of the reasons I love crate training so much! If I cannot watch them, and cannot trust them, the crate keeps them (and my stuff) safe. Sometimes, like if I am in the shower, I will bring the dog into the bathroom with me as well. Of course, picking up all of your belongings (especially shoes and underwear which they seem to like most) is important. There are products like bitter spray, but for me, nothing is more effective than knowing where they are and giving them appropriate things to chew on such as bones and toys. I have had the most destructive dog I know, Arnie. He has separation anxiety causing him to destroy my house daily. No crate could contain him. I finally broke down for a steel crate, he is so much happier and I don’t have to worry about coming home to a destroyed house!
You should commit to any new dog you have for life. For some, the adjustment period will be fast, for others it takes much longer. Just in the same way women do not deliver colicky babies then expect the hospital to take them back, adopters should take this commitment seriously to work with such behaviors. While some just require time, other behaviors (like fear biting) need to be addressed quickly. Contacting the rescue you adopt from with concerns is always a good way to start, but if your first idea is to get rid of the animal perhaps this should be your wake up call that a new dog perhaps just isn’t right for you. There are lots of articles online that can help you with unwanted behavior, but it just takes a little time and effort and a lot of love on your part to help a great dog blossom into the perfect dog.