Some people find it hard to believe that a dog professional like myself has never raised a dog from a puppy. That’s because my family raised me with the idea that you adopt, rather than buy, a dog. And by default that has steered me into a life with re-homed dogs – both mixed breeds and purebreds – who have entered my life at different ages.
My first dog came from a shelter; my second came from a supermarket ‘free to a good home’ ad; my third was a private adoption facilitated by a local rescue group (but she had never lived in their shelter); my fourth was a word-of-mouth adoption of Daisy, a purebred Pointer, who had bounced back to her breeder through no fault of her own. And now, I have Izzy who is a retired racing greyhound.
It’s a myth that ‘rescue’ dogs are all mixed breeds; many pure bred dogs also find themselves in need of re-homing. Responsible breeders will take back a dog for any reason during the lifetime of the dog. So, for example, in cases of divorce or an owner’s death, these dogs come up for adoption – and that’s only a couple of examples. There are also breed specific rescue groups who are passionate supporters of a breed and work to re-home dogs who have fallen on bad times.
What my life of adopting dogs has taught me is patience. It’s great to go out and buy the dog a bed, food and toys and envisage a perfect life together. And it will be good- but there are usually teething problems.
For example, when I adopted Izzy , she was suffering from re-homing stress. She was overwhelmed by her surroundings in my home – it was totally foreign territory. She was off her food and made herself a bed on a blanket by the front door. She remained there for almost 2 weeks (only moving to eat or drink or go out for walks) until she got her confidence to explore more of the house.
It took her 2 months to venture confidently into my bedroom (where large windows looking out onto the garden seemed to overwhelm her). She did not get on my bed for almost 4 months.
We had a few toileting incidents but that was also because she was getting used to new food and was already stressed from her change of circumstances. Whose tummy wouldn’t cause them problems?
But we got there and that takes patience. When I do home-checking for Greyhounds as Pets, I get an idea about how well the family is prepared to be patient with their new dog.
A prospective owner with a very strict timeline for getting their dog settled is unlikely to be successful – the dog doesn’t know about the timeline.
The best advice I can give is – be patient. If anything, give your new dog some space. Let them decide when they are comfortable in trying new things and don’t overwhelm them with affection too soon.
It’s worth the wait.
Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand