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Imagine the situation: A adopted dog that captures your attention, that jumps, give kisses and stays close to your legs, the children laughing, several names come to mind and your new dog gets in the car for the first time on the way home.
Then when he comes home, reality sets in; the new dog has inexhaustible energy and your other dog defends its territory and you have to clean some "accidents" off your new carpet.
Taking a new shelter pet home is a happy moment, but it can also pose a challenge since each dog is different. There are many articles that offer advice as to how to assimilate a new pet, but we wanted to offer more information about the transition from shelter to home. Adopting a pet is a long term commitment and those first few days are very important to the success in your relationship between your family and your new pet.
The best friend who is always there
I think I have seen many movies in which the leading character becomes attracted to a person because of their looks, but their best friend is the one that the end up falling in love within the end. What I tell folks is that they need to have an open mind because of each dog is unique, regardless of their breed, size or age. The Doral Center for Protection and Adoption takes in the abandoned and stray animals in our community; therefore, we deal with a wide variety of behaviors, from calm and peaceful animals to nervous animals. Many animals have previous owners who unfortunately surrendered them to the shelter, while others just wander the streets. We do our homework and reflect how dogs react in the playground, as we walk them and at the clinic, in order to help you choose your new best friend. This may seem obvious, but in addition to being willing to make a long-term commitment, you need to like the dog. There are more chances that you will like the dog better if it is compatible with your lifestyle and then everyone can be happy.
Long Term Reward
Avoid the temptation to make a quick decision. We recommend that people who want to adopt go step by step seeing as how this turns out better results. Think of it as if they were a child undergoing a sudden change, such as changing schools for example. At first, some children may or may not feel comfortable with the change, and then take their time to adapt to the new medium. Dogs can't talk, they can't communicate with words what they like or don't feel comfortable with, and so it's up to you to go step by step. Going slowly means something different for each person, but we recommend keeping the dogs separated in different areas of the house for a while, or putting them in their crate, which can be a good way to go slow if done correctly. It is better to be careful at first rather than letting the new dog roam freely in a new home with other pets and family members.
We all know that feeling of tiredness after a stressful day at work. Sometimes we need time to relax so as not to bring home stress or pressure; that feeling is similar to the "overstimulation" we see in an adopted dog that stay long periods in the animal shelter. Dogs in the shelter go for regular walks and play in groups, if they tolerate other dogs; however, they do not burn the same amount of energy as with an owner. This natural energy raises the pressure of dogs and sometimes becomes tension. When you first arrive at home with a dog from a shelter, take your time and walk it around the neighborhood so you can release energy and acclimate to the surrounding area.
If you bring home an adopted dog or another pet home, the place where pets meet can have a big influence on starting off on the right foot. Have dogs meet in a neutral area, such as a park, so that both are on the same level. Each dog has a certain level of sense of possession or territorial problems near toys, doghouses or people. Facilitating this introduction in a neutral area removes the protective behaviors. Taking a "parallel walk" with the leashes is a great way to introduce them. Dogs see each other without reacting to each other, which helps to gradually narrow the distance. When dogs begin to ignore each other and focus on the trainer, this is a good opportunity to apply some positive reinforcing behavior with prizes; and don't forget that before you adopt, you can take the pet you already have to an animal shelter and test things out.
Let the dogs behave like dogs
Often, people treat dogs like children, squeeze their cheeks and look them directly in the eye, but don't expect dogs to behave like people. It's like people who get too close when they talk; it may be normal for them, but that annoys others because it's an invasion of personal space. For example, don't bring your face to the face of a newly adopted dog until you have enough confidence that the dog will feel comfortable with you. One of the strategies is not to make contact with the dog until it is he who approaches him asking for attention; it is also convenient to keep a calm attitude close to dogs that are usually nervous. For the new member of the family to adapt well, it is important to respect their space.
This is just an overall idea, because there is a lot of things going through in the dog's head when it arrives in a new home. The veterinarian can also give you initial presentation tips and other tips on how to prevent the destruction of your favorite shoes or those smelly accidents from happening. For more helpful pet tips, follow us on @AdoptMiamiPets.
By: Dr. Alejandra Duran, Veterinarian, County Animal Services Department of Miami-Dade