It takes a special kind of person to rescue an abused pet. If you've decided you want to give a dog or cat a second try at a happy life, you'll need to understand that he's going to need a little convincing to give humans the same chance.
All new pets need some adjustment time, but a dog that's been treated badly will require a lot more patience when you introduce him into your home and your routine. We've got some tips to help your pet transition into a safe and happy life.
Get His History
The more information you have about your new pet's history, the better you'll be able to understand his behavior. For example, dogs that have never been indoors, or dogs who lived their whole lives at the end of a chain, have specific needs.
Has the dog received vaccinations or other vet care since he arrived at the shelter? Have the shelter workers started any training or socializing? Is he comfortable in a crate, or housebroken?
Many shelters will conduct preliminary assessments on rescued pets, and some live in foster homes until they're adopted. Find out as much as you can so you'll have a better idea of what to expect.
Preparing Your Home
Abused pets often "bolt" from their new homes. It's nothing personal! They're just acting on their "fight or flight" instinct.
Before bring home any rescue dog, make certain he can't get through, over, or under your fence. If you're planning on installing an Invisible Fence® Brand containment system, he can be trained right away!
It's easy for pets (and their owners) to become acclimated to our cutting-edge electronic containment system, but if you need help, we're there. When we train your dog, our Perfect Start™ Pet Training will help him learn his boundaries gently, effectively, and compassionately.
Investing in our Shields® Gate will prevent dogs and cats from slipping out of open doors and to keep them contained in an area of the home until he's more comfortable with his surroundings, and has become acquainted with your other animals and family members.
Preparing Your Friends and Family
Everyone who comes to your home should be informed that you have a "special needs" pet and that your household routine will be tailored to his needs for a couple weeks until he has a chance to settle down and regain some confidence.
Your friends and family can help your dog or cat get used to his new environment; this is a huge plus for kids who want to be involved and interact with the new family pet.
Keep loud noises to a minimum: Talking and TV volume can be gradually raised to "normal" over time.
Avoid sudden movement and sounds: Your pet will be on "high alert" for quite some time.
Let him come to you: Sit passively near your new pet, and don't make eye contact or try to pet him right away. Don't ever chase or corner a dog or cat who has a history of abuse.
Try and keep a routine: Always feed and walk your new pet at the same time of day until he becomes more secure.
Start "clicker" training: Positive reinforcement and operant conditioning is a great way to bond with your new dog or cat. You're also giving the animal a sense of control: He learns that if he exhibits a certain behavior, he'll get rewarded, while unwanted behavior gets ignored. Kids old enough to understand that the "clicker" is a tool, not a toy, can participate, and it won't take long to teach your "old" dog some new tricks.
Behavior Common in Abused Pets
Eating habits: Many dogs lived in an environment when they had to eat as quickly as possible to avoid other dogs stealing their dinner. Special bowls help keep your pets from "horking down" their meals—and a lot of extra air. Some dogs are food-aggressive, and changing these habits requires the advice of a professional trainer.
Excessive chewing and licking: If your dog or cat has been declared pest-free, and has a dental checkup, his excessive chewing or licking might be a "coping mechanism" for anxiety. Invest in some hard-rubber chew or "puzzle" toys to help them burn off nervous energy and divert their chewing from themselves and from your stuff.
Separation anxiety: Your dog might cry or whine when you leave the room, or if uncrated, could scratch up your windows and doors. Keep a radio or TV on for a while when you're home, don't make a big deal out of going away, and leave him alone for short intervals: Five minutes, ten minutes, and so on, until your new pet realizes you will come back.
Snapping, scratching, or biting: Many abused pets will act aggressively. Fear-driven aggression usually goes away once the dog or cat learns you're not going to hurt him, but once again, you might want to consult with a reputable dog trainer.
A Rewarding Experience
Adopting a neglected or abused dog or cat is a challenge. You'll learn a lot about yourself as you test your own patience, but the payoff is huge.
Dogs and cats who finally bond with their new owners seem to develop a deep sense of loyalty and trust. It's almost as if they truly appreciate the love and attention you give them... even more so than the lazy purebred pooch who's always "had it made"!