Whether they are looking for a purebred dog, or just a loveable mutt to join the family, pet adopters are turning toward rescued animals from dog rescues listed on sites like Petfinder more than ever before. A lot of rescue dogs and puppies make great pets, without spending a whole lot of money on adoption fees and you are usually getting an animal that up to date on health care including a vet check, vaccines, and surgical sterilization. Factor in a significant bonus of getting that yummy warm feeling in your heart that you helped a needy animal while helping to reduce pet over-population, and it’s pretty much a no brainer to adopt from a rescue. Of course there has to be at least one “how ever” (or I wouldn’t be writing this) so here are a few things to think about when you adopt from a rescue.
1. Do your research. Know what type of dog you want. Think about space needs, housing needs exercise needs, temperament needs, and grooming needs. Talk to as many people as you can find who have owned the type of dog you are interested in. What activities do you want to do with your dog? For instance, an athletic working, hunting, or even terrier type of dog, is a more suitable buddy for running or mountain biking, than an an adorably fluffy little fuzz face dog. Also, read up about canine nutritional needs and different kinds of dog food. Figure out where your pet will sleep in your home.
***By the way: ALL dogs require a minimum of twenty minutes per day of training and games for mental stimulation as well as ongoing frequent socialization with people, places and things, no matter how much exercise they get!
2. Count on consulting with a qualified dog behaviour professional. Rescued dogs nearly always come with behaviour problems. Dogs are genetically and instinctively hardwired to live out their life with one family, forever and ever. When they get pulled from one environment (however crappy it is) and put into a brand new environment, instinctive reaction behaviours may include separation anxiety, house soiling, resource guarding, nervousness, and/or obsessive behaviours. These behaviours can often improve very quickly, using the positive, scientifically proven methods that are now gaining popularity. Research local trainers and veterinary behaviourists before the arrival of your new addition. Include the cost for at least one consultation with a good positive method professional in the cost of your rescued dog. Look for a professional with accreditations and proof of testing and assessment of their knowledge and skills. CPDT, and IABC trainers and behaviour consultants are a good place to start.
3. Don’t trust any rescue’s behaviour assessment on a dog with no known history. Dog rescues are usually run by big hearted people with no formal training, no accreditation and no qualifications to make behaviour or temperament assessments. When a rescue worker gives an assessment of a dog’s temperament, suitability for children or other pets, etc, (especially of a dog that doesn’t have a known history) it is wise to keep these things in mind. It’s really hard to predict the future behaviour of a dog when it is in the stressful environment of a shelter, or in any other new environment. Some rescues will use one of the popular behaviour assessment tests to try to predict a dogs temperament. But a 2009 study at Monash University found the reliability, feasibility and validity of most of the currently used behaviour assessments to be dubious at best, and none were designed by, or with consultation with a behaviourist. The study suggested that many thousands of dogs might be needlessly put to sleep while many others are inappropriately declared as safe after these sometimes unfeasible behaviour assessment tests are applied.
4. Count on as long as 6 months for your dog to completely settle in to his new environment. While some rescue dogs can adapt their new home almost immediately, it takes many others longer to recover from upheaval in their lives and to adapt to their new surroundings. Patience and consistent routines will help them to adapt to their new surroundings faster.
5. Ask what training methods a rescue recommends. Try to adopt from a rescue that recommends a “positive method only” style of training. If the rescue recommends using any dominance based training techniques, harsh behaviour corrections, or tools such as a pinch/prong or electronic collar, you should ignore their advice. Many rescue dogs have been sent into an endless cycle of adoption and subsequent return because they develop escalating behaviour problems every time they are adopted into a home where dominance is valued more than mutual respect and trust. If you must adopt a dog through a rescue that recommends dominance, or even describes a dog as dominant, (or submissive), be prepared to work to earn the dog’s trust by using a positive, non-corrective approach.
reference: Reliability, validity, and feasibility of existing tests of canine behaviour, Kate Mornement, Samia Toukhsati, Grahamme Coleman, Pauleen Bennet, Anthrozoology Research Group, Animal Welfare Science Group, Monash University, 2009
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