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In your experience, are great dogs born, or made? In our experience, the latter is true – especially if your best furry friend has been adopted from a shelter or rescue group. If this is the case, we couldn’t be more supportive. Shelter pets are wonderful, loving animals and in most cases with a little TLC, can become lifelong cherished companions. 

But a rehomed pet will likely have at least one behavioral “uniqueness” that may need to be addressed with behavior modification, training, or both. 

Come along as Volunteer Veterinary Hospital explores how to get your newly adopted pet started off on the right foot. 

The Adjustment Period

Dogs or cats who have been relinquished or abandoned by their previous owners will need an adjustment period in a new home. The pet’s new owner needs to have both realistic expectations and the knowledge and tools necessary to ease a smooth transition. 

This transition may take two to four weeks, during which time you may notice:

  • Fearful body language
  • Accidents in the house
  • Finding places to hide
  • Wariness and inhibited behavior
  • Excitable hyperactivity
  • Lack of appetite

These initial fearful behaviors may or may not continue as your new dog gets used to his home. Your pet’s true personality won’t emerge on his first day at home, and likely not for a week or two as he relaxes into your routine.

Routine and Boundaries for Your Newly Adopted Pet

The safer your new dog feels in his new home, the less fearful and anxious he’ll be, and the better behaved he can be, too. Daily exercise is especially important. All dogs will respond well to a strict routine of meals, bathroom breaks, and exercise opportunities. This routine is relaxing and stabilizing for a pet who may not have had routine in the past, or who has had the routine uprooted by life in a shelter. 

Crate training is an effective way to give your newly adopted dog a safe and comforting place he can retreat to. Until you’re confident with his skills and behavior, a crate or separate room all his own (think a laundry room, or mudroom) can be his go-to place when you’re not home or busy around the house. Include his bed, indestructible toys, and food and water bowls, and he’ll have his own personal place of refuge. It’s important to go slowly with crate training, and get help if things aren’t going well. Some dogs may have had a negative history with confinement. 

Behavior Modification and Training 

Dogs learn best through positive reinforcement training. Reward your dog for desired behavior. Never yell at or punish your dog, as this can make the behaviors worse. 

As soon as your dog comes home, begin with basic politeness. This may include teaching your newly adopted dog “sit” or “down.” You may find that your dog already knows some basic commands, and that you can draw these desirable behaviors out with treats and praise. 

After your dog has settled in, it’s a good idea to sign up for an obedience class or classes with a certified professional dog trainer. Classes are a wonderful way for your dog to become socialized with other dogs, and for you to get support with your dog’s behavior and skills. Many dog owners begin to feel the bond with their dog develop during and after training classes.

It’s unrealistic to expect a new dog to come into your home and be the perfect pet. But with a little knowledge, preparation and a whole lot of love and patience, your newly adopted pet can become a lifelong companion you hope for. 

If you have any concerns or questions please don’t hesitate to reach out