Canine Adoption-Blueprint for Success

Rescue MeIn my practice, I would safely say that out of my entire clientele, I deal with an average 40% of dogs that have been adopted, from either a rescue or a shelter. Through my teaching, I have seen certain trends, both in what goes into making adoptions more successful and even in the dogs themselves. Some trends have been good ( how nice to see the White German Shepherd Breeders breeding for better temperament) and some have shown problematic (what is up with the marked increase of aggression in male Boxers and Weimeraners?) And its not just pet store dogs…an alarming number of these aggressive dogs are coming from supposedly reputable breeders. Folks, we should never breed for a harder dog for the public to handle!

Please realize that speaking/writing about trends in dogs and behavior must include a cross section of dogs from various regions, as dogs are always a reflection of the existing pack and the environment itself. When I report to you that I have dealt with more anxiety related issues in dogs from the northeast than in the West and in the south, it is merely what I see. The same with other trends. You must notice this because it translates into the deep effect we have on our canine companions reactions when assimilating into our society. This becomes even more important when you are adopting a dog previously programmed to the former environment.

Adopting transient dogs can be both easy and rewarding. Adopting a dog doesn’t mean you need to suspend all sense of logic. Adoption in itself is an admirable thing. But “forever” adoption is a thing of beauty. Its like meeting a soulmate. But meeting your soulmate takes time, reason and patience. Oddly enough , the majority of my dogs were picked on “feeling”, but they had already met all essential qualifications. You SHOULD pick a dog on gut emotion, but your choices should be limited to types of dogs that fit your lifestyle. Purely emotional choices are often very much like gambling. The question of whether it was the right choice must now evolve. Purely emotional choices involve more work, because if you choose emotionally you have to adjust YOUR life, but if your choose rationally the dog “fits” your life.

However, the human error factor in picking the right dog is unfortunately growing, and there are many dogs who could be saved, but are not. There is a common misconception that by adopting an adult dog, you save all the “puppy issues”. SURPRISE!!!!!!!!!!!! You have just as much work with an adult dog and need to allow as much time. Always remember when adopting, that when moving a dog from one environment to another, his former behaviors do not always transfer. Dogs reflect the environment they are in. So a new home, to a dog, means new rules with a new pack. You will need to teach this dog , just as you might teach a puppy, where the bathroom is, what behaviors(jumping on furniture etc) are acceptable, and most importantly that YOU are the new leader.

Lets start by defining the job of an Adoptive Parent. Definitions are often made clearer by what they are NOT as much as what they are.

A Good Adoptive Home is NOT:

  • A home with 5 existing dogs, 6 cats, 1 hamster, 3 goldfish and an ant farm
  • A home with children under 6 (Or a home with 6 children)
  • A home that does not have crates and know how to use them correctly
  • A home with no time to instruct and provide structure
  • A home where people HAVE to sleep with their dogs

A Good Adoptive Home is:

  • A home with an environment that is structured and consistent
  • A home that will maintain the integrity of their existing pack
  • A home with time to be instructive
  • A home that thinks with their heads and not their hearts
  • A home that can come out of their comfort zones, and put the good of the dog first