We recently adopted Remo, an 11 year old Chihuahua from BC Chihuahua Rescue. This adoption has been nothing but joy for your family – the way you envision it going when you add a new dog into your life. Unfortunately, for many of my clients they do not have a great rescue experience. I wanted to share how to have a great rescue experience so clients can end up with the dog of their dreams and not an absolute heart breaking experience.
Not all rescues are good. This is really, really important to know. Anyone can start up a rescue and claim that they are saving dogs from x, y, z situation. A good rescue will do the following:
- Provide ongoing health care for the dog including an initial examination by a veterinarian, medications for any conditions, vaccinations, therapy for any injuries including soft tissue, surgery for any health conditions that require it (including a dental if needed). The person who determines what is needed should be the Veterinarian. If the dog is coming from a foreign country they should also go through a quarantine period and be screened for illnesses that are specific to the region they have come from which can be challenging for our local Veterinarians.
- Provide a behaviour assessment that ascertains whether a dog is suitable to live with teenagers, children, other pets, etc. This behaviour assessment should also determine if the dog has concerns with resource guarding, handling/touch, grooming, leash walking, play, etc. Both foster families and adopters should be given a very realistic picture of what the dog is like and these assessments should be done over a period of time (weeks if not months if the dog has fear issues). Behaviour assessments should be conducted by a Certified Professional Trainer who is experienced in conducting them.
- Provide a comfortable foster home or kennel environment where the dog can decompress and become stress free enough to exhibit their true behaviour.
- Screen adopters carefully including home checks whenever possible. This is the sign of a rescue who truly cares about finding the right fit for their dogs.
- Conduct at a meet and greet with all family members and other dogs in the home. It’s truly important that the dog you are adding to your home has a good relationship with the humans and the other pets. If you have red flags at this stage then this isn’t the right situation for you or the rescue dog.
If you are working with a good rescue they should also provide follow up support and be willing to take a dog back if the situation isn’t ideal. Your responsibility as an adopter is to set your new dog up for success by doing the following:
- Taking your new dog to your Veterinarian for an examination
- Signing your new dog up for training (either group class or private lessons). This can be helpful for not only training your dog to act the way you would like but also extremely important for bonding.
- Set up your home to be a safe space and be ready to work slowly on things such as crate training, house training, etc.
- Understand that your dog has gone through a lot of changes and is under stress even if it’s not visible to you. Be patient and kind. Don’t overwhelm a new rescue with visitors.
- Choose a time of year to adopt when you have time to dedicate to helping your new dog acclimatize to your home. (Avoid busy holidays or times when you’re going to be travelling).
- Do your research and choose the kind of dog that truly suits your lifestyle (activity level, purpose of dog’s genetic background, behaviour assessment results)