You know how rescue dogs are kinda like homeless children? The shelter has taken them in, but they can’t stay there long term. They all need rescue dog adoption and a forever home. If they don’t find one, then… You know that, don’t you?
Almost three and a half million dogs enter animal rescue shelters in the US every year. This number has actually declined in recent years, but it’s still too high. There are around 3,500 animal rescue shelters, and some 10,000 animal rescue groups in the US.
Rescue dog adoption is a bold step. It isn’t always easy caring for a dog that may have been abused in a former life. Is it the right thing to do? We think so! If you have taken on a rescue dog, you may be wondering, when will my rescue dog calm down? This article will help:
How long for a rescue dog to settle in?
Well, how long is a piece of string? In other words, there’s no one-size-fits-all, kind of answer. Some rescue dogs will settle in almost immediately, while others may never really settle in properly. In most rescue dog adoption cases, it’s somewhere in between.
My family and I have been lucky enough to have had three different rescue dogs. Two of them were puppies, and they were easy to deal with. The other one had been shot in both front legs with powerful air gun pellets. He was terrified of everyone as a result.
Surprisingly, Rubio settled in quickly and quite easily. It took him a few weeks to realize we were on his side. He still has a terror of strangers, though, especially boisterous children.
We loved Rubio from the start. However, there was one other reason why we chose him as a rescue dog adoption. He had been in the shelter for over three months, and no one wanted him, mainly because of his extremely terrified nature.
The staff at the shelter wouldn’t admit it, but we strongly suspected that Rubio was due to be put down, if no one took him. Rubio, despite his extreme timidity, was and is a beautiful dog. We are delighted to have been able to make his life secure and happy.
How long does it take for a dog to adjust to a new owner?
A lot depends on you. The dog will react to you, depending on how she is treated. If you treat her well and make a fuss of her, the time it will take her to adjust to you should shorten. Dogs are a lot like people in this respect. They like to be treated nice.
Remember though, if you are taking in a dog from a rescue shelter, learn her history first. If you know how she has been treated in the past, you will have a much better understanding of how best to treat her now.
If she has suffered trauma of any kind, abuse, neglect, or just being dumped and abandoned, then it will likely take time for her to trust you. The most important thing for her is to feel safe and secure with you and your family.
Avoid sudden movement when near her. Raising your arm suddenly could remind her of a time when she was beaten, for example. Try to move slowly around her at first. Keep things calm and peaceful, and don’t let young children rush around too much.
You need to gain her confidence as soon as possible. This could take weeks or months, depending on the severity of the trauma. There may be setbacks, but don’t give up. The eventual rewards are well worthwhile.
As a rough guide, the younger the dog, the quicker you can expect her to adjust to her new life. This is especially true of puppies under 12 weeks old. Older dogs can take longer to adjust. However, all dogs are individuals, so there’s no hard and fast rule.
Can I change my rescue dog’s name?
The short answer is, yes. You have to realize that dogs don’t have the same sense of identity that we humans have. They will quickly adjust to their new name. However, if you change the dog’s name, stick with it. Don’t change her name regularly. That would be too confusing for her.
If your rescue dog adoption is from a home where she was abused, and she is suffering from the trauma of it, changing her name might be a good idea. Calling her by her old name could bring back memories of bad times. A new name and a new start could help her get over the trauma faster.
In the case of our dog, Rubio, no one knew what his name had been. They named him Rubio as the street where the people from the rescue shelter picked him up had that word in its name. Rubio accepted his name almost immediately.
Don’t expect your rescue dog to respond to her new name immediately. Be patient with her. Use treats to reward her when she does respond to her name. That, and showering her with love and attention, should shorten the time it takes from her to get used to her new name.
What can I do about my rescue dog anxiety issues?
Rescue dogs have had a hard time. If, in the best case scenario, it was just a matter of the dog’s previous family being unable to cope, for whatever reason, she will still most likely have anxiety issues.
If, in the worst case scenario, she has suffered neglect and abuse, then those anxiety issues will likely be even more severe. The longer the dog has to stay in a shelter before being rescued plays a part too. The feelings of abandonment can lead to severe depression.
Knowing a dog’s history, and giving her lots of love and patience can work wonders with correcting many of the behavioral problems commonly found in rescue dogs. These are the 5 most common types of anxiety that rescue dogs suffer from:
Fear and anxiety
If your rescue dog has spent some time in the shelter, she may be afraid and anxious at first when you take her home. There will inevitably be a transition period while she settles in. During this time you and your family must give her some space.
Leave her alone to work things out for herself. However, don’t shut her away. Leave her alone, but still able to come to you if she wants to. Never try to force her to come to you. Let her approach you in her own time when she is good and ready.
In a dog shelter each dog may have to struggle to get food. These place are often underfunded and understaffed. As a result the staff simply cannot look after each individual dog. And while there may be plenty of food for all, the dogs may not know that, so they will struggle to survive.
In your home there may be no need to struggle for survival, but your rescue dog will not know that. When you give her food, she may think she has to be aggressive in order to keep it. If you stand too close to her when she is feeding, she might snarl and growl, or even try to bite.
Simply give her the space she needs. Give her the food and immediately back off. Leaving her to eat it. Set up a simple routine and stick to it. Feed her at the same times every day. Don’t make a fuss over feeding time. She will quickly learn what to expect.
If you give her toys to play with, she might start to guard then aggressively. This is similar to food aggression. It’s the fear that someone will take away what she has. In the shelter, dogs commonly have to compete for what they get. This can carry over to her new home, even though there may be no need.
If you are aware of her exhibiting resource guarding, the best thing to do is remove her from the object immediately. Do this swiftly and without any fuss. She will soon learn that her behavior has the opposite effect of what she wants, and she will adjust accordingly.
This is more typically a problem displayed by male dogs. They will lift a hind leg, usually close to an item if furniture, and mark their territory. This is not the same as urinating, but the resulting odor can be equally unpleasant.
You will need to purchase an enzyme cleaner to remove the smell of his marking. If the smell is left in place, he will return to the same place and mark again. He will do this repeatedly, probably at least once a day, and perhaps even more frequently.
Rescue dogs are particularly prone to separation anxiety. They hate to be left alone for any long period of time. When they are left alone they can become so upset that they will react in several adverse ways.
Excessive barking is common, as is the destruction of furniture items. The dog may also have toilet ‘accidents’ in the home.
Try not to let the time she is left alone be too long. This can be difficult if you have to leave her alone for work purposes. However, a regular routine will always help. She will come to know that you will always come back after a certain time.
Make a fuss over her when you return after being away. In time she will associate you leaving her alone with the good experience of you returning.
The answer to the question, ‘when will my rescue dog calm down?’ is largely up to you. Understand why your rescue dog is doing the things she does, and acting accordingly, will always help.
Don’t get angry when she gets it wrong. She will at first, but with patience and understanding, her mistakes will become fewer and fewer, until one day they will disappear. Rescue dog adoption is rarely easy, but it is usually very much worthwhile!