TAKE THE GUESSWORK OUT OF BRINGING A SHELTER PET HOME
REDCOLLAR RESCUE primarily rescues dogs from a number of local pounds all of which have very high euthansia rates due to the estimated 1.2 million homeless animals in Houston. And even though RCR is blessed with a number of amazing foster families, some of our adoptable pets must still be housed in boarding kennels or vet clinics in order for us to save more lives.
Many prospective adopters or fosters may be nervous about bringing home a pet from a shelter or a boarding facility. And change, no matter how positive, is stressful for pets too. Luckily, helping your new pet adjust to life in his forever or foster home can be made easier. In honor of October being Adopt a Shelter Pet month, here are a few simple tips to help you do just that!
Stick with the schedule: Animals are creatures of habit. Even in shelters or boarding kennels, dogs get used to a schedule. Take advantage of the familiar routine to help transition your pet to his new home. Feed, walk, and give your dog potty breaks at the same time as the facility did. Likewise, start off by feeding your pup the same food she was eating before you adopted her. You can always gradually transition your new pet to a new schedule or a different food after a period of time, but in the meantime, the consistency will help make your pet feel secure, even in different surroundings. Just ask your adoption counselor for the information about your new fur baby's old routine.
Play a prevent defense: The best offense really is a good defense, and the best defense is prevention. Even house trained dogs can have accidents due to the stress of transition. Roll up rugs and block off carpeted areas -- pets who have never lived in a home before may not know the difference between your green shag rug and long green grass!
Likewise, while puppies are known to explore with their mouths, older dogs may do the same in new surroundings. Imagine being in a white jail cell and then getting to visit Disneyland -- that sort of sensory overload may be just what your new pet experiences coming out of boarding and into your home. The couch is a potential playground, your leather heels are potential chew toys, indoor plants are potential potty places! So be sure to put away fragile or irreplaceable objects until after your pet has settled in. Use baby gates or a crate to keep your new pup out of mischief when you can't keep an eye on him. These sort of boundaries will actually help your dog feel calmer and less overwhelmed by an ocean of unfamiliar space.
Practice safe everything: Safety really is first! A collar and tags are essential, but ensure that you never have to rely on them to return your new pet safety home. This means no off-leash time for a long while. Even after a few days or weeks, you're still a relative stranger to your pet. There's no way to be sure that she'll come back to you if she slips out the front door or goes under a hole in the park fence. And even if your dog seems to be bonding to you quickly, compared to chasing a squirrel, coming home to mama may be lower on the priority list.
Likewise, ensure that all household pets and young human family members are safe with a new addition in the house. Just like you see on Reality TV, being thrown into a house full of strangers can bring out new and often unwanted behaviors in everyone involved! Dogs in boarding kennels and shelters are not often socialized. Slow introductions and a steady series of short, positive interactions paired with personal space apart build a strong foundation for lasting, respectful relationships. Don't leave pets out together while you're not home or attempt to force them to bond. Like humans, animals form friendships at their own pace. Some dogs who originated on the streets are used to competing for resources too. Separating pets during mealtime is essential to ensure nobody wanders over to another bowl.
Finally, resist inviting a parade of friends and family to come meet your new pet on day one. Your pup doesn't know if you are just another new person or a forever family member who is here to stay. He is likely feeling shy and uncertain - as if the snowglobe of his world was turned over and shaken up. Give him time to bond with his new family before bringing visitors into the picture. Instead, take advantage of social media to introduce your new fur baby to the world. And while you're at it, invest in a larger memory card too -- you're going to need it for all those photos that you'll be taking as you make memories with your new family member.
Above all remember that the opportunity to adopt or foster a shelter or rescue pet will literally save a life. There's no complicated math involved - every shelter pet adopted or fostered is one more life saved. Remember, no matter how rocky the transition may be at first, the love that you have waiting for you on the other side is priceless.