TIPS FOR ADOPTING YOUR FIRST RESCUE DOG
I didn't do any of these things, not one! But trial by fire with a special needs dog taught me a bunch and now I can preach the gospel.
- •When the dog urge strikes, take your timeUnlike a haircut or even a tattoo, when it comes to dogs you REALLY wanna play for keeps. So ideally you won't be getting your dog in reaction to: a breakup, a death in the family, an urge to become less self-involved. Decisions like that are why so many of 'em need homes in the first place!
- •Really look aroundThis is as big a deal as buying a house but way cheaper. Hence more dangerous. So really look: Petfinder, individual shelter and rescue listings. Visit shelters and walk dogs. Get a sense of how big a dog you can handle, consider how much shedding will drive you over the edge. Do your niece and nephew visit a lot? If not, why not?? Stop people on the street and say "hey, what kind of dog is that!?" If they're me they'll take 11 hours to answer you.
- •Figure out the logistics beforehandDo you need a dog walker? If so, how will they get in and at what times? Daycare? Is there one in your neighborhood? Did you check with your landlord and did you check your bank account? Your friend who says they can't wait to dog-sit is lying:(
- •At the shelter, be nosyRescue dogs are heaven. They are also often victims of negligence and abuse, with complex histories that won't reveal themselves til the animal is in your house. For example Lamby was catatonically chill for 3 weeks before his true personality/anxiety issues emerged. So be nosy: ask to see all medical records, surrender papers, talk to the shelter employees who have the most day to day contact with the dog. Lamby also turned out to be like 4 years older than they said he was 😻
- •You can hire a trainer to temperament test the dogSome dogs take time to show aggression, others move past their initial growl. But a licensed trainer knows how to look for signs of trouble and many of them will accept a fee to come meet potential dogs with you and get a sense of their trigger issues.
- •It's okay to keep searchingI know once you've played with a shelter pup it feels so awful to return them to their crate and you wanna cry and explode BUT it's so much better that you be honest about your needs and get a dog that suits them. Giving the dog back after two months of bonding is way ruder. Lamby was shuttled between homes and it is, we believe, the source of his separation anxiety and siren-like shrieking.
- •@jennikonner says I am most deeply judgmental of people who return their dogs to the shelterAnd she may be right. Everyone has their trigger. Lamby had some phases where he was, as @jackantonoff said, "unlivable!" and I am happy we stuck those out BUT we also had the resources to do so. That's not the case for everyone, I for real get it, so if you have to give your dog back then (with a few exceptions) give it to the shelter. Don't try and be a hero and place your dog with a friend who is all "yeah dogs are fun!"
- •One you've found the dog, get a trainerEspecially if your dog has already had a full and mysterious life, get a pro involved, someone who can at least show you the most basic ropes. In this modern age we are all amateur doctors and dog trainers but we can do stuff we think is super helpful that actually screws our dogs heads up and reinforces the behavior we think we are stopping. I mean, they're dogs- why would we naturally know how to talk to them?
- •Have a windowsillDogs loves windowsills