Fur-Ever Friends: Facilitating Smooth Transitions for Adopted Pets

Fur-Ever Friends: Facilitating Smooth Transitions for Adopted Pets

The Joys and Challenges of Bringing Home a New Furry Family Member

You’ve just walked in the door with your new best friend, and your tummy does that excited flip-flop thingy. In the span of mere minutes, your living room has been transformed into a whirlwind of happy chaos – your pup has already peed on the carpet, played roughly with every toy you bought, and is now running zoomies around the backyard, gleefully shredding your wife’s favorite pair of underwear.

You realize pretty quickly this ain’t no Teddy Ruxpin. This is an animal who, in the days to come, will likely make you laugh, sigh, occasionally want to shout at the top of your lungs (though we don’t recommend that), get you out of bed early on Saturday mornings, and have you talking to your vet – who was a complete stranger just yesterday – about the color and consistency of poop. And let’s not forget the goofy baby voice you’ll find yourself using, just so you can watch your new pup’s head tilt from side to side.

Your new dog comes with thoughts, opinions, feelings, habits, and quirks that you didn’t necessarily think about amid the joyous ruckus at the shelter as you adopted the staff and volunteers’ favorite. And now it hits you: What have I gotten myself into? And maybe also, How do I get my wife’s panties back in one piece without her knowing about this?

The Adjustment Period: From Shelter to Home

This adjustment period is something all new pet owners face, regardless of whether the dog has been at the shelter for a week or a year. There’s going to be a transition as you and your new furry friend find a routine and structure that works for both of you. Your dog needs time to learn your habits, what’s allowed and not allowed, and develop the comfort and safety of knowing they’re in their forever home.

Maybe your new pup is doing a few things you wish they wouldn’t, or they’re a little more energetic than you were prepared for. Or perhaps there are some medical issues you weren’t expecting. It can be overwhelming – trust us, we totally understand.

But it’s also going to be more than worth any initial bumps in the road that will later become stories you tell with a smile. You can gauge the time it might take for your dog to fully acclimate to their new home in threes: three days, three weeks, three months.

According to the Marshfield Pet Shelter, we think of that first 3 days as the initial “detox” period as the dog transitions from the shelter to your home. Your home is a lot quieter than the shelter, with many more fun things around than a cement kennel. It can be overwhelming for many dogs, especially those who have been in the loud, bustling shelter for months.

During this time, your new dog may sleep a lot – they probably didn’t get a lot of sleep with that dog next to them barking all day and night. They’ll want to check out all the new smells and investigate their new digs. And they won’t know what you expect from them – that you’re going to feed them twice a day, where to go potty, or that the cat box is strictly off-limits (and so is the leg on that antique chair by the way).

After 3 weeks, your dog is probably getting used to your comings and goings, learning the daily routine, and starting to figure out when the next meal is coming, that you walk at the same time every morning, and that they get to go out for regular potty breaks.

At 3 months, most dogs know they are home. It’s a process to get there, but with a good behavior plan, the right tools, patience, and a sense of humor, the two of you can scale the mountain together and enjoy the journey toward a great relationship.

Preparing for Your New Furry Roommate

Before you bring your new dog home, it’s important to have a plan in place. The first 30 days after you bring your dog home is a critical time – you’re setting the tone for your new relationship, and it’s so much easier to start out doing things the way you want rather than try to make changes after Fido is already comfortable.

That’s not to say your relationship won’t change and morph over time, but if you know you don’t want dog hair and slobber all over the couch, it’s best to start off from Day One with the “no dogs on the couch” rule firmly in place.

According to Dogs Out Loud, it’s recommended to plan out a basic daily structure and routine, and decide on a few rules before you bring your new dog home. It always works out best if everyone who lives in the home has input and is aware of the rules and agrees to follow them. This puts the humans – all the humans – in charge and gives your dog the comfort of consistency and knowing what’s expected of them.

Dogs like to know what to count on day in and day out. If you basically do the same things around the same times – walk, groom, feed, play time, and cuddle time – your dog will settle in and relax faster.

Setting the Rules: What Works for You and Your Pooch

Now, what those rules should be is a very personal choice. As Ian Dunbar wrote, “I usually let owners decide on their own rules for their own dog. I consider household and lifestyle rules to be a very personal choice.”

Don’t let someone else tell you that you absolutely must or must not do something with your dog. If you’re happy with your relationship, if your dog follows your cues, and you have control over them anytime you need, then you’re already on the right track.

That said, if you’re unhappy with something in your dog’s behavior, be willing to consider making a few changes, either temporarily or permanently, to take back control of your relationship. Any good trainer or behaviorist will likely suggest this as the beginning of your training plan.

One benefit of having a dog who knows the rules and understands that working for you gets them all the good things is that they’ll start doing things specifically to see if they can get a reward. Catch your dog doing something good, and make the most of those moments! If they’ve chosen to lay on their spot rather than under the table while you eat, that’s a great decision – reward that. If they’re chewing on their squeaky penguin and not on the leg of the table, terrific! Celebrate.

You don’t need a grand reason to have fun with your dog, and catching them in the act of doing good is a perfect moment turned training opportunity. What you’ll find is you have a dog who is willing to try things to see if they can get a reward. Training is always more fun with a dog like this, and you’ll find it builds a huge amount of confidence in them.

Choosing the Right Dog for Your Lifestyle

Before you bring home your new dog, have an honest discussion with the members of your household about how much time you have to create and maintain a relationship with your dog and the types of things you want to do with a dog. The easiest path is to choose a dog who would fit neatly into the lifestyle you already live.

After the novelty of this new furry thing wears off, you’re still going to have to walk, feed, train, and interact with them. Think of the things you’ve been doing for years, the things you enjoy. Dogs come in all shapes, sizes, and energy levels – there is a dog out there who will both fit with and enrich your lifestyle.

At the top of your list, write down the number of minutes or hours a day you will commit to training your dog. Be honest. When you adopt a dog, and if you’re really in it for the long haul, there’s the possibility they will need a few training classes or visits with a private trainer, or even more extensive work in the future.

Training is one of the most rewarding ways to develop a beautiful relationship with your dog, but it can also be expensive, time-consuming, and on occasion, frustrating. Do you have the resilience, stubbornness, and finances to keep going, either with a trainer or on your own? If not, are you willing to put management techniques in place, no matter how extensive they may be, to make living with an untrained dog doable?

If the answer is “ummmmmmm,” then look for a dog who is less likely to require that kind of commitment. Ask a lot of questions, visit the dog a few times, ask if you can foster the dog or do an overnight visit, or even see if you can do a trial adoption. Shelter staff and volunteers usually have a good idea which are the easier versus more challenging dogs, and local trainers often offer dog selection assistance services. Use the knowledge of these people to help pick the right dog for you.

Training and Bonding: Building a Lifelong Partnership

Training isn’t something you do for one month or the length of one class – every interaction you have with your dog is a training opportunity. Dogs are sponges; they’re always learning something. It’s important that with every interaction, you’re teaching them what you want them to do.

As Pat Miller writes, “Think in Terms of What You Want Your Dog to Do, Not What You Want Him Not to Do.” Dogs are always doing what works for them. If jumping on you gets them attention (and what kind of attention doesn’t matter – touching, yelling, whatever – it’s all attention), then your dog will repeat that behavior. But if jumping never works and everyone always ignores them, they’ll try a different behavior instead.

This is your opportunity to teach them that a “sit” gets them all the love and attention, and jumping makes you go away. Every interaction is like this, and if you’re always cognizant of what you’re teaching your dog, your dog will understand and comply with what you want more quickly. This means less stress and frustration for everybody.

It helps to attend at least one training class, either to polish behavior or try a new game or sport, or teach your dog a job. There’s no set method you have to use to train your dog – whether you decide on a group class or private lessons, it’s often best to wait a few weeks and develop a relationship with your new dog before beginning. This will allow you time to figure out what you want to work on and to start developing your relationship so you’ll have some control over your dog in class.

Overcoming Obstacles: Finding Support and Solutions

If your dog hasn’t bonded to you yet, they’ll be less likely to want to work for you when there’s other more interesting things around. We cannot stress enough the importance of choosing a trainer who shares your training philosophy. We’ve met too many people whose experiences were ruined either because they were uncomfortable with the trainer’s techniques and were unwilling or unable to carry them out, or because they did follow the trainer’s advice and it either didn’t work for them, hurt their relationship with their dog, or had other long-lasting negative consequences.

The most important thing is that your interactions – every interaction – work to build up and strengthen your bond with your dog. If someone tells you to do something with your dog you’re not comfortable with, speak up. Ask for a different solution or sit out that particular activity. The best trainers are great problem-solvers and should have multiple techniques to achieve the same results.

Take advantage of any training packages or scholarship money that came with your dog, and remember that there are people ready to help. Many adoption packets have some basic problem-solving handouts included, and you can also check out a few of the DIY training resources mentioned above.

When things get rough, take a mental and even physical step back and decide how to proceed. Without a plan, you’re just fumbling around in the dark, getting more and more frustrated. Break the situation down – when and where does the behavior happen? Try to decide what’s causing the problem. Is the dog hungry, thirsty, stressed, sick, bored? Do they simply not know what to do?

Then think about what the picture would look like if the dog was doing what you want them to do – sit instead of jumping, lay quietly instead of barking at the mailman, go outside instead of going on the carpet. Focus on what you do want your dog to do, so think “I want them to sit” rather than “I don’t want them to jump.”

Every problem has a solution – how quickly you get there depends on how quickly you identify the cause of the problem, eliminate the reward that comes with doing the problem behavior, and ensure that the dog only finds reward in doing the behavior you want.

And maybe most important of all, keep your sense of humor. Sometimes just letting go and having a good laugh at the dog who is running zoomies with your underwear is the best way to get over frustration and start enjoying your dog. Dogs are clowns with beautiful thoughts and ideas and humor all their own. Who knows, maybe they were trying to make you laugh!

The Lifelong Journey of a Beautiful Relationship

Dogs are resilient creatures – what happened to them yesterday doesn’t have to dictate what they become in the future. You can always work to mold and shape your relationship with your dog into something that gets better and better with age. Relationships are like gardens – they can look and smell like the most beautiful of sanctuaries, but only if the plants and soil are tended regularly.

Gardens can get weedy and die off fast, but with a little daily maintenance, you have something beautiful to appreciate for all the love and effort that went into it. So it is with your relationship with your new dog. Put in the work and effort, but never forget to stop and enjoy how far you’ve come. When you set reasonable expectations that both of you can meet, it’s a satisfying experience and motivates you to reach another peak.

Enjoy all the scenery and beauty the climb to the top has to offer – it’s the most important lesson dogs have to teach us. With patience, consistency, and a whole lot of love, you and your new furry friend can embark on a Fur-Ever friendship that will enrich both of your lives in ways you never imagined.

Visit The Pet Rescue to learn more about our adoption services and how we can help you find your perfect furry companion.

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