Adopting a new dog is a part of life that you never forget. It changes your life quite a bit, but it REALLY changes the dog's life! Finally, a home and family of their own! If you think about it from the dog's perspective, it's like this - new humans, new surroundings, new rules, new expectations, new food, new smells, and sometimes new 4-legged friends! But what the dog does not know is if he doesn't behave and fit in with the new family, he is in danger of being given up AGAIN! It would be like someone moving YOU to a wolf fit in and be accepted as part of your new family or pack, you would have to respect and live by the "rules" of the new pack...but you speak a different language, so how do you learn the rules?

Transitioning a new dog into our homes is a normal, natural process to us. But it's important to make sure we do our best to help the new dog find a place in the new family and routines of our lives. Here are a few tips to make your dog adoption a success:

  1. Time...spend as much time as you can with your new dog. Give him ample settling time, sometimes a few weeks to a few months, depending on his past. Sometimes you don't see their true personality until some time has passed and they feel "at home" .

  2. Discipline...dogs need discipline. They need to understand what we think is right and wrong. This not only helps them fit into our world safely, but also helps them exercise their brains and not get bored. We often feel sorry for rescued dogs because of their questionable pasts and we shower them with love and kindness, forgetting that they also need discipline. It is part of their nature to need discipline.. Dogs appreciate the love and kindness, but they need a balance of love and discipline to function well in a human family. Undisciplined dogs can end up unruly, very hard to manage, and homeless.

  3. Consistency...make sure the whole family is consistent when teaching the rules (ex: house-training, obedience training, sleeping and eating arrangements, etc.) If one member of the family teaches one thing while a second member teaches that something else is acceptable, the dog can become confused and not know what is expected. Dogs (and cats) are often given up because human expectations are not met.

  4. Exercise...absolutely required, but the amount depends on the age and breed of the dog. Lack of adequate exercise can lead to boredom, misbehaving, obesity, etc. Increasing exercise can help with many problems you might have with your new dog, so when in doubt, take a HIKE! Walking or running with your dog is a valuable bonding experience. And some dogs love to go to the park and chase frisbees and balls. Proper exercise will help keep your new dog's body and mind healthy!

  5. Nutrition...proper nutrition is also important. Find a good, healthy dog food for your new dog. A food with no fillers or by-products, with chicken or fish as the main ingredient, and preserved naturally with tocopherols (or vitamin E) is a good choice. Most foods sold in grocery stores are not a good choice for a variety of reasons. Two of our favorite dogs foods for foster dogs are Nutro Chicken/Rice/Oatmeal and Blue Buffalo Chicken or Fish diets. Both are excellent foods and we believe they will benefit your dog for a lifetime.

Reprinted from A New Leash on Life: New Leash News, September 9, 2010.