Fall Colors, Rescue Booklet II

Thanks for the great comments on what’s needed in a booklet for people bringing home adult dogs from shelters or rescues.  Keep ’em coming, either on this post or the previous one. A lot of you will be gratified to know that the points at the top of my own list are similar to many of yours:  1) patience patience patience, 2) do not expect the dog you bring home to be the dog you end up with in 3 days, 3 weeks or 3 months and 3) don’t try to make up for past neglect or abuse (or the perception of it, which common but often not accurate) by coddling a dog such that she becomes emotionally overloaded by you and finally, for now,  4) no, love is not enough… love doesn’t mean much if you are totally confused about what is expected of you. You simply have to teach your dog what you want, rather than waiting for him or her to do wrong.

I could go on, but I’m about to officially play hookey. It’s only a little before 4 pm on a Friday, and I am way behind in lots of work, but it’s gorgeous outside and soon it’ll be dark and pouring rain or drifting snow and life is short. Me and Willie boy are going outside! But I thought you’d enjoy a few pics I took recently of fall colors. Wow, I love fall… on days like today it looks like someone photo-shopped the out of doors and boosted up the saturation way past normal. I’ll miss color soooo much by the end of winter, so out I go to soak it up. (Too bad Willie can’t enjoy colors like I do, at least I don’t think he does. But boy does he love the cool, fresh, dry air. He is absolutely full of himself right now. Time to go put that energy to work!)


  1. D says

    I love the idea for the booklet, and all the suggestions from the previous post. My personal addition would be to note that many adopters may also be first time dog owners. Like many, I had lived with dogs before, but when I adopted my angel years ago, she was the first dog that was MY responsibility. I have learned SO MUCH with this wonderful girl, and given my experience, I always advise others to seek out a reputable trainer…and to understand that they are not there to train the dog, they are there to teach you how to train the dog! THEN, if for some reason things don’t click with that trainer…trust your intuition, and look for another trainer – don’t give up! Not everyone learns the same way, so a great trainer for one person may not be able to get the message across in a way that makes sense to you. Don’t give up after one six week class – try again, there are many really good pro trainers out there and it is really worth finding one who teaches in a manner that makes sense to you!

  2. says

    most of my experience training dogs has come from working with strays and adopted dogs. (many of whom i picked up off the street. ) training a shelter or stray dog definitely presents unique challenges, depending on the dog and its history. but one common trait i’ve found is that so many of these dogs have separation anxiety to some degree. i’ve trained my dogs with patricia’s research and guidance in mind since ‘the other end of the leash’ hit the bookstores. and hand in hand with her insights about how to ‘read’ dogs, i’d say: the gradual desensitization method of getting a dog accustomed to your comings and goings is invaluable in dealing with separation anxiety and related issues. with my current pooch, (a border collie/greyhound mix…a mighty handful when i brought him home from the shelter 6 years ago) it was crucial to assure him that when i left, i wasn’t leaving forever. i took time off from work immediately after adopting him, and spent a great deal of time getting him comfortable with his crate. (i actually climbed in the thing with him and rubbed his belly the first time. unconventional, for sure, but it worked like a charm….that and stuffed kong toys to keep him company when i shut the crate door…and i didn’t close the door but for a few seconds at a time, initially.the gradual approach worked very well for us.) then, to work on desensitizing him to my departures, i would gather my keys and coat and put on my shoes to leave. then walk out the door. then i’d return 10 seconds later. ignoring him upon my return. i’d never make a big fuss, but i’d put a few treats through the door of his crate. and return to my work at my desk a few feet away. and i’d continue to do this all day. getting up and leaving. varying the length of time that i was gone. varying the intervals between the departures. letting him out of course to play, train and go for walks throughout the day. but the net result was that i left so many times, that he began to become bored with my comings and goings. i would sit outside my apartment door, reading a book, for 20 minutes on some days. never staying out there long enough for him to become anxious. but i’d stretch the time gradually. and sometimes leave for a super short amount of time after a longer departure, just to keep things unpredictable. i suppose i had a bit of a feel for it. and that patient approach paid off tremendously in the end. the first couple of weeks or so were painstaking, time consuming work. but i wholeheartedly believe that if adopters put in the time early on, and do their level best to make the dog feel secure, that they’ll encounter much more smooth sailing down the road. i don’t believe in leaving dogs home alone all day, in general. but adopters of shelter dogs should be particulalry sensitive to this, as many dogs who wind up in shelters were abandoned due to being neglected in their previous homes. if dog owners can conquer the separation anxiety component from the start, then so many other negative behaviors can often be avoided. (chewing, barking, etc.) my dog is now a service dog and a therapy dog…a wonderful creature. and a real goofball. a blessing in my life for sure. and i extend my thanks to patricia for educating me about so many aspects of dog behavior…truly life changing for me and my animals!

  3. C says

    Dogs who come from shelters (and maybe some foster homes) have the bulk of their activity during the day when workers and volunteers are at the shelter. The vast majority of adopters will work during the day and the dog can have a bit of a transition issue moving from what was their highest activity time to one of their lowest activity times.

  4. Debby says

    C, I can’t believe I never realized that. I know one problem that dogs who have spent an extended amout of time in a shelter have is that they are used to getting excited anytime someone takes them out. For dogs that are already prone to high arousal, this can be a problem. One thing we do, when we can, is actually ignore some dogs a little, or at least keep outings low key. Everybody wants to take the dogs out and tire them out, but sometimes they need to just relax. Don’t get me wrong, this is in addition to an excersise session in the yard or a playgroup for younger dogs. One way we do this is we have a real life room and rotate healthy ( non-contagous ) dogs in it during the day. This breaks the high arousal stressful environment of a busy shelter, to a more peaceful environment. Sometimes a person stays with them and interacts ( like in bad weather or a dog that can’t run around outside because of ortho issues ) and sometimes a person just does other work on a computer or reads. This is an attempt to get them used to a real home and the noises that come with them. The room also has a radio, a couch, vaccume, phone, bathroom nearbye and a crate. I do think many shelter dogs are overstimulated constantly and this can lead to problems after adoption, or getting adopted int the first place.

  5. Beth says

    Separation anxiety seems to come up a lot in the comments. Ah, the condition that is so much easier to prevent than fix! We made a point of always leaving our dogs with peanut butter spread on a Kong as we walked out the door. Now we have more than one dog loose in the house at the same time, we won’t leave long-lasting treats when the dogs are unattended. We still use the peanut butter when we are taking one dog and not the other. When we are leaving and both dogs are staying, we always give a normal-sized treat.

    We also used to ignore the dogs when we first came home when we initially got them, until we we certain after a long period of time that separation anxiety did not seem to be an issue.

    The result? Our dogs are THRILLED to see us get ready to leave the house because they know tasty treats are coming. They take their treat and then don’t even watch us walking out the door.

  6. Katy says

    When I adopted my daring Happy, a 40 pound terrier mix, she was one year old and recently spayed. She was pretty mellow at the Humane Society. The shelter worker said “please keep in mind, she’s been through a lot recently and will probably perk up quite a bit in terms of energy in just a few days”. This simple sentence was sooooo helpful to me during our first six months together. I’d never had a terrier, and whenever I feared that I was doing something horribly wrong (or that I couldn’t handle her exuberance and feisty ways) I remembered that this was to be expected.

  7. says

    Dear Patricia,
    Hello! A friend of mine recommended that I ask you about some trouble I have been having lately with three of my male dogs. We have had to separate them from each other. We live on a farm and have built a backyard fence where two of them stay and the other has run of the rest of the property. Before hand the two living inside our backyard would get along but now they can

  8. says

    Gorgeous pix, fall is my favorite season too – we’re still waiting a bit for the leaves to start turning in NJ, but pretty soon, it will be a sea of color. Enjoy it while it lasts.

  9. Melinda says

    This and the last post came at just the right time for me. I brought home an 8 year old female german shepherd rescue on Friday and had no idea what to expect. I’ve had male shepherds in the past and always as puppies. Never a female and never a rescue. She seems to be settling in with our 5 year old shepherd Buddy nicely but everything I read has helped me immensely in these first few days. I think just trying to give her time to adjust while guiding her through our routine each day has been helpful. (I took a week off work) She is such a sweet, sweet soul who I think has been kenneled for much of her life so she has lots to adjust to. Housetraining 101 for sure, keeping her confined to one area of the house where I am and crating her at night have seemed to work so far.

    Can’t wait for the booklet/book! I have learned sooooo much from everything that Patricia has written, both on this blog and in her books. It’s also great to read how others handle their real life situations. Thanks so much!!

  10. Sonja says

    Actually, house training is a big concern in rescue (though certainly not rescue dog exclusive). I can’t count the number of dogs who’ve been returned to shelters where I volunteered because they relieved themselves in the house. It seems many people have NO idea how to house train a dog.

  11. Lindsey says

    I think it is worth talking about how to introduce your new dog to dogs you have and/or friends and family have if you plan on spending time with them. My first rescue was a stray so I was not sure of her experiances. I know that the first introduction to my parent’s dog didn’t go well, and now, I know much of that was my fault. Life would have been much easier if they had gotten off to a good start together.

  12. says

    The booklet will be a huge public service. There are so many things I wish I’d known before we adopted our Husky, Katya. “Love is not enough” is easy to say, but hard to swallow

  13. Debra says

    This booklet is a great idea and I wish it existed 2 months ago. There might be so much material that it ends up being a full-sized book though. There was one hugely helpful comment you made about Hope perceiving petting as a punishment when he was out and off leash. While my Hope seemed to crave petting and attention IN THE HOUSE, I realized that he did not enjoy being stopped on his walk to be stroked. I adopted a hands-off policy during our outings immediately after reading your comment and believe it has been most beneficial.

    I wrote to you that initially Hope would become stressed and shut down on me when I asked him to do things in the house in a training-like mode: sit, lie down, stay, touch… It seemed as soon as he was asked to think, it was too much. I took a big step back and started with 3 treats right before feeding him asking him just to sit and ended each little session with a happy voice telling him how smart he is and what a good dog. We have made such progress and when I pick up the clicker and say “let’s train” he is happy. It was much easier to teach him basic manners just by doing, i.e., walking with a loose lease, backing him up at the door.

    I am fortunate that he loves his crate so no issues there, but I did practice leaving and coming back.

    I found that before he bonded to me and learned to trust me that some things he would see and hear outside on our walks would cause a bit of panic. Once he even pulled the leash out of my hand and took off down the sidewalk–causing a bit of panic for me until he ducked between 2 SUVs in a driveway and hid in the wheelwell of one.

    I am still watching for behaviors. It took 3 weeks before I saw him look at me with a loose open mouth smile. After being here two months, I caught him counter-surfing. I laughed inside thinking he has become comfortable here.

    Watching his strength increase has been gratifying. He is definitely a deficit dog returning from near starvation but there has not been any sign of resource or food issues other than I have to keep a sharp eye on walks as he will dive on any piece of edible (to him) garbage. But, he nows knows leave it and trades for a treat. I have never seen him play and he does not recognize toys. He seems a bit OCD in the area of personal hygiene. He lays in his bed and washes and washes his face with his paws. This is one of his happiest times and when done he flops on his back and rolls waving his paws in the air grunting and groaning. If he sees you look at him, he stops immediately as though he were doing something he should not. So, I try not to look and let him have his happy moment.

    I suppose my point is some coverage of quirky behavior seen in deficit dogs would probably be a good topic.

  14. T says

    My suggestion is to keep a diary or note book when you bring your dog home. I wrote when he stole bacon off my plate, chewed/destroyed objects in the house, etc. During week 3 (month 2, etc.) when I felt that we were not making any progress, I would open and read earlier entries and be reminded of how far we had come.

  15. pitgirl says

    I have been looking into including some of your booklets or other informaion on second chance dogs in the packets we have for adoptive parents at our shelter. I was wondering if you have any suggestions or pointers that could assist us in our education process by way of liturature and preparation foe new rescue owners. The booklets would be extremely helpful.

  16. Jess says

    I find the title “Second-hand dogs” extremely offensive. First, not all of these dogs are indeed second-hand dogs. Anyways, I highly suggest changing the title to something about rescue and shelter dogs – not “second-hand dogs.” The more I write it out, the more it seriously bothers me. It sounds like they are not worthy of complate love and adoration. Please rethink that.

  17. trisha says

    To Jess: I hear you Jess, loud and clear, so I changed the sentence in the post to read “adult dogs from rescues or shelters.” I’m personally more fond of ‘second-hand’ things, for a variety of reasons, but I can see the argument that to some it means “second rate.” Karen and I both agree that the booklet really will refer to all adult dogs brought into a new home–it is so very very different to bring a grown up dog into your home than it is a puppy….

  18. Cindy says

    I’ve always had ‘second hand dogs’ and I’ve recently been fostering my chosen breed through a breed rescue. I’d love to know more about ways to help a foster dog who has started resource guarding with the rescuer (me) being the resource.

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