Understanding Your Non-Puppy Purchased/Adopted Dog
First, let me say puppies transition pretty rapidly. They have very little life experience and bounce on off into a new life pretty darned easily and pretty darned happily.
As to an older dog – say 5-6+ months – whether purchased or adopted – there is thread after thread on this site about “my new dog” and behavior in the first day or two or week. I just thought I would make a point/start a thread to point out a dog really needs time to transition. People tend to expect the dog to perfectly fit in and be super happy and loving from the first minute onwards. It’s pretty unrealistic and unfair to the dog. How many dogs get returned that would have been wonderful in a week, month, two months? People are expecting waaaayyyy to much too fast.
Yes! There are dogs who walk in and mesh with the family instantly, never make a mistake or have an accident, accept the routine at face value and go with it, and within an hour seem like they had been there their whole life. I had one of those. It was great. This particular dog belonged to an older lady who went into a home, he was thrown into a rescue with a bunch of dogs and NO special attention and hated it there, and when he came to me he was SO glad to have a quiet home with personal attention he ate it up and loved every second from the first second he was home.
However, more often than not, these dogs have a ton of changes and they can’t just fit in seamlessly. Example: I got a dog that had a home where he was treated just fine, he had a breeding mate, they were both turned into animal control amongst 700 dogs (it was really horrendous). A no-kill pulled them and uprooted them again to a new place. They were taken to a groomer and cleaned up. They were taken to the vet and neutered/spayed and had a dental done. She was adopted almost immediately and he was not. He was the saddest thing I have ever seen even though the rescue treated him well and he clearly liked the staff. He missed his mate and it really was something he never recovered from on some deep down level. Once to my home, he knew NOTHING. It was then that I realized he spoke only Spanish. Once I used my crummy high-school Spanish I found he had basic training. We had to transition to English. The dog literally had to learn a new language. He was only partially housebroken (likely had a doggy door). He had to learn to really hold it and wait no matter what. He made some mistakes but he got it since he was halfway there but we had to work on it. He had to meet all our friends. We had a lot of people who came over often and he had to learn them all and accept them all. Also, we had cats. He was a gentle soul, and he accepted them well. It took a long time for him to get close to them, but he behaved pretty well from the beginning. Then, we traveled a lot and off we went, huge car trips, crowds, noises, camping in a tent trailer. He got car sick, was scared of the noises, but he truly did love the crowds. We adjusted to the car and the noises and the camping. Then, it was off to school (in English). The dog had to now perform advanced tasks he had never been asked to do before. He did the best he could and picked it up quickly. In the space of 9 months he went from abandoned at animal control to holding the CGC. If I had given up on him when he didn’t speak English and peed on the floor the first time, well, I can’t even imagine not having that beloved boy share my life for 10 years. It took him about a month for his tail to even be carried upwards. There were things we never did get over (He ate a bible for example! He was a bolter – but we managed his environment).
My point – look at ALLLLLL we expect of a dog. I can tell you right now if we asked a human to make that many changes so quickly, the human would end up institutionalized. When you get an older dog, just realize they have had a home, a life, a set of rules, friends, a daily routine, family, other companion animals, maybe even another language, and suddenly EVERYTHING changes. Give them a chance to transition. A month or three is common. Some really bad situations can take 6 months or a year before the dog truly belongs and fits in. Don’t expect instant happiness and understanding of the rules. Give the dog time and give the dog your patience.
Feel free to add your anecdotes of bringing in dogs so others understand not only the challenges but the rewards but most of all the time it takes to blend a dog into the family. Maybe having such a thread, a definitive guide to new dogs, then we can refer people to it instead of telling people over and over how to merge a dog into the home and how much time and patience it can take.
Cara -- Central CA
+ Shay -- GSD
+Melody Rose & Cubby Shelties