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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.
I have brought several in at an older age. Each one took a different amount of time to adjust completely. I think they adjust for the most part fairly quickly, with a few things that need work. Midnite, my male GSD took about 3-4 months to completely adjust. He has turned into a wonderful dog. Really all of them have. They are a commitment and once I take them in they aren't going anywhere. I don't feel they are disposable and I understand that by moving them from home to home can be even worse, so they stay put with me.
I took a 3-4 year old bitch and her 6 month old daughter out of a horrendous breeding farm along with several others. The mom adapted quickly, and with little effort. The daughter remained shy and frightened for months. I did eventually find the perfect home for her. It was a sad testament to her genuinely sweet nature that in the dark, faced with strangers with flashlights, injured and peeing on herself, she stayed quiet and let me slip a lead on her and lift her from the cage she had been born in. I even got a kiss for my efforts. She has blossomed into a truly amazing girl, but it took months of gentle, patient handling and love.
Mom on the other hand took to the good life with the resilience and grace of a lady. Soaking up the lessons and love like a sponge and never looking back.
IMO it has a lot to do with personality. I have seen 6 week old pups traumatized to the point that it is a lifelong struggle to help them, and mature dogs bounce back without a problem.
Whatever the case, there is no set in stone schedule for their recovery. If a person is going to take them on, you need to be prepared for the worst and hope for the best but giving up should never be an option.
Just thinking about what you said about our expectations of dogs and how they can be so excessive that no human could comply. I was thinking that the other day when I was reading a post where someone said they wanted their dog to be "protective and friendly to all people." I really started reflecting on how big of an expectation that is and how we can easily but excessive pressure on our furry friends.
Thank you for the addition. This was my PSA of the week -- think about what our animals go through to get where they are. Think about those taken from mommas or displaced from a family or taken from an only-dog home to a shelter with many many animal or from a doggy door to holding it or ... or ... Just thought I would point out that I hear SO many high expectations of a brand new dog. Why can't my puppy potty train at 9 weeks? Why can't my brand new dog have recall after 1 day at our house? Why does the dog show fear of my husband, she's been here a WHOLE week? I think dogs are amazing for the transitions they do make, but sometimes expectations are WAY too high TOO fast. I will return the dog, it doesn't seem to like it here, it's been 3 days. Time, give it time, and understanding. Yes, some just mesh right in and take it as it all comes. Others struggle with it. Would you want someone to be a little kind and gentle and patient? Force you on a hike? Put you in a room and not come talk to you or spend time with you? Keep changing your food and water from thing to thing suddenly so your stomach hurts? What would you be like if it were YOU? Hope this helps someone, someday, be more patient and see the potential in their dog rather than giving up.
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