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How To Help Your New Rescue Dog Feel Safe at Home
Adopting a rescue dog is exciting, but it can be stressful. While many dogs have no problems settling into their new homes, some struggle to adjust. Ahead, learn how you can handle several common rescue problems and dog problems with kindness and success.
Housetrain Your Dog Compassionately
While some older rescues are already housebroken, puppies and older dogs alike may have issues with eliminating indoors, especially if they are frightened or overwhelmed. Never yell at or physically correct your dog; rescue dogs may be urinating inside as a stress response, and angry behavior from you will confirm to them that they should be stressed, which could worsen the problem.
Instead, offer your new friend as many opportunities as you can to go outdoors and relieve themselves. When they use the backyard or a grass patch, celebrate! Treats, praise, and affection will all reinforce your dog’s good behavior, encouraging them to do it more often. When you see an accident happen, take your dog outside to encourage them to finish their business outdoors, and treat the area with a pet carpet cleaner that erases odors.
Desensitize Your Dog to Separation Anxiety
If your dog seems calm with you, but destroys the house when you leave, it could be separation anxiety. This fear manifests in behaviors like pacing, panting, drooling, or whining, as well as the panicked attempts to escape that result in chewed window sills and scratched doors. You can manage this with gradual desensitization, in which you slowly help your dog get used to you leaving.
In minor cases, try leaving your dog clothes that smell like you, offering special chew toys that only appear when you aren’t home, and playing soothing background noise. Extreme cases may require you to accustom your dog to minor cues like jingling keys, putting on shoes, or disappearing briefly to another room. If the process gets overwhelming, contact a licensed animal behaviorist to help you coordinate a plan.
Accommodate a Delicate Stomach
Some shelters and rescue groups will send you home with information on your new dog’s food, but if you don’t know what they ate, keep in mind that some dogs may have medical issues or allergies that make a new diet difficult. Animals with a traumatic past may be reluctant to eat in front of you. If you’re not sure what your dog will tolerate, start with a bland formula and monitor them for negative reactions. If you try several options without success, call your vet; they may even be able to offer a prescription diet. Reluctant, fearful eaters can be tempted with tastier wet foods.
Calm Timid or Aggressive Behavior
When your new rescue hides under the furniture or snarls when you try to take a toy away, they’re not being disrespectful-they’re scared. Almost all fearful and aggressive behavior is a stress response. This can be frustrating, especially when you just want to fast forward to snuggling and walking in the park together. Again, patience and gentleness are key. Keep your home peaceful and quiet so your dog can learn that they’re not in danger. Stay calm; being a consistently safe human for your pup will help them learn to trust you. The process can be lengthy, but nothing will be more rewarding than the day your dog chooses to cuddle up to you because you’ve earned their trust.
Make Your Home Comfortable
Even without major issues, creating a welcoming environment for your dog will speed their adjustment. Offer plenty of soft, quiet places for them to sleep, fresh water, and opportunities for bathroom breaks in a clean environment. While your rescue pup settles into the routine, avoid having too many visitors in the house, and make sure they always have a calm, quiet place where they can retreat if they get overwhelmed. Crate training is a great option for giving your dog a “home base,” and you can use it to manage separation anxiety as well.
Bringing home a rescue dog is a wonderful thing to do, and while it can be challenging to help them adjust, if you make them feel safe and comfortable, you can be sure that they’ll come to love you and your home.
Mikkie Mills, is a freelance writer who often writes about family, home improvements and the occasional DIY project.