Bringing Your New Humane Society Dog Home

by Jonni

When you bring your new humane society dog home, is everything going to be perfect? One can hope, but it isn’t likely.

During your first few days with your new dog, there will be some adjustments, for both of you. You’ll have more chores to do, another mouth to feed, walks to schedule in your busy day. These things may be easy, or difficult, depending upon the way your life is set up at the moment.

And your dog is going to have a few surprises for you. No matter how carefully you screened your new pooch, there are going to be some things you didn’t know. Some of the surprises may be good ones. Pepper, my Border collie, knew how to sit, stay, fetch, go lay down, get in the car, go outside, and “NO!” She was a stray from the Humane Society, about 9 years old

When you already have animals in the home

And some of the surprises may not be so positive, even when they aren’t your new dog’s fault. For instance, I found out that my 13-year old female cat (also a Humane Society find) is not fond of dogs, to put it mildly. It was necessary to keep her and my new dog separated for several months, so that they would have time to come to know and tolerate each other before someone got hurt. I searched the Internet for help with my attack cat problem, but couldn’t find any, so I had to muddle through on my own.

If you already have animals in your home there will be an adjustment period, and it takes as long as it takes – you can’t really rush it. Your first dog will need to assert his need to have things his way, and this usually takes place without any actual fighting – but if both dogs have dominant personalities, or if the size difference is too great, you may need to keep them separated for a while to prevent bloodshed.

Making your home ready for your new dog

If you don’t already have a dog it may surprise you how much mud a small dog can track into your house, and you’ll want to do some rearranging so that there is an area, perhaps off the kitchen or on the back porch, where your dog’s dirty feet can have a chance to dry out before coming into the house.

You will naturally remember to remove the needlepoint pillow from your couch that your Great Aunt Margaret gave you just before she passed away. And you’ll keep your best shoes in the closet for a few weeks, just in case. You may find a few “accidents” on the floor while your new dog is still not sure he really lives there. And he may show you a place or two in the fence that needs to be mended.

Explaining the rules to your new dog

Almost every dog expert you’ll talk to will agree that it’s best to start explaining your rules right from the start. If “getting on the furniture” is one of those things you wrote on your “absolutely can’t tolerate” list, then don’t allow your new dog on the couch the night he comes home, no matter how pitifully he looks at you with those big brown eyes.

Some acts of “disobedience” are simply a sign that the dog has had no prior training in that particular area, or that his previous owners had a different idea about what is acceptable and what is not. The best attitude is to “assume innocence.” It simply means that you shouldn’t assume that your  new dog didn’t make a mistake on purpose – it takes time for anyone to learn new rules and fit into a household.

Hopefully, within a few weeks it will seem like Roscoe or Fido has been in the family all his or her life. You’ll trust each other, love each other, and enjoy every minute you’re together.

If it doesn’t work out

What should you do if your new dog does some of those things on your “absolutely can’t tolerate” list that have nothing to do with training or experience? What if your dog snarls, snaps, growls, acts in a dominating, aggressive way towards strange men, children, or yourself, or even bites, and you don’t feel that you have the experience or training to remold the dog’s personality?

If you discover that your new dog’s temperament is unsound or unsafe, and you adopted the dog from an animal shelter, you can almost always take him back. This may be the most humane thing to do if you don’t think you can ever truly come to terms with your new dog’s personality, or if you think your own family or your neighbor’s kids are at risk. It’s much easier to take your dog back to the shelter if you make the decision quickly.

What if your dog has other unacceptable behaviors, such as chasing or harming your cats, digging too many holes in your yard, or removing all the stuffing from your couch; you don’t have the patience or experience to teach him to be civilized; and you don’t want to hire a professional trainer? You may still be able to return him and try again. Just in case, you might want to ask the shelter or rescue organization if you can return the dog, and for what reasons, before you take him home. There are thousands of dogs in need of a new home – if the one you try first isn’t the right one for your family, just keep looking.

Some breeders may also allow you to return a dog for behavioral problems, but even if they do they will want you to have made every effort to train the dog to your rules before you give up on him. Almost no private party sales can be returned, because most families only give up their pets if there’s no way they can keep him. Nonetheless, if your new dog was a treasured pet they may want you to bring him back, rather than expose him to the trauma of a shelter.

In order to reduce the possibility of emotional trauma for yourself if the dog doesn’t work out, try to think of your first week with him as “dating” rather than as a “honeymoon.” The two of you should have a chance to find out if you should be housemates, and you should both have a right to change your mind and look for another option that makes a better fit. You should remember that if your dog is destructive, constantly barking, or driving you crazy in other ways, it is probably because she’s bored out of her mind. You would both be better off if she lived in a more active household. It may also mean that you spend far too little time at home, and you would be better off with a cat.

Hopefully, however, you’ve done your homework, your new dog’s personality, talents and temperament are a perfect match with your own, and a few weeks of settling in are enough to turn the two of you into an inseparable partnership. What can be more fulfilling than finding the perfect dog?