The Perfectly Imperfect Pet
Okay so we discussed the adoption process but what happens when that seemingly perfect dog is imperfect? When I brought my recently adopted dog Bella home from the shelter she was quiet and calm and sweet. But within four hours of being at home she let her true personality show. She was rowdy and playful and chasing toys all around the house. I was completely amused.
But over the next few days she displayed some behaviors I was not only not amused by but had a zero tolerance for. She would bite any human that came near me while I was holding her. She would also have a meltdown if another dog approached. She would practically hyperventilate herself from anxiety and she would growl at the dog and charge the dog. Fortunately all the dogs we ran into were very understanding of her Napolean syndrome and did not bite her.
I decided to tackle the human biting first. First I stopped holding her in my arm in public. She is a healthy dog so she is able to walk and we do not walk so far that Bella cannot walk the entire distance. When I am going to interact with another human that I want Bella to have interaction with, or who I know will want to show her attention, I would pick her up, turn her around so she was facing me, and hand her to the other person. This immediately makes her submissive and agreeable to being seen by the other person. I made a point of taking her out in public often, especially around people I knew and therefore knew would be patient with her while she was re-learning social skills. It took about a week of frequent human interaction before Bella finally stopped biting humans. She is not happy to be interacted with and looks forward to meeting new people. She is shy initially but once they touch her she is happy and comfortable.
We are still working on dog interactions. I have discovered that with dogs her size or smaller, which is not the majority of dogs since Bella is only five pounds, there is no anxiety. It is larger dogs that bring on the melt down. Having fostered over 300 dogs in my 13 years of rescue, I have had some experience with dog aggression, but the results are not what I’d like, so I’ve reached out to a trainer for some assistance.
This is an important point in the adoption process. Adopting a dog is not a process that requires no follow up. Rescue dogs have pasts that usually have no record so there is no way to know where they came from or what they experienced. Many had fine homes. Some have had no love or were abused or were never socialized. In the case of small breeds many find it funny to get the little dog to be aggressive with larger dogs, like it “shows they’re tough”. So when adopting you must be ready to make the investment to retrain them if needed. It is NOT a reason to return them to the rescue or shelter. That creates an even larger case of anxiety and confusion for the dog. The dog needs you to be dedicated to their care in every aspect, even hiring a trainer if necessary.
And it is not just training. There can be any number of needs immediately after adoption. It was only two days after I adopted Bella that I noticed she would squat to urinate but nothing was coming out. I took her straight to the vet where it was determined she had a UTI. That is no reflection on the shelter, who cares for hundreds of dogs, it is just a part of adopting a pet.
Adopting a pet is a wonderful experience. Just be sure to give thought to all aspects of the adoption, not just the fun part of bringing them home. Be sure to investigate the life expectancy of your pet. My pet’s breed has a life expectancy of 21 years. That means I’ll be approaching 70 years old at the end of her life. I asked myself before adopting her if I was prepared to have a dog until I am 70 years old. My answer was yes.
Pets are an investment of time, love and money and we must be sure we are prepared to fulfill all aspects of the investment for the lifetime of the pet. The return on that investment is priceless!