Q I’m about to bring a rescue dog home and not much is known about his background. I get the impression that he has not been very kindly treated in the past and can be quite nervous. Although I’ve had dogs before, this is my first rescue and I am looking forward to dedicating time and love to his rehabilitation, but please could you give me some general advice about how to settle a rescue dog into the home?
Kirsten Dillon advises…
My first piece of advice is to be very patient. Often, us humans are so excited with our new arrival and so desperate to make things better that we run the risk of overwhelming a rescue dog with our good intentions.
Set up your house so that your dog has several choices of sleeping place. Put beds so that they are not in the main thoroughfares of the home, but also not too secluded. By giving him a choice, you can quickly gauge his preference. Put his food and water somewhere out of the way and allow him to eat in private. It is not unusual for a rescue dog to have either been underfed or to have had to battle for food in the past, so it is vital he learns that neither of those things apply any more.
Hand feed him treats or pieces of his food, if he is happy to do this, as it will increase your bond with him quickly – although don’t allow children or inexperienced people to do this until you really get to know him.
Use an Adaptil collar (a synthesised relaxing hormone) and liberally spray his bedding with Pet Remedy, which also has a calming effect.
Most importantly, be completely led by him in everything you do. Ask him if he would like some fuss; call him over rather than going to him. Make sure he is comfortable on a harness and lead, and follow him on a walk instead of taking him where you want to go. Don’t allow anyone to touch him without his permission (again, ask him to approach rather than the other way around) and do the same with dogs you meet too. Leave him if he wants to sleep, engage him if he wants to play; simply observe him and his natural tendencies without interfering for the first few weeks.
By showing him that he has control over himself and his environment, you will quickly make him more confident, secure and happy.