Adult dogs rarely get snapped up by adopters as fast as puppies do, but they can often be much more kid-friendly, and just as rewarding to raise. But just like adopting puppies, adult dogs come with their own set of unique challenges, especially if you’ve adopted a rescue dog from a shelter.
Here are some tips and tricks to if you’re looking to adopt a dog!
The adoption process is always a little tricky - it’s hard to decide which pup is right for you and your family, especially if there’s too many to choose from. Many animal shelters will often have at least some information on every dog’s history and an evaluation of their behaviour.
But it’s also helpful to ask the animal shelter volunteers about a dog you’re interested in. Ask them about important things like:
- The dog’s personality
- How easy they are to train and walk
- Their typical schedule
- What they typically eat
- Whether they have any traumas or behavioural issues.
Note that some of these traumas and behaviour issues your potential pet may have will eventually go away with training and a lot of love and care, but others will not. Be prepared for the possibility that your dog will always exhibit these behaviours and make sure you’re ready to deal with it if you’ve chosen to adopt a pet.
Of course, never base your evaluation solely on second-hand account! Make sure that you get some time alone with the dog so you can play with them and get a sense of how they’d fit in your household.
Unfortunately, it’s just as possible that your first impressions might not be accurate. Unforeseen behaviours can manifest over time, especially as your new dog gets used to its new home and are trained by a different set of hands - you! Your new furry companion will likely need a lot of consistent love and training to help them through their traumas or to mould them into more agreeable pups for your home.
No matter how perfect you may think a dog is, always be prepared for these types of unwanted behaviours. If you think you’ll easily give up, adopting a dog might not be the right choice for you.
The First Month
Congrats! If you’ve made it this far, that means you’ve probably decided on a pup and are ready to welcome them to your home.
Before you bring your dog home though, make sure to take a look at your living environment and plan out some of your dog’s daily necessities. For one, with the stress of a changing environment, it’s more than likely your dog will need some help with toilet training and initial behaviours.
Make sure you have an easy to clean up, dog-proofed location for your dog to hang around, especially as they’re being housetrained. They may gnaw on rugs or couches, and may accidentally break some things - so get everything out of the way and set up an area for your dog to play in with baby gates.
Next, get your dog’s crate setup and ready for when your dog comes home. Make sure it’s comfortable and clean as your dog will likely spend at least a few days in there getting used to their new home. Remember to also get important training tools and daily necessities such as a training leash. Mighty Paw’s Training Leash is great to start with.
As your dog first enters his new home, let them have some quiet time to be comfortable in his new home before introducing him to strangers, especially children. Follow the schedule your dog had back in the shelter, including your dog’s diet, walks and playtime.
If you do want to switch to a different brand, such as Stella & Chewy’s take some time to do so - a good ballpark is about a week. Mix some of their new dog food with their old in increasing amounts to get your new dog used to their new diet. You may also want to consider getting some Dr Mercola supplements for your new dog.
Training Adult Dogs
Dog Crate Training
For the first few weeks, you will want to get started on crate training your dog. Start by getting your dog comfortable with their Dr Cage crate - don’t force them in, but tempt them with treats and praise and never leave them locked and alone in the crate, at least not on the first few times.
Once your dog is able to willingly enter and leave the crate on their own, you can close the door. Leave it closed for as long as your dog remains calm and after some time, let them out with a reward.
You should also feed your dog while they’re inside the crate and gradually increase the time they stay inside. But always make sure to keep your dog’s comfort level in mind - if they’re vocalising too much or exhibiting a lot of anxious behaviours, get them out of there stat and take things a little slower.
Eventually, when your dog is much more comfortable with their crate, you can start leaving them in their crate overnight or when you’re leaving the house, but make sure to still check on them regularly. If they’re still pacing or being anxious, try sapping their energy with play time or walks before you put them in the crate.
If you’ve ever wondered how to do obedience training for dogs at home, clicker training is probably the first step to take.
Clickers like Petsafe’s great Training Clicker are small plastic boxes that make a distinct click sound when pressed. Much like treats, they can become positive reinforcement for good behaviour, and are a much more effective method of training. Of course, clickers aren’t meant to replace treats - but rather, it helps to tell your dog that they’re doing a great job.
Clicker training is of course relevant for all dogs, but for adopted adult dogs, having clicker training will help you reinforce their good behaviors and it may help make other types of training easier.
To clicker train your pup, start in a calm setting with no distractions and get some dog training treats ready. ZIWI’s Peak Good Dog Rewards are great treats to start with. Introduce your clicker by pressing it and immediately giving your dog a treat - do this a few times. When your dog is not paying attention, try clicking the clicker. If they immediately respond, your pup is ready to move on to other training.
After this, try teaching your dog with the clicker, rewarding them with a click, a treat and a lot of praise right after they’ve done something good - but make sure to get the timing right so your dog doesn’t get confused about what actions garner treats.
With some simple training under your belt and your dog is much more comfortable with your house and you, it’s important to understand some of the undesirable behaviours that adult dogs may have, and research on the type of training that would help your new family member overcome their traumas and get through behavioural problems.
For one, housetraining as mentioned earlier, is a common problem with shelter dogs. While many of these dogs are already housetrained, never assume that your dog is. In a stressful and new environment, your new dog likely needs time, training and supervision to understand where they should go to relieve themselves. Crate training also works together well with house training a dog.
Another behavioural problem that many adult dogs have is separation anxiety. They may seem to hate their crate, vocalize non-stop or cause mass destruction in your home, in a way that suggests they dislike isolation.
In truth, some of these cases are less about separation anxiety and more about genuine dog anxiety, about their new environment, unfamiliar people around them or general discomfort. Get these dogs calm and comfortable and be patient with them - they might take longer getting used to your home. You could also try essential oils from Essential Dog, which can help to calm their nerves when you’re not around.
Chewing is also another common problem - while it may seem like you’ve dodged a bullet getting adult dogs that might not chew as much as their younger companions, you’d be wrong. Dogs love chewing on things, no matter their age. During this teething period, Naturvet’s No Chew Spray will be your best pal! While dogs that have been well managed will develop proper preferences for things they like to chew, preferring dog toys over furniture, others may not. So unless your pup does otherwise, always assume they’ll gnaw up anything. Supervise your dog accordingly and give them a toy or a treat to chew on instead.
There’s a lot more to be done when you’re adopting a new dog, and it will take some patience to help your dog through their behavioural problems. However, at the end of the day, your home will likely gain a new found member. And you'll know that it's all worth it in the end because the love that we get from dogs in return is so genuine and irreplaceable.