As a first time dog owner, it can be quite overwhelming to choose the kind of dog you want or should get. So many breeds and mixed breeds, how do you decide?
Adult rescue dogs are usually good for first time owners as long as they’re a good fit. Just like choosing a purebred, you need to find as much information as you can about the dog. What’s its background, which breeds are in the DNA, size, age, etc.
I’ve heard stories of shelter dogs going on doing amazing stuff, like becoming a service dog, or saving a family from a house fire. Or those in the Super Dogs shows featuring purebreds as well as rescue dogs.
Rescue dogs are in shelters most of the time through no fault of theirs.
What defines a rescue dog
It’s a dog that is available through shelters or rescue organizations and would end up there either because they were abused, neglected or abandoned by its previous owner. Sometimes it could be that the owner has died or is going to an hospice.
Shelters have a physical place where they house the dogs. A rescue organization on the other would usually rely on foster parents taking care of a rescue dog in their home.
Choose a rescue dog that fits your lifestyle
A mixed breed dog’s size, level of energy, grooming, etc. is determined by its unique makeup. When you start your search, find out as much as you can about the dog’s background and its story.
Rescue groups are very diligent about placing the dogs in a home that fits well with the new owners. You’ll have to fill out a questionnaire, then an interview, and someone will possibly come over to check your house.
If you can go to ‘adoption clinics‘, where the rescue groups have a few dogs with them to show potential adopters, you’ll be able to interact with the dogs.
If a dog is living in a foster home, you can find out more about its personality and quirks firsthand.
Rescue dog or puppy for first time owners
A rescue dog can also be a puppy. Years ago, while volunteering at a shelter, a man brought in two very young puppies. My friend and I couldn’t leave them there, so we each adopted one.
So the question really is, should you get a puppy or an older dog.
A puppy, whether it’s from a breeder or a shelter, will required a lot of work, attention, training, exercise. If you have kids, they should be at least five years old. There should be someone at home all or most of the time.
An older rescue dog, depending on its age, could also required some work, exercise, training, maybe medication. But the rescue organization will help in finding the best match for you.
Should you adopt a senior dog
If your lifestyle is right, and your home is suitable for a senior dog, it could be an easier experience for you as a first time owner.
A senior dog would most likely be potty trained, need less exercise, and less stress, but again it all depends on its background.
But a senior dog might also have health problems and need medicines. If you are willing and able to care for a senior dog, it could be a win win for both of you.
Are rescue dogs neutered
This will depend on where you live and what the requirements are imposed on the shelters and rescue operations.
The rescue dogs we’ve adopted over the years were either already neutered or spayed or were just before we took them home. Although one was a very young puppy so we had to wait until she was a little older to get it done.
Are rescue dogs harder to train
If a rescue dog was in a loving home in its previous life, he might already be trained to pee and poop outside, to walk properly on a leash, to give the paw, etc.
On the other hand, if the dog comes from an abused situation or a puppy mill, he would most likely not be trained. You would need to start from the beginning as if the dog was a puppy.
The first day we got our husky mixed to foster (at 10 months), he ate my husband’s sandwich right off the counter, ate a sock, threw up the sock and ‘marked’ (peed) a few places in the basement. All this on the same day.
He didn’t walk well on a leash at all. The only thing he knew to do, was sit, look cute and give the paw!
We took him to one-on-one training sessions (4 or 5) and practiced with him at home. Oh he did well while at school, but even after lots of practice, he remained stubborn and performed when he wanted to. But he’s a husky mixed and they are not easy to train.
It’s never too late to train a dog. Although some breeds and therefore mixed breeds could be harder to train. It has nothing to do with being a rescue dog.
Top hardest dog breeds to train
- Siberian Husky
- Afghan Hound
- Basset Hound
- Chow Chow
Still considering a rescue, here’s what to do when you get home
Hopefully you have already dog proof your home, nothing on the floor the dog can chew and gates if you want to limit access to certain areas.
Introduce the outside first
If you have a fenced backyard, let the dog smell its new surroundings.
If you don’t have one, take the dog on a walk around the house and the neighborhood.
Introduce the inside of the home
It’s best to do this slowly by restricting the dog to a smaller area as opposed to the whole home. It’s confusing and stressful for him so he might be more comfortable to sniff out each space over a few days.
Introduce the crate
Unless you were told by the shelter/rescue not to use a crate because of the dog’s background story, it will be a nice and safe place for him to feel at home.
No visitors at first
Ah Ah, sounds like a hospital rule! But your new dog needs adjust in a peaceful environment at first. If your friends, family, or neighbors (especially kids) come over that’s a lot of excitement and noise on top of getting used to you and to this new unfamiliar place.
Feeding, walking, training schedule
Our dogs have trained us so well that we don’t need a watch or clock to know it’s 6:30am and 4:30pm feeding time. The only downfall is when we have to change our clocks to either Fall behind or Spring ahead!
We also walk the dogs at about the same time each day, rain or shine or snow.
Puppies need to be potty trained and a schedule will help keep them on track all through adulthood.
How long does it take a rescue dog to adjust to a new home
Every dog is unique which would make that experience unique as well. Each one will adjust to a new home in its own time.
This is Kiko, a dog we fostered and then adopted. He is no longer with us.
He was afraid of my husband for almost a year.
If my husband would walk by or towards the chair the dog was in, he (the dog) would jump down and move away.
Most dogs will likely be confused and/or stressed out. Maybe he’s never seen or is afraid of stairs, TV, kids, or loud noises. We often don’t know if he had a rough time in his other life. You’ll have to be patient to help with the transition.
Don’t expect too much too fast. It takes rescue dogs anywhere from one week to several months to get used to their new home. Keep everything low key. Let him get used to you and his new environment. Don’t pressure him. Let him come to you. He needs to learn to trust you.
If you have kids, explain to them your new dog needs some space for a little while.
Do rescue dogs bond with new owners
Puppies twelve weeks old or younger, from a breeder or a rescue, will bond almost instantly.
In the case of an older rescue dog, trust is the key for the bonding to sets in.
If the dog comes from a stable environment, trust might be established earlier on. But if the dog comes from an abused situation or is a stray, it might take longer for him to trust you.
You can’t really know how long it will take, but it will happen.
Dogs are forever
Make sure you are ready and willing to take care of a dog forever. The right rescue dog for your lifestyle will hopefully bring you years of joy and companionship.