ADOPTING A RESCUE DOG...AND WHAT TO EXPECT!
Furry Friends Animal Rescue has been running for just over 11 years and in that time we have rescued many, many dogs. Mostly those who were in danger of euthanasia. Sometimes when being abandoned by their owner and picked up as strays and after not being claimed by the 7th day becoming one of many on council poundie lists, sometimes when circumstances at home changed and the people could no longer care for them and sometimes because the dog was not properly trained and developed habits that the owners could not cope with – such as snapping, biting and various aggression issues. We do pride ourselves on our record of not having euthanased any dog that has come into our care other than if it was terminally ill and suffering. We firmly believe that most problems can be sorted if the dog is with the right handler.
However, I feel it time that I write now about exactly what to expect when taking on a rescue dog. Firstly, I need to emphasize that NOT ALL RESCUE DOGS COME WITH PROBLEMS! There are many beautiful and trouble free dogs looking for homes and find themselves in the situation that they become homeless through no fault of their own – owner moving to a pet free home, arrival of a new baby, arrival of a new puppy (out with the old, in with the new), too old, too bouncy, not bouncy enough, longer working hours, allergies, owners going on holiday, shedding too much hair – the list goes on!
Some people do like to take on dogs that need that extra training or confidence building or introduction into a home environment. They may have had an abusive past or the opposite...allowed to get away with everything and much the same as a spoilt child, stomp their feet when they don't get their own way – shown in aggression often.
Prince – Dominance Aggression
Prince was a Pomeranian who was bought into rescue who belonged to an elderly man who had a stroke and could not keep him. He was allowed to do exactly as he pleased and if someone tried to do something that the dog did not like, he would bite them. Simple as that! Most people backed away from him and left him to his own devices teaching Prince that when he bit then people would back off and let him do as he pleased. The final straw was when he savaged a man's hands because he tried to remove a piece of paper from the floor that had the faint smell of dog treats on it. He had nine puncture holes in both hands which swelled up with the bruising. Castration helped of course, but he was at the crucial age – 2 years old! Its ALWAYS 2 years old! Just as they leave puppyhood and reach maturity is normally when people experience problems with their dog.
When prince arrived he was probably the most aggressive dog I had ever met! You may laugh thinking about a Pomeranian being my biggest challenge, but he was like a possessed demon! Fine whilst he was doing what HE wanted to do, but give him a command or raise your voice at him and he would run at you in a fury of teeth and snapping and he would never back off! He ran at you and if he had the chance with me and had made contact, he would have done serious damage. I have no doubt that he had bitten many times in the past. In fact he was rescued from a kennel situation with a euthanasia ticket on him due to his bad behavior.
What was interesting in this case was how he came into the house. He arrived at the rescue completely tense. His main job in life was to dominate everything. Whether it was another dog, a cat, a person. They all needed to be kept in line and he literally had the weight of the world on his shoulders. A scratch on the back was met with a snarl and a snap. A brush was absolutely not acceptable – hence why he turned up so matted – and it needed to be attacked and thrown across the room.
But with careful management and correction training, he turned the best corner of his life. He was a bright dog who loved his food and using extremely strong and firm training methods and NOT backing off from him when he had his tantrums, within 2 weeks he was a completely different dog. In fact one of the nicest dogs that I had ever met! He accepted brushing in the end and even took to suckling people's fingers (see below). He was comfortable enough to roll over and get a fuss which is a great thing for an ultra dominant dog as it shows submission. This was his choice...he was not scared of me but enjoyed having his chest scratched so became relaxed enough that he did not feel the need to put everything in its place. He almost regressed to being a puppy again and truly enjoyed life.
Prince got a
wonderful home in Scotland with acres of ground that he now calls his
back yard. The new owners are very happy with him and see no bad behavior from him – I got that pleasure!!!
Poppy – Nervous Aggression
Poppy, the two year old Border Collie was bought into rescue as highly aggressive. The owners had taken her to their vets after she had bitten a visitor to the home.
Poppy was bought as a tiny puppy and never walked. She was not socialised and the only exercise she had was her back garden. She was very unsure of strangers (due to never meeting anyone) and when she was put in the situation of having to accept a fuss from someone she did not know and had no reason to trust, she snapped out and caught him. This nearly signed her death warrant for her.
It is vitally important that dogs are socialised when young to ensure a well balanced animal who can cope in situations where there are lots of people and other dogs. Without constant socialisation you will end up with a dog who is scared, nervous and potentially aggressive. Many dogs lose their lives because people do not train them properly and it is too much trouble for them to actually make an effort and enjoy a well balanced pet.
When Poppy arrived she was extremely neurotic. She trusted nobody and any new person that tried to show her any affection was met with a snarl. She was terrified of the vets, scared of new walks and very uncomfortable just simply walking past people who were completely ignoring her. She would bolt if any stranger walked towards her and completely lost her mind to the point that she did not even recognise me, such was her terror at having to walk past someone new.
In the home, if a stranger walked in, she would find herself a corner and lay there snarling and growling at the new person who was invading her space. Not a great potential for homing, especially because it took a good few days for her accept and trust new people and also accept new dogs into her life.
All we could do was work on her confidence and try to reassure her that not all people were out to get her. We had to allow for the fact that she had come out of the four walls that she knew and trusted and was thrown into a life of vet visits (she needed to be spayed, vaccinated and microchipped before she could be rehomed), walking outside – normal for most dogs, but a terror initially for her, sharing her home with other dogs and learning the body language of them which to start with she didn't know, plus getting used to a very busy household with many various visitors.
She was a pretty dog, so had many enquiries, but none of the people were quite right for her. Normally the snarling dog hiding in the corner was enough to put them off, which to be fair, was not a nice sight!!!
Poppy did eventually have a couple who were Border Collie experienced who travelled in from Northampton to collect her. They knew exactly what they were taking on and were prepared to see all of her problems through with her. That included a new habit that she developed once in her new home, which was barking at strangers when she was out and about. That did show how her confidence had grown, but she had shown it in the wrong way!
Sadly running a rescue means meeting many dogs (and other animals) that have been deliberately mistreated and physically hurt by people. I have never quite worked out why people would want to hurt an animal. Having to often deal with the people who have abused these animals I have noted that sometimes it is because the person/people have short tempers, sometimes because they have old fashioned training methods (ignorance) and sometimes it is simply because they find it funny to see an animal cower and scream in fear and some even get a perverse pleasure from it.
We are not breed specific here and will endeavour to help who we can. Thanks to some people being willing and able to carry on our work by adopting the animal and ensuring that it is given a secure and comfortable home, it means we can carry on helping who we can as long as space permits.
Lucy was a Hungarian Visla x Staffie who was picked up in Kent and was so emaciated that she was trying to steal food off of a bird table. She had been dumped by her previous owner. When I first met Lucy she was so terrified that she lost all her bladder and bowel control...and that was just because I stroked her! It took many months to bring Lucy on. She had been beaten and starved and she trusted nobody. Luckily my own dogs taught her a lot. She watched them and I gained her trust just because she saw the other dogs were confident and eventually could bear it no longer and came to us for a fuss. Her first tail wag around a person took about a month to show itself.
A dog like this is often dubious when out and about, as although they trust their handler, they have no reason to trust someone else and their nervousness shows through lunging. To us it means for no reason and is embarrassing, but to a dog it makes perfect sense! WE make the rules, they don't! They have no understanding that biting is bad and it is their first line of defense. People find this very hard to understand.
Lucy was adopted by
a couple with other dogs who had quiet walking areas around them.
They have found her to be a wonderful pet.
Judy was a 7 year old Border Collie.
When she arrived in rescue we noticed straight away that her leg was at a funny angle and that she was very uncomfortable. X-rays showed that she had five breaks in her leg. A snapped femur, a broken hip and three breaks to the pelvis. She belonged to a man who's house was found to be infested with rats and other dead dogs there. How these injuries happened we are unsure but it is likely that she was hit by a car and left untreated for a long time.
We felt it kinder to Judy to have the leg amputated being that she would have had to have bones re-broken and reset which would have been very painful. Within 24 hours of the operation she was up and about a wagging her tail, which was the first time we saw that!
did not show any aggression even though she was in an immense amount
of pain. She was extremely submissive with people up until the day
that her leg was taken off. After that she did not submit to us
anymore. Dogs show pain in different ways and it is not always
obvious to us when something is very wrong.
Little Sassy the Staffie cross was 5 months old when she arrived here. The owner claimed that no matter how much she fed her she kept losing weight. This turned out to be a lie as when she was fed properly she gained weight and was perfectly healthy. On arrival she had a very bad mouth infection caused by malnutrition. She was not housetrained because the woman never let her out of her kitchen. She could not take her out because she was too thin, but the owner had no money to buy her food, so she just kept getting thinner.
She was very unsure of other dogs, but learnt very quickly thanks to her age.
Sassy was in pain just because of her condition. She was so thin that you could see the shape of her internal organs and it hurt her to walk. This did not last long as she gained weight very quickly and did not develop any issues (such as food aggression which can happen with starved dogs).
Now Sassy is very happy in a new home.
It is an often unknown fact that just because you want to buy a puppy does not mean that you need to go to a breeder. Many puppies have ended up here and last year (2009) even I was shocked at the sheer amount of unwanted litters that turned up on the doorstep. Puppies tended to be the in thing to hand around like sweets and through all the education, people still feel the need to breed their dog.
The other thing to consider is that it is not always a guarantee that if you want a dog to get along with your children, to get a puppy. ALL the dogs that are around started off as puppies and many of them are handed in because they have growled/snapped at a child they live with! Having children and dogs living together has to be a fine balance and I have upset many people by refusing them a puppy because the children were not in control enough. We do not have a blanket ban on homing dogs with young children, but you DO have to impress me!
To adopt a puppy you need to expect for your possessions to be chewed, that the puppy will need to be housetrained, to take it to training classes and to be refused if you are at work all day. Puppies are NOT an easy option!
Tyson – EBT x sold
to the first buyer because he would
make a good fighting dog. Rescued and now NOT
These Jack Russell x Collie boys were part of an unwanted litter. Bred for profit,
but then the owner could not sell them.
Many people prefer to adopt an adult dog. Normally the age range specified is anywhere between 2-5 years old. This is past the chewing stage, they can be left for longer periods and people feel that they can still bond with the dog and are not setting themselves up for heartbreak too soon as with adopting an elderly dog.
Its also the age that dogs can be handed into rescue because they have developed problems so the right questions do need to be asked. If the dog is to live with children, this should only be agreed if they have been in foster care with children and no problems have arisen. This is of course in the ideal world and I am very aware that there are too many dogs out there and not enough foster homes.
A reputable rescue will make you aware from the start of any problems that have shown themselves and if you are unsure about dealing with an issue the dog may have, then do not adopt that dog! It is far better to carry on looking for the right dog then struggle and fail with something you cannot handle.
Mr Big – Chihuahua x – picked up
as a stray and never claimed. Now
homed and very spoilt!
Zack – Weimerana x Staffie – Picked up as a stray and
never claimed. Now living in Guernsey and is very loved.
A lot can be said for adopting older dogs. It is personally what I prefer to do. It is not what everybody wants though. You adopt a dog, fall in love and then he/she dies causing you heartache and distress.
But, there are a lot of unwanted oldies out there. They may have medical issues and may need extra special care. Most of the older dogs that come here have had many years of bad treatment. The few years that you can offer them may in fact be the best years of their lives. If they have been handed in due to a family bereavement it may be that they have had a good life up till then...so why cut it short?!!?
Senior dogs are normally very easy to settle in and although insurance maybe more expensive and harder to find, it is out there. They often prefer homes without young children. That is a general rule depending on the age and temperament of the dog and of course, how well behaved the children are.
Barney – Beagle cross – found dumped.
Mindy – Jack Russell – found dumped with a car
hub cap on her neck as a collar which was embedded
in her neck. Now homed.
Adopting a disabled dog is definitely not for everybody. It is the type of dog that will often turn up in this rescue though. A disability is shown in many different circumstances. A dog being blind or deaf or brain damaged are some disabilities. Missing limbs or health problems causing disabilities such as arthritis or heart problems are also other forms of disabilities.
Some people will not
even consider a dog like this. Many think that having a blind dog is
cruel, but that is because they are thinking like a person and that
THEY would not like it. A dog is not a human and does not have the
same psychological issues that a person does. They DO have a good
quality of life and we have proved this time and time again. All
disabled dogs have been rehomed from here and have continued to enjoy
Annie – born with the condition Anophthalmia
(born with no eyes). Came in at 8 weeks old and
now is about 3 years old and happily living
with her mum, Nancy
in their new home.
Boysie – Blind Jack Russell. Picked up as
a stray and never claimed. Now homed
and his new owners are completely in
love with him.
Manson – Beagle x Staffie – has a Grade 4 heart murmur so will be on heart medication for life at the tender age of just 3 years old.