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Shelter Dog Adoption

Adopting a Shelter Dog as a Second Dog

I have a 12-year-old Border Collie who is just wonderful. I am about to move in with my boyfriend and we’re planning on getting a shelter dog as I work from home. What worries me is that many shelters have a policy that if you already have a dog you have to take it to meet the one you are adopting. I am worried because she will initially bark and show her teeth, which she has done her whole life. She has never hurt another dog, she just has a tendency to not be very friendly when she first meets them but after a few hours is fine. Can you please tell me any suggestions I can try to make her stop this behaviour so I can get a shelter dog?

Hi Chantelle,

If every dog that curled a lip or got into a dust-up with a canine housemate was deemed incorrigible there would be no such thing as a two-dog household. They all do it so its no big surprise that some dogs might be a little crusty if a dog they don’t even know starts sniffing their butt without so much as dinner and a movie. She doesn’t sound aggressive to me. Just sensible.

Good rescues aren’t going to have a “policy” about this so don’t worry about those that are ruled by policies. Go to one that understands that policies are for banks that don’t want to lend you money. Rule of thumbs are for rescues that know enough about dogs to look at each case on its own merits. I can tell you that I’m likely going to get a few letters from a few of those more than willing to help you find a good match.

Don’t be surprised if at first the rescue doesn’t take you at your word regarding your dog’s wonderfulness as people have been known to underplay their dogs less then wholesome characteristics. I think though that an experienced rescue is going to know it’s unlikely that someone with a 12 year old dog with history of going over the top would want willingly jump into a state of ongoing conflict by taking in another dog so think you’ll find that they will hear you out.

It does make good sense for dogs to meet in advance, several times if possible but choosing the time and place goes a long way to reducing the stress on either dog. Meeting on neutral ground is a good way to increase the chances of getting off on the right foot. Two dogs that might have otherwise got along famously can go into a very serious fight as opposed to a minor scrap, if one has a territorial attachment to where it lives and the introduction is made on their turf. The same dog might be neutral or even willingly subordinate had they met on a part of the map yet unclaimed.

Another great tactic is to exercise both dogs to the point of tongue hanging to the ground before they meet. That way if there is a difference of opinion as to who is going to wear the crown its usually short and sweet.

One of the most important things is for the rescue to pick the right candidate. A dog with a history of living with other dogs would be great. One that is a natural follower as opposed to a leader would factor in as well. Often, a dog of the opposite gender makes a better second dog.

Pawsitively yours,

John Wade
[email protected]

Trimming a dog’s nails makes a lot of people nervous which can make a lot of dogs nervous. For many dogs, having to hold still, have their feet handled and cope with the sensation of nails being clipped wouldn’t be a problem at all if it someone was “pretend clipping” with real clippers every television commercial while they were still little.

When my eldest son was little I used to hold him in one arm while shaving with an electric shaver and buzzed it around his head for a pretend shave. At some point before my second son was born I switched to using a razor. His mother, having seen upon occasion a number of blood stained dots of tissues decorating my face for some reason put the kibosh on any further father/son pretend shaving bonding of any kind. In any event, the youngest didn’t get any shaving experience electric or otherwise.

A little later in their lives it came time for their first big-boy haircuts and there was a marked difference in their response to the electric clippers. The eldest was non plussed whereas when it was the youngest’s time and the clippers got close to his head, he got a look on his face like the barber had traded up to a chain saw, bounced out of the chair and headed for the door. Moral: acclimatize, rather than surprise.

The fear of cutting into the quick and causing some bleeding is the average dog owner’s main concern, so many dogs are sent to the veterinarian or a groomer instead. Truth be told, even there quicks get cut now and then. A big part of the difference between a pro nicking too far and a dog owner is that the pros don’t worry about it. They just slap a little goop designed for just such an event and move on to the next nail. Dog owner’s however can react a little differently and can easily shift their dog’s anxiety level skyward. The dog is laying calmly, paw extended and the owner clips too short, spots some blood and starts yelling something like, “Help! Help! I’ve killed my dog!” and a terrified dog leaps to its feet yelling, “What? What? Somebody’s dead? Hey, whose blood is that?” The poor dog forever after connects the sight of the clippers with either their own imminent demise or the plug being pulled on their owner’s sanity.

Even if a dog owner is going to have someone else do the job or it’s a dog that gets so much exercise its nail never need trimming, for two reasons I still recommend they do acclimatization. Firstly, it’s one thing to relieve their own stress by reassigning the job but that doesn’t necessarily lessen the dog’s stress and puppy dress rehearsals will pay off in reduced stress for the dog when the real curtain comes up. Secondly, at some point in its life a dog may get some sort of foot or limb injury that requires daily attention. That’s not a task as easily transferred to a third party and treatment is easier to apply and easier for the dog to take if a “Stay still ,while I’m doing something you may not like.” foundation has been laid early in life.

For anyone brave enough to try I have a free diagram showing where the quick is and a how-to article that I’ll send if you want to email and ask for it.

Pawsitively yours,

John Wade
[email protected]

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2 thoughts on “Shelter Dog Adoption”

  1. Hi I rescued a Jr who’s 6 yrs old and is cute x She’s developed a this new behaviour towards my husband by licking our faces and cuddles on her terms . Now she shows her teeth and snarls at my husband and tries to bite him ..although she’s quite happy to sit on his knee. She does sleep with us in bed and is spoilt rotten. Any ideas her previous male owner was abusive towards her ..Sorry for the rant . Iwe have tried putting her on the floor and telling her no..any ideas or suggestions what are we doing something wrong?

    1. Hi Angela,

      Probably not new. More likely she was just waiting to learn the lay of the land before revealing the baggage she carries. It’s common for rescue dogs to put on hold the behaviors that got them surrendered. Rescues are infamous for not being upfront or blaming an abusive owner, anything other than properly assess the dog. More rescue ‘mill’ than ethical rescue is my thinking. Maybe it’s none of that, I’d have to ask a lot of questions. It’s just that I see this a lot in the rescue dog world. I’d suggest one of my ‘Virtual+’ – Training sessions. Putting her on the floor and saying no isn’t going to do anything. She needs some firm but fair guidance based on sound principles as opposed to the usual nonsense you find in the amateur dog training world. (‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free/Never Say No/R+…’, treat, treat, treat or ‘Might Is Right’, Alpha, Pack Leader, Dominant (Yank and Crank))

      – John Wade

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