Congrats! You've adopted a new family member. Proud, nervous and excited you load your new best friend in the car and head home. You know you'll provide the absolute best life your new pet could ever dream of. But what are some ways to establish your new relationship on Day 1? In this blog we'll discuss strategies to help your new rescue pet adapt to their wonderful new life.
Step 1: Patience
You'll need patience, and then more patience and then maybe even more! While some rescues can provide a full history of your new pet, many don't know anything beyond the basics of where they came from and their gender. There's just no way to tell. So don't be surprised if your new pet has never seen a sofa before or becomes nervous when cars drive by. Take a moment to imagine what they've been through: long lonely nights, long hungry days and the constant fear of injury or death. Your new pet may have had multiple owners before and so find it hard to trust that you'll always be there for them. To you, they are your new best friend. To them, you are another stop in their life. By being patience and letting them decompress and open up at their own rate, you'll show your new pet that you are trustworthy and that they are safe.
Step 2: Cleaning Supplies
While your new pet may have been housebroken before the stress of moving and adapting to a new life can cause accidents. For at least the first few days assume your new pet is not housebroken. Take them out every 4 hours or so and create a consistent feeding schedule to help you monitor their potty breaks. You may need to start from scratch and train them to be housebroken or maybe they just need a refresher. Either way, don't get mad if your new pet has an accident. Getting mad when your new friend doesn't know they've done wrong is a good way to break their trust.
Step 3: Slow and Steady Introductions
Ideally you were able to introduce your new pet to your current pets before bringing them home. But sometimes that's just not feasible, especially with cats. Make sure to provide each of your pets a safe, private spot to decompress and be alone. Even the most social and well-adjusted dog may not appreciate having a new sibling to take their toys and attention, so monitor all interactions for at least a few weeks. Each pet should have a separate feeding area where they can feel private and secure while eating. Treats should be given in a controlled manner to reduce the risk of food-aggression incidents. And if your pets do squabble, remain calm, separate them and try to find the underlying reason. Most differences can be resolved with patience and training.
Slow and steady also applies to introductions to the new human family. As a proud new parent you'll want to show off your new friend, but let them become secure in your home before allowing friends and family to come over. A group of people trying to pet and interact with a new pet that isn't sure what's going on is a recipe for disaster. Let them come out of their shell before asking them to become a social butterfly.
Step 4: Expect them to Blossom
Wait a minute! You cry as you watch the dog you thought was a couch potato zoom around the yard, I thought you were lazy! As a coping mechanism animals will shut down in shelters. Then as they become more comfortable with their new family, difference facets of their personality start to emerge. Shy dogs become attention-seekers, lazy dogs want to play fetch all day, nervous dogs become happy and bouncy ... consider it a compliment! Your new family member trusts you enough to truly be themselves, as pets are meant to do. They now trust that you are their forever-family and that they are safe. Cherish every silly moment as you get to know your new best friend.