When you adopt a rescue pup you’re doing a good deed and saving a cherished life, but you may also be taking on some unforeseen problems. This makes your decisions before adopting and after you get him home very crucial to his peace of mind as well as your own.

Denise from Empire of the Dog has (in just one session) helped me out so much with my rescue dog named “D.” This woman is a serious miracle worker. She offers a FREE Rescue Dog Seminar at her business, too. The next one is tomorrow Wednesday April 23 at 7pm at Empire of the Dog (415 Grand St.)

Here she shares some helpful insights for before and after rescuing a dog.

 10 Tips for Adopting A Rescue Dog

Before you adopt:



Have a family/couples discussion about who’s willing to do what tasks (walking, brushing, feeding, exercising/training) and how much time everyone is willing to devote to those tasks. Different ages and breeds/mixes of dogs require varying amounts of each of the above. For example you’d be surprised to know that typically smaller dogs have more energy than, say your extremely larger breeds like Mastiffs or Great Danes, while obviously a Maltese will take more time to groom than a Greyhound.


It’s ok – I give you permission to start oogling all of the available rescue dogs out there. Petfinder.org is a great place to start looking, where you can search dogs by size, age, weight and breed. All of the dogs have pics and bios and you can continue the discussion of how the dog will fit into your family, while browsing. Or, visit your local animal control or Humane Society; they often have a web presence where you can look at the adoptable dogs, as well.


Research different rescues in your area through the web or attend some adoption events. At these events you’ll find questions popping up that you might not have anticipated, like “does he like cats – or kids?” Even if you don’t have either presently, will you in the future? Be patient, rescue groups often have a LOT of hoops  to jump through and it is because they want to make sure it’s a good and permanent match for both of you.


When you get to the point that you are considering a specific dog, it’s good to know that some things are easy to remedy and train, while others are VERY unpredictable and don’t rehabilitate as easily. Some of the most difficult ones tend to be “anti-social” and fearful types of behaviors like “fear of strangers or kids.” If the dog is not good with other dogs, you may be able to IMPROVE that, but he is probably not going to turn in to the Beau of the Ball[park]. On the other paw, things like house training, separation issues, chewing and overall rowdiness respond quite well to training and are not reasons to be overly concerned.


Born from over a decade and a half of experience with dogs (both rescued and expensively pedigreed) – a puppy is NOT a blank slate. A puppy is an “unknown” slate and while you can do ALL the correct things, he’ll still grow up to be genetically closer to who he was meant to be, which is out of your control. On the other hand, when you adopt an adult dog over 1-2 years old, you can be pretty sure that his basic social behaviors are going to remain consistent. If “he loves kids, and dogs, and cats,” that won’t change suddenly.

After you adopt:


It’s so tempting to lavish him with  hours of attention. He’s cute, precious, and you want to introduce him to everyone and everything, but slow down JUST a wee bit. He’s just had a lot of sudden changes recently and could use a bit of “down-time.” Make sure you’ve set aside a dog-proof area or a kennel/crate as his own safe place. You can acclimate a dog to a crate at virtually any age and it’s reassuring to know you can leave him somewhere secure when you need to leave the house.


Use these first months to cautiously expose your dog to the sights and sounds of your lifestyle and see how he responds. Don’t expect for EVERYTHING to be his “bag”. Dogs are individuals and respond in their own distinct ways to new situations. Getting to know more about your new family member dog is an ongoing process and often you may not see all the sides of your new pet for several months. This is not at all uncommon, especially in slightly fearful or anxious dogs. Try to encourage your dog to explore and socialize, but don’t FORCE him beyond his comfort zone; it often backfires and makes him act out in fear or makes the NEXT time that much worse.


There’s often no real way to know what the history of your dog was prior to adopting him, but we can assume it wasn’t so great. It’s important that you immediately try to make his new life with you feel both SAFE and PREDICTABLE. This means being consistent and realistic with your expectations of him and training him without force, aggression or even the “stern” voice or attitude that is still liberally advised in many dog manuals.

Your dog may have a number of things in his past that trigger him to feel anxious or fearful and you don’t want to inadvertently compound those experiences during “training”. Humane treatment for animals doesn’t stop the moment their lives are simply “safe”, it’s our job to continue humane advocacy and also training methods that aren’t motivating dogs through pain or fear.


I think it’s one of the fun ways we personalize our relationships with our pets, and if the dog was a stray, he only recently got his original name. So go ahead and name away – and use loving nicknames too! Folks are often concerned that an adult dog won’t bond as easily as a puppy, but that’s simply a myth. Dogs are very resilient creatures and respond very well overall to adoption and rehoming. Some things to help your dog warm up more quickly can include hand feeding some meals and snacks and goodies.


I can’t tell you how many calls I get from people within the first few days of adoption, but quicker than we can call back the panic has passed and they’re starting to settle in to a routine. The first week can seriously feel like a hostage crisis, but you aren’t expected to know how to handle everything all the time. It can help to get some advice and triage from a professional and there are time saving tips we try to encourage people to do so they can direct their dog to “dog-safe” activities throughout the day.

For more help and advice, attend a Free Rescue Dogs Seminar, in which we discuss the typical issues that may arise in newly adopted rescue dogs and how to navigate the first several months with your new pet using pet and family friendly methods. A portion of the seminar will also involve Q&A periods for specific issues. This is a seminar for HUMANS only.

*How to build confidence and security
*Managing super “Velcro” attachment issues.
*Remedial house training for re-homed pets.
* Using Family Friendly training methods to teach and modify behavior.

For more info or to RSVP, email: shana (at) empireofthedog [dot] com or call (917) 723-5233

If you are having AGGRESSION issues with your dog, you should consult a professional for individual help.

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