Decided to take a dog from the shelter? What do you have to deal with? 

Nowadays it is very common to see ads that suggest taking a dog from a shelter. On the one hand, this is a great option to help a street dog find a family. But on the other hand, the owners of such a pet are not even aware of the difficulties that may arise. Often with dogs taken from the shelter, there are many difficulties, because of which the potential owners very quickly return them back. 

What is the reason for this? There may be many reasons. And they should be considered.

You need to be prepared for a number of difficulties

Purebred dogs are often found in shelters too. Although it is mostly street animals that get there. They are often very poorly socialized. Therefore, the decision should be taken deliberately and consciously. Saving money on such a pet is also not recommended. A dog from a shelter may require the involvement of a veterinarian, zoopsychologist, and a competent trainer. Here the interests of both parties must be taken into account. 

The dog needs a normal existence, and the owners should be comfortable living with it. And in order to achieve a solution to this problem, it will take a lot of effort. And now about this in more detail:

Difficulties at the choosing stage.

Many shelters and shelter homes carefully check out potential owners. You may have to fill out a detailed questionnaire. Then sign a contract of co-ownership. And agree to a periodic vetting of the animal’s condition and living conditions. Furthermore, if you do not own a home, do not have a steady income, or are a senior citizen, the shelter may turn you away.

Problems with health.

People don’t usually take pups from shelters, though this does happen occasionally, they take adult animals. The majority of them are suffering from chronic or severe diseases and injuries when they get to the shelter. Fleas, worms, and skin infections are all possibilities. This will necessitate mandatory veterinarian treatment. A more detailed examination is also required. It will identify any hidden injuries or chronic diseases that may exist.

A dog in a shelter is like a person in prison.

And being there inevitably leaves an indelible imprint on the psyche and behavior. There are 2 categories of dogs in the shelter:

  1. Initially homeless, born on the street from a homeless dog, raised in conditions of hunger, disease, but at the same time in the wild, never had an owner. In recent years, these dogs are becoming less and less.
  2. Dogs that were abandoned. Such dogs had an owner or several, they have experience of communicating not only with strangers but also with the owner, as well as with members of their family.

A dog from a shelter could get used to street life, so there will be some difficulties with its socialization. After all, street life has taught the dog to fight for survival. Such animals are usually wary of people, distrustful. They are often happy to “grab everything that is bad”. And, perhaps, to bury or hide the excess “for a rainy day”. 

And life within the walls of a shelter is no fun at all. Spartan conditions in the cages are not at all favorable to the development of an angelic character.

Behavior problems.

A shelter animal always has its own life experience. And at the same time, as a rule, it is not always positive. The dog’s psyche may have been offended and traumatized earlier. Both humans and other dogs could do it.

This usually leaves its mark on the attitude towards others. tendency to either aggression or excessive fearfulness is possible. In a new house, the animal almost always experiences shock and stress, so you need to be prepared for any reactions, up to fear and aggression. This is especially true in families with small children. 

In the early days, it is better to try to limit the communication of children with a new family member. You may have to train the dog to relieve itself while walking (we are not talking about a puppy, but about an adult animal). And also generally to life in an apartment. In fact, you will need to learn to find a common language with the dog and build relationships.

Getting a dog from a shelter is an additional expense.

There may be other requirements that must be fulfilled. This applies to animals with injuries or chronic illnesses that require a special diet, gentle walking, massage, or other treatments.

Adopting a dog from a shelter will take a lot of time and work. Furthermore, it will necessitate a significant investment in it. Building a relationship with a dog will take a lot of effort and patience. You can go for the dog if all of this isn’t embarrassing and the decision to take such an animal home is clear.

How to choose a dog from the shelter

So, the trip to the shelter has already been planned and the family is already preparing for the arrival of a new pet. First of all, you should prepare yourself for the fact that the shelter is not an art gallery. The conditions there are Spartan. Therefore, crossing the threshold of the shelter, you can experience a real shock. The smells are also appropriate there. Therefore, you need to dress appropriately for such a visit.

Once you’ve chosen a dog you like, don’t take it home right away. You need to spend time with it, take it for a walk. The best time is within two or three days. This is necessary so that the pet gets used to its new owners. If the family is large, it is best to go to the shelter and walk all together. This will allow you to observe how well the dog and family members can find common ground.

The relationship between the owner and his dog

In general, a number of psychological indicators can be detected in dogs in the process of communication with people.

  1. Emotional connection. An example of such a connection in street dogs is their attitude towards those who feed them.
  2. The attachment appears after a period of communication of more than two weeks. This phenomenon is deeper and stronger than an emotional connection. The entire functioning of the dog’s neuro-humoral and hormonal systems moves to a more effective stage in the presence of the object of attachment. It is joy, confidence, courage, increased activity. A special organ on the palate in the dog’s mouth is the vomeronasal organ. It is responsible both for the assessment of pheromones of individuals of the opposite sex and for attachment to the owner. This is manifested by the fact that the dog loves to lick the owner’s hands, face, showing him his affection in this way. Attachment can be destroyed if the owner is inconsistent and unpredictable. In this case, the dog goes through a period of persistent and distinct stress, manifested by various physiological abnormalities. The level of cortisol in the blood, the stress hormone, rises, the dog becomes nervous, and the appetite decreases. As a result, the owner’s inconsistency and unpredictability destroy attachment, the dog begins to fear him. And when he scolds and when he praises. The dog avoids communication, touch.
  3. Persistent attachment can (though not always) cause the development of trust in the owner. However, this does not guarantee obedience. Lack of both trust and obedience can lead to mutual dissatisfaction. It can also destroy attachment.
  4. An even deeper feature of communication, formed over the years on the basis of trust and obedience is mutual understanding.

Nevertheless, if at any stage, for some reason, attachment has collapsed, there is no obedience, but only mutual dissatisfaction – this is the basis for abandoning the dog. The reasons for this can be very different. There are two ways to solve the problems that led to this situation. Either find a way to restore obedience, or get rid of the dog at all. Thus, after a number of unsuccessful attempts to solve the problem, the dog gets back to the shelter.

Abandoned dog

The psycho-physiological status of such a dog is determined by a number of factors. First of all, it is long-term deep stress. After all, the dog lost its home, a place where he was always safe. It lost his usual diet. A habitual owner is an object of affection. All actions of such a dog are aimed at trying to get out of captivity, at the call of the owner (barking or howling). Emotional exhaustion occurs (persistent indifference to the environment develops), a decrease in intellectual functions (dullness and lack of understanding of others and their commands).

Such a dog goes through the standard stages of grief – protest, despair, and separation. Attempts to provide care can help to lessen these symptoms and relieve the anxious state, but not always. As a result, a deficiency of immunity, ulcerative processes in the stomach, and fur problems are inevitable. Stomach pains lead to chewing and swallowing inedible items as an attempt to relieve pain, but it only aggravates indigestion. As a result, the dog begins to suffer from fecal incontinence.

This can only be cured by a new attachment

But are there many such patient new owners? Frequently, the rehabilitation process is delayed, especially if the new owner begins to punish for untidiness. You can make the healing process faster in two ways:

  1. The dog lives in an open-air cage in the yard (there is nowhere to make a mess).
  2. A place for a dog is arranged in the bedroom right next to the owner’s sleeping place (attachment will arise faster).

Repeated abandonment will cause even more problems for the dog.

Stages of adaptation and rehabilitation

1-2 days: Behavior is dominated by those stereotypes to which the animal is usually inclined. This is either apathy or excessive excitement. There is no attachment or trust. All the people around are a threat. The most common mistake these days is excessive attention.

3-4 days: The dog gradually calms down, it begins to be interested in the environment, sleep is restored. These days, you can only start using positive reinforcement, walking on a leash. Any attempts to correct any actions – only with the use of positive treatments. Feeding can be done by hand, and later in portions for following commands. And no punishment!

2 weeks: The beginning of attachment. Time to accustom the pet to be alone – gradually increasing the time of separation. And don’t punish the dog for various forms of protest.

Two weeks to three months old: Attachment only to the owner. Attitudes toward family members may vary. From the age of 3 months, the attachment could develop to them as well. But only if there was no negative communication with them.

After a year of attachment and predictability in the family, trust can develop. The relationship enters a stage of stability and permanence. It is believed that a dog may not develop a new attachment more than 3-4 times in its life.

Adaptation Tips

After a new pet arrives at its new home, it will need an adaptation period. Many zoopsychologists offer a number of recommendations for those who decide to adopt a dog from a shelter.

  • For the first 1-2 days, it’s best to leave the pet alone and let it explore its new territory. Don’t try to pet or treat your dog every half hour. Excessive activity can frighten him.
  • To establish contact, you need to talk with your pet in a calm voice, Gradually teach it to tactile contact. There is no need to rush: many street animals have faced aggression and hardly get used to petting.
  • You should be prepared for some undesirable behaviors. The new inhabitant may dirt the carpets, chew on the furniture, hide and be afraid of the smallest noise. It is not necessary to raise your voice at the pet and use methods of harsh training, At the stage of adaptation, the result should be achieved only by caressing.
  • If a shelter dog shows aggression, it means that it does not feel safe. You don’t have to physically punish it. First, you need to try to build trust in your new pet.

Getting a dog from a shelter is not as easy as it seems at first glance. But you just need to do everything right and be patient. And then you will get a loyal, kind, and intelligent friend who will adore you. These pets can be very clever and smart. They feel gratitude for being saved from a hungry and dangerous life on the street. And their loyalty can be truly boundless.


About the Author: Helen Wilson is a freelance content writer. She is a wordsmith when it comes to topics about lifestyle, freelance, and traveling. She also writes content at online essay writing service for students.