Dog Bite Liability: Helping Your Adopted Dog Adapt
Last week, we raised the question, “Can Old Dogs Learn New Tricks?” More and more people are choosing to adopt an older dog from a shelter, which is seen as a noble effort by many. However, some people don’t realize that training can be considerably more difficult with an older dog that may be “set in their ways.” Training is not impossible though; as long as you are patient and understand that it takes time to build a solid bond of trust between you and your adopted dog, adequate training is possible.
Before diving right into training, however, it’s important to take certain steps to help your dog adapt and to understand the adult dog versus a puppy who is new to the human world. The thing about an adopted dog is very rarely do you know what their past entailed; were they abused? Neglected? Did they experience a traumatic event or were they just never trained? Your adult dog has had to make a lot of adjustments, first from the life he came from to shelter life, and now from shelter life to your household.
For an adopted dog, there is typically a 2-3 week period of adjustment; when you and your pet are “getting to know each other.” Your dog doesn’t understand why they’ve come to your home or what is expected of them. Anticipate problems due to this before they occur. Allow them access outdoors to relieve themselves and when they do, praise them. Don’t leave tempting shoes, clothing, or children’s toys within their reach as they may not know those are off limits. Don’t drag out goodbyes when you are leaving the house and leaving them behind; form a routine right from the beginning in order to avoid separation anxiety, which is actually quite common in adopted dogs.
When your adopted dog is first settling in, watch for certain behaviors such as anxiety, shyness, and restlessness, excitement, crying, or barking. They may drink water excessively or experience digestive issues as a result of nervousness. These are all normal for a few days, but if it extends beyond that, it’s best to seek advice from a veterinarian.
Again, consistency is key with an adopted dog; they must learn a whole new set of rules. If you want them off the furniture, don’t allow them to “sometimes” sit on the couch. In other words, don’t allow them to do something one time but then punish them for it the next time.
An adopted dog can be a great addition to your family, and typically after a few weeks, they will have settled in nicely. Very few dogs are unable to adjust at all, and these rare cases are more a story of their past than anything that has to do with you as a pet owner. Remember that if you have a difficult dog, it is not your fault. However, it’s also important to remember that when you don’t know a dog’s background, it’s even more important to be financially protected by purchasing an adequate dog bite liability policy. Even if you have a dog that seems like the friendliest dog around, dog bites are still likely, especially in unfamiliar or stressful environments.
F.I.D.O., the Federation of Insured Dog Owners, Inc., now offers the Covered Canine Policy, an exclusive product and benefit for F.I.D.O. members only that specializes in Dog Bite Liability Insurance Programs. It will protect you should your dog bite an individual and cause harm. It does not exclude any breed of dog and starts as low as $75 per dog, per year.