How to Make Rescuing a Senior Dog Less Stressful

Lindsey ZimmermanDog Health, Senior Dogs

We all know that adopting a senior dog is a good thing to do. You would be saving a life doomed to languish in a shelter. You would know exactly what you are getting because he/she is all grown up. Chances are he will already be housetrained and responsive to commands.

That’s not to say there won’t be some bumps along the way. Moving is always stressful whether you are a dog or person. Chances are your dog will be used to living in a kennel with other dogs surrounding him. All of a sudden, he is thrust into your world and it feels, well, alien.

Don’t give up. #HelpEmUp would like to offer a few pointers to make the process a little less stressful.

Patience and Planning
No matter how good the rescue center or shelter treated him, there is going to be an adjustment period for your new dog. It can vary from one day to one week or even longer. During this time, he will need a lot of support, training, love and guidance. A solid plan can be a key to success. Plan ahead by deciding where the dog is going to sleep. In a crate, in a doggie bed, or with you? Find a spot where he can have his own bed, a place to decompress that is his and his alone, away from the hustle and bustle of children and your daily life. Your dog needs a haven where you can reward him for staying.

In addition to water and food bowls, he will need a leash, collar and identification tag. A pet identification tag is important because the unfamiliar environment may cause him to bolt initially as he familiarizes himself with the rules and layout.

Choose a veterinarian and know where the emergency hospital is.

Will the dog be allowed in all the rooms? On all the furniture? Deciding this ahead of time will allow you to decide where to put gates or other barriers. Remember that dogs are masters of escape, so if he is going to spend anytime in the backyard, the fence needs to have no holes or loose boards.

Separation anxiety is a real condition your dog may experience. Your dog has been abandoned once and he doesn’t know if you are going to come home. Try leaving the house for brief periods of time and keep your hellos and goodbyes low key. Make sure you have some toys he can play with while you are away.

Sibling rivalry could be another issue if you have an additional dog at home. Introduce the dogs to each other slowly … don’t expect them to be fast friends immediately (although it’s great if they are BFFs right from the start)! Initially it’s best to let dogs get acquainted away from home, on a walk or in the park so the established dog doesn’t feel his territory being threatened.

Expect the Unexpected
The shelter told you he was housetrained but he begins having accidents at home. Please remember there may be training lapses as he adjusts. Don’t punish him for accidents, especially after the fact because he won’t get the connection. Instead, take him outside frequently and reward him with a lot of praise when he pees outside.

Dogs love routine so it’s best if he gets up at the same time every morning, eats at the same time and place, and sleeps at the same time and place. The more structure you can give your adopted senior dog, the easier will be his adjustment.

Look for the Signs of Fear
Fear is usually the force behind aggression, so look for things your dog may fear. Contrary to public opinion, comforting the dog when he is afraid does not reinforce the fear. Speak in a soft voice and stroke him gently until he calms down.

Every senior dog will adjust to his own environment at his own pace. Don’t worry if it takes longer than anticipated.