Shelter Dog Adoption Guide

Millions of dogs reside in shelters or in foster homes just waiting for someone to make them permanent members of their family. The ASPCA says there are nearly four million dogs in shelters across America. Bringing home a puppy or an older dog can be an exciting, selfless endeavor.
 
Shelter dogs have the capacity to be loving, devoted pets. Unfortunately, many such dogs have been dealt difficult hands, ending up in shelters through no fault of their own. Prospective pup parents should be aware that there can be a transitional period as dogs acclimate to their new homes. Understanding what to expect the first few weeks and months can be helpful.
 
Creatures of Habit. Dogs are creatures of habit and feel most comfortable when they know what to expect. Moving from a shelter into a home can be a big change. Shelter dogs will need time to understand the workings of a household. By remaining consistent and patient, dog owners can help their pooches acclimate to their new surroundings. Feed the dog at the same time and place each day. Take the dog for a walk the same time each day with the same route. Knowing what to expect can be calming for the dog.
 
Housetraining Regression. New puppies likely do not fully know the rules of housetraining, but even older dogs who may have been housetrained can regress in a new environment. Pet parents may have to go back to basics and reinforce housetraining lessons.
 
Shyness and Anxiety. It's not always possible to know what dogs went through before landing in a shelter. Shelter workers may have conducted certain tests, such as food aggression or resource guarding, but that only paints part of the picture. It will take time for the dog to trust and understand, and dogs may be timid and experience anxiety for a brief period. Some may even act out by exhibiting damaging behavior. Don't get discouraged by the evidence of these behaviors, but rather take the time to note their existence and find practical ways to work around these traits.
 
Safe Space. It's important to establish a space where your new dog feels comfortable, especially in the first few weeks. It not only is an area that can keep the dog out of trouble as he or she learns the rules of the house, but it also can serve as a safe haven that is familiar and comforting. Spaces like this can also be beneficial when having house guests, or for noisy and stressful holidays like 4th of July, so that your dog always has a place they can call their own.
 
Training Classes. Whether you're adopting a puppy or an older dog, you may find it beneficial to enroll in training classes. Obedience training can also help keep your dog safe in situations where following your commands could prevent accidents. Even if your dog already knows a few commands, it's worthwhile to have an expert help you, and it can be a great bonding experience for the two of you. 
 
Vet Care. Make an appointment to have the shelter dog checked over by a vet as soon as possible. This helps everyone get on a vaccination schedule and can pinpoint illnesses or behavior problems. Many shelter dogs have common communicable illnesses like kennel cough or worms that require prompt treatment. It's also important to build a rapport with your vet so that in the event of a future illness or issue, less time will be spent establishing a base knowledge, and more time can be spent addressing the issues at hand.
 
Patience & Unconditional Love. The new addition to your family will need all the patience and understanding that you can muster. Some days might be frustrating, but in the end it will all be worth it when you and your dog adjust to your new life together. A dog can offer you unconditional love, and all you have to do is return the favor.
 
Shelter dogs can become warm and loving pets with the right care and a little patience. Are you ready to take the next step? Check out some of the links for local shelters below.
 
Brandywine Valley SPCA
Georgetown, Delaware 
 
Delaware Humane Association
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware 
 
Wicomico Humane Society
Salisbury, Maryland 
 
Worcester Humane Society
Berlin, Maryland 
 
Easton, Maryland