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Adopting An Adult Dog With Behavioural Issues

 by jaime on 14 Aug 2014 |
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It's a shame how many loving, friendly and well trained dogs get passed up at animal shelters in favour of undeniably cute puppies. While all dogs that find themselves in animal shelters deserve to find a forever home, the reality is many adult dogs get left behind, even though there are so many benefits to adopting a mature dog!

Many adult dogs are already housetrained and have mastered basic obedience, so quite often you can skip past these stages and get on with enjoying your new companion.

But what about when the adult dog you've adopted has behavioural issues?

The reality is, there is always going to be a period of adjustment for you and especially for your dog. You may or may not experience these common behavioural problems:
  • House soiling
  • Separation anxiety
  • Vocalising
  • Chewing
  • Jumping up
  • Pulling on leash

Most shelters do an evaluation and will notify you of any behavioural issues they've come across. It's also a good idea for you to closely observe your pal to see if you can detect anything for yourself. Anything you do notice is likely to be replicated at home - but don't let that put you off! Your soon-to-be dog has possibly been untrained and so the experience would be no different to adopting a puppy.
Some adopters of adult dogs experience a honeymoon period, whereby it would appear that they've adopted the perfect pooch until days or weeks later, undesirable behaviour makes itself known. It may be because they finally feel comfortable in their new home, are testing boundaries or stress from life with their previous owner has subsided, revealing their true nature.

In the first instance, take your new dog to the vet to rule out any unknown medical conditions that may be the cause of these behavioural issues. If nothing has been found, you can start training them yourself or you can seek out obedience classes or a trainer to help curb their behaviour. Remember, most problems are solvable with plenty of love and patience.

In the first few days in their new home, dogs may express the following normal behaviour:
  • Lack of appetite
  • Wariness
  • Hiding in various places
  • Timid body language
It's your job to make your new dog feel safe and comfortable as soon as possible to help rid them of any feelings of anxiety. It also helps them to reveal their true selves, which is important for you too.
  • Dog proof a room that they will be comfortable in or place a dog bed (with toys) in a spot where they can see you and your family but is still a distance away.
  • Be slow and consistent in your attention and affection towards your dog. If you are too full on to begin with it will set up an unhealthy precedent and could lead to separation anxiety.
  • Maintain your usual routine so your dog becomes used to their new surrounds and life quicker.
  • Serve their meals somewhere calm and quiet.
  • Make plenty of time for regular exercise and playtime, which are crucial to your dog's happiness and wellbeing.
  • Make sure they receive lots of socialisation and appropriate training
And never, ever physically punish your dog.

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