Tails from a Rookie Dog Owner
In this blog series, I’ll be talking about my experience rehoming a rescue dog. From making the initial decision to choosing an adoption centre and preparing for your home visit, it’s all here!
Read on to find out what you MUST decide on from the start. And why it’s VITAL that you stick to your guns.
Taking the leap.
This year, with the cottage interior walls in place (just), I decided to take the leap and finally find a wee dog of my own. Years spent working in the equestrian industry, I’ve met too many animals who have been passed from pillar to post. As tempting as the glassy eyes of a puppy might have been, what moral compass I have pointed me gingerly in the direction of a ‘rescue dog’.
Step 1: Identify Your Non-Negotiables
I once read that the key to a successful relationship is to decide early on what your non-negotiables are, and then do not compromise. Applying this logic, I only had a few conditions for my new furry compadre. It must be good with other dogs, under 2 years old and not hairy.
Having visited a local centre at the tail end of last year and met some totally unsocialised dogs, I was sure I didn’t want something with pre-existing aggression problems. It’s one thing to socialise a young dog but another to try and eliminate deep rooted aggressive behavior. And plus, that’s just something I wasn’t willing to do.
It’s fairer for everyone involved if you’re honest about your boundaries from the start.
When I started out, I met a few dogs as old as 6. Now at the risk of a tirade of abuse, I came to the realisation – one I am very glad of now – that I wanted a young dog. Under 2 years old preferably. At this age, the rookie dog owner is still in with a chance of ironing out old behaviors with the added bonus that it might even have some training.
As much as I would have loved a Husky or an Akita – breeds I know well – I don’t love dog hair. All over the house. My wee cottage is already teetering on the edge of chaos with its collection of pony paraphernalia, mucky boots, and unfinished renovation projects. So big stinky hairy dogs were off the list.
Liberated by my newly formed checklist, the search was on. But where to look and where to go?
Step 2: Be clear about what you want. And stick to it.
Choosing a Centre
I checked my local centre first to find they had a lovely 6-year-old German Shepherd bitch that had been on their website for a while and looked sweet as a nut. Good with other dogs, sometimes wary of new people but a good natured girl all round. Notice here that already two of my cast iron requirements have been abandoned in the face of a pair of puppy dog eyes.
I e-mailed the centre on Saturday, expressing my interest and to arrange a visit for the Sunday. Stressing in my e-mail that I needed something that was good with other dogs as with the nature of my lifestyle, it would be amongst other dogs on a daily basis. They replied, cheery, and it was all arranged.
Potential Doggy #1
We drove the 40 minutes to the centre to be greeted by a lovely lady who’s first words were to apologise that she had not read my e-mail properly. Not only was the GSD not okay with other dogs, she had attacked more than one other bitch at the centre. Not a great start. Disappointed but in the spirit of irrational decisions, we decided to meet her anyway. On entering the room, the nice lady advised us to keep our hands in our pockets…
Next thing we know, the exuberant animal bounds into the room, jumping on countertops, boxes and us without any guidance from the handler. On the contrary, the dogs seem to be allowed to pull whatever they like out of boxes, from countertops and local human being’s pockets. This absence of training or boundaries was something I noticed in a few centres, surprising considering not only its effect on the rehome-ability of the animals but the safety of their handlers. It goes without saying that centres are under a lot of pressure and are kept running by dedicated volunteers, but on this occasion, this poor lass was the only dog at this centre.
I braved taking a hand out my pocket. But the dog became aggressive to my OH – which in hindsight was probably for the best. For us and the dog. As much as I liked her, she wasn’t right for me and if it wasn’t for her reaction to OH I probably would be sitting here with a totally unsuitable dog, and two unhappy companions.
Take home: only fall in love with suitable recipients. Stick to your guns. No matter how clear you are, other people will still ignore your wishes.
Can’t help but think advice might have more than one application.
The search continues…
Look out for my next posts on choosing an adoption centre, my experience with The Dogs Trust and Preparing fro Your Home Inspection.