It’s been almost four months since we brought our Gizmo-pup home. He was about nine months old when we adopted him. And when I say about, that’s because he was found abandoned and the veterinarians who took care of him have guessed his age and his approximate birthday. They’ve also guessed his breed.
That’s what you get when you adopt a rescue dog.
A lot of unknowns.
But you also get a lot of love.
And boy does Gizmo love to snuggle. He’s a 60-pound lap dog…
In my four months of owning a dog, I’ve learned a lot. And, if you’re thinking of adopting a dog, here are some things you should know.
Don’t believe everything you’re told about the rescue dog.
Animal rescue organizations take dogs in and give you the best information they can. Some keep dogs in a shelter atmosphere, others house the animals in foster homes. In both of these situations, they monitor the animals as much as they can to learn about their behaviours, their likes and dislikes, and what training they understand and what training they need. But, once the dog comes home with you, their behaviour may be different.
We were told a few things about our dog:
- He was kennel-trained (spoiler: he is terrified of being alone in a kennel)
- He didn’t understand how to play with toys (spoiler: he looooves his toys now)
We were told our dog was kennel-trained. But when we went out a few days after we brought him home and left him alone in his kennel, he panicked. I’m talking about a full-on freakout. He was at risk of hurting himself. He bent the metal bars with his teeth and moved the kennel a full foot over with his 60 pound body inside. I’m not saying the foster family that took care of him lied to us. Not at all. I firmly believe that he did just fine in the kennel in their home. It was a different kind of kennel and he had another dog in the house with him. After we realized what was happening and how he was feeling when alone, we tried leaving Gizmo free in the house. And he’s been completely fine. Most of the time, when we’re gone, he finds a comfy spot on the couch and has a nap. (And yes, we spy on him with a camera so we know he’s safe and not getting into anything.)
As for the toys, in less than two days of being with us, he was playing fetch and squeaking his plushie toys. He loves to chew and chomp, he is amazing (and annoying) at finding the squeakers in his toys and repeatedly squeaking them.
There will be bad behaviour.
Dogs are animals. And when they’re puppies, they are like little kids. They have energy and they aren’t always sure what to do with it. They get scared (especially if they’ve been hurt before) and they will react or misbehave when something scares them. It’s normal. They need to learn how to behave.
Part of your job as a pet-parent is training your dog and teaching them how to behave. It can be hard and frustrating when your new dog doesn’t listen. But practice makes perfect and the effort you put in to reward your rescue dog for good behaviour will help them learn how to behave well.
Gizmo gets scared. If someone new leans over him to pet him, he cowers and growls and barks. He’s afraid of things like shovels and brooms. We think he might have been hit by someone and that’s where he learned this behaviour. He’s improved greatly since we got him and isn’t as afraid of the broom or shovel. We’re introducing him to new people, teaching him that his bed is his safe place, allowing him to approach friends when he feels safe to do so. And, as of next week, we’ll be doing some training classes to help him learn even more manners and skills.
It takes time for the dog to settle in and know for certain that this home is their home, forever.
Dogs are smart. They remember how they’ve been treated. And when they are moved around from home to shelter to home, they lose their confidence.
A lot of what we’ve seen in Gizmo has been him realizing that yes, this is his home for keeps. He had at least one other home before the rescue and foster family found him. He was house-trained and had an ear tattoo before he was abandoned. Someone loved him, then dumped him. Then he went to temporary homes. So, when he came to us he probably wondered how long he’d be sticking around. Understandably, Gizmo was nervous and wasn’t always on his best behaviour. But now that he’s been here for nearly four months, it’s pretty clear he knows this is home. He’s much more relaxed. He’s learning lots. And, he even gets silly sometimes. It’s adorable.
There will be moments when you wonder if you’ve made a mistake in adopting this dog.
Dogs are a lot of work. They take time and energy and money. And when you first get a dog, it’s hard to know what they are thinking or why they are acting the way they are. When your dog misbehaves it can be incredibly frustrating. When they bark or growl or don’t listen, you might wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into. Did you make a mistake bringing this dog into your family? Did you do the right thing? I’ve talked to some other people who have adopted dogs and have come to the realization that it’s completely normal to have these moments.
When we first brought Gizmo home, he was scared. He met two new people who took him from his home and his buddy dog and put him in a car for two hours. He was then brought into a new house in a new city where he was the only dog. And, to top it all of off, he had a painful ear infection. To put it mildly, he didn’t behave super well those first few days. And, having never had a dog before, I was overwhelmed. Did we make a mistake? Should we have left him with the foster family to wait for someone else to adopt him? But then he trots over and puts his head in my lap for pets and looks at me with those sweet eyes and I know we didnt’ make a mistake. He loves us as much as we love him.
You’re going to have a schedule to stick to.
For people with busy social calendars or who love sleeping in on the weekend, this can be a big deal. Your dog needs to eat around the same time each day and they need you to give them their food. Gizmo gets breakfast at 7:30am on weekdays because we gotta get up and get to work. So guess what? He gets breakfast at 7:30am on weekends too.
Dogs need to be let outside at regular intervals to go to the bathroom too. If you work outside of your home and can’t bring your dog with you, guess what – you’re gonna have to head home as soon as that workday is done. That dog will have been holding their business for hours and hours. So after work drinks are going to have to wait until you’ve gone home and let that pup outside.
They also need their exercise! Dogs need the physical exercise and the mental stimulation of sniffing around on a walk. If you have to go to work, guess what? You’re probably going to need to get up extra early to give that dog a walk before you leave them for the day.
You’re going to have to deal with weather.
It doesn’t matter if it’s sunny and nice outside, cloudy and windy, raining or blizzarding. That dog needs his walk. If you’re not willing to put on that parka or that rain poncho and get outside with your pup, maybe you shouldn’t adopt one right now.
The cliche “a tired dog is a happy dog” is so true. Gizmo gets annoying when he hasn’t had a walk. He gets into things and chews things he shouldn’t (like my winter boots) when he hasn’t had a walk. But after a brisk walk with lots of stops to smell other dogs’ pee or the grass or even just the air, he naps and plays with his toys for the rest of the day and is generally a well-behaved puppers.
Your house will never be as clean as it used to be.
I like my house clean and tidy. I could sweep and mop every day now and it will never truly feel clean because as soon as I let Gizmo back into the house there is dog hair in the air and paw prints on the floor. If he gets a drink, he then drips water across the hardwood as he walks back to his comfy spot.
When you adopt a dog, you’re welcoming them into your family. And just like any other immediate family member, your house is their home. Their stuff and their mess are part of that.
There’s a lot of poop. A. Lot.
My backyard is now a poo-pocalypse. He poops a lot. And it’s big. The bigger the dog, the bigger the poops. And you gotta pick it up and put it in the trash bin. Keep that in mind.
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Allow me to introduce you to my new reading buddy Gizmo. Also affectionately known as Puppy, Doggo, Roadblock, Puppers, Chompa, Gizimodo or Gizmo-mo-mo-mo. 🐾 Gizmo is about 10 months old. We adopted him from @mistycreek_dogs, a local rescue organization about three weeks ago. He is the sweetest dog imaginable and immediately found his way into our hearts. 💗 I’ve always wanted a dog. And while Gizmo is quite a bit of work, he’s super smart and is learning a ton. And, I’m getting so much more exercise! I’ve already had to increase my daily step goal once and may need to raise it again soon. 🐾 Do you have a doggo? What’s their name? . . . #dogsofinstagram #adoptdontshop #rescuedog #rescuedogsofinstagram #puppy #blacklab
Before adopting a dog into your home and family, think about these things. Are you prepared for the work a dog takes? Puppies need to be potty trained. Rescue dogs need help overcoming whatever may have happened to them earlier in their lives. All dogs need to learn to listen to you, to pay attention and obey even when there are distractions. Dogs cost money (we’ve been to the vet three times in four months!), are messy, and require attention.
If you understand all that’s involved, though, adopting a dog is so worth it. The companionship, the laughter (dogs are funny creatures, ya’ll!), and the exercise are great.
What would you add to this list?