Did you know that October is Adopt-a-Dog month? If you were thinking about a small-dog rescue, now is the time! There are so many small and big dogs in shelters that need forever homes.
Small dogs are wonderful creatures. I’m what you might consider a medium-sized dog, but I have a lot of small dog friends, so I understand what’s important to them. Have you ever watched the movie King Kong? You know how all the humans are scared of the gorilla because he’s so much bigger than them? That’s what my Chihuahua friend told me it felt like for her. She said that when she was first adopted, she was very scared. She was nervous that one of the big humans would step on her all of the time.
Have you ever moved in with strangers before? Maybe you moved into the dorms in college. Maybe you moved to a new city and answered a classified ad for a roommate. Were you nervous? That’s exactly how your new adopted dog will feel. As the new pack leader, you’ll need to make sure he feels comfortable and safe, and you’ll also have to train him to follow your rules.
Do you know what your house rules are? The rules for humans and pets may be the same, such as no sleeping on the tables. Or they may be different – humans poop in the toilet and dogs poop on the grass. Before you bring home your new small dog rescue, make a list of the house rules. If you live with other humans, make sure everyone understands the guidelines. Training will be easiest for your family and your new dog if everyone’s on the same page.
Here are a few other things to consider about adopting a small dog:
New Roommates Need Adjusting
If you live with other people, you’ll want to prepare them for life with a small dog. No matter what age the humans in your household are, they will need to understand that rescue dogs have particular needs. Some will be automatically friendly, but might not be house trained, others could be quite timid and hide, others may scared, and only bond with one family member right away. Rescue dogs come with different personalities and different histories. Many times, the animal shelter doesn’t know what type of living conditions these dogs had before being brought to the shelter.
Prepare Your House
If you’re bringing home a small dog for the first time, make sure you puppy-proof your house. Just as you would baby-proof your house, you need to make sure that your new puppy is safe. This means that you want to be sure there’s nothing laying around that your small your dog could swallow (especially hidden on the floor), like bobby pins, elastics, tacks, or any other loose objects your new pet is likely to go after. Trust me, dogs love to eat things right off the floor.
But don’t stop at the tiny objects. Tape down electrical cords. Also, make sure any household cleaners are out of reach, and if there’s something fragile you wouldn’t want to get broken – like the floor vase you picked up while traveling in Bangladesh – you may want to consider moving it somewhere safe temporarily.
Make Training a Top Priority
When you bring a new dog into your house, you’ll need to teach him the house rules. But the most important thing to remember in a small dog rescue is that some of the rules in your house may have been different in their previous home. Be patient with your new puppy, but firm with your training. Just because your new dog may have relieved himself in his old house, doesn’t mean it’s okay for him to do it in yours.
Since potty-training is very important for humans, I’d suggest starting with that as your first priority. Pick a spot outside where your dog is allowed to poop and pee, and consistently bring him back to that very spot every time he needs to use the bathroom. If your dog has an accident in the house, bring him to his designated outdoor spot immediately. Use keywords like “bathroom” or “outside” when potty-training your new dog.
Training doesn’t and shouldn’t stop with the bathroom rules. Is your dog not allowed into certain areas of the house? Make that clear to him. Investing in a baby gate may help or keeping doors closed to close the off-limits room is a good idea. But remember, we canines are very curious creatures. Some breeds are even bred to find things. I have a couple of rat terrier friends, and they tell me they regularly sniff-check their house to make sure no rodents or squirrels have breached the walls. If your small dog is very curious, he’ll try to get into off-limits areas.
You’ll have to teach your dog other things, too, like where he should sleep at night and what toys are okay to eat (and which toys are really your footwear). Patience is the most important skill you can have as a trainer. I’ll bet your new dog is trying as hard as he can to learn your rules, but he might be confused at first, especially if you have different rules than he’s used to.
Consider Their Feeding Schedule
Before you bring home your pet, consult with the staff members of the small dog rescue about his current feeding schedule. You’ll want to ask what brand of food he currently eats, how many feedings he has a day, and how much food is given in each feeding. Don’t forget about water intake, too. You’ll want to ask if water is left out all day, or if he’s given it at different times throughout the day. Your new dog may already be nervous about his new home, and changing his feeding schedule could lead to a big belly ache. Who likes belly aches? Nobody.
If you decide that you want to switch your dog to a different brand of dog food, be sure to do it slowly. Add 1/4 of their new food into their previous brand for a few days. Then, gradually add more throughout the next week or so, and eventually you’ll be giving 100% of the new brand.
Next Phase: Socialization
Once you feel your dog has adjusted to your house rules, it’s time to socialize your dog with friends, family, and other animals. Invite your friends and family over to visit. Well, actually, it might not be the best idea to invite everyone at once. That might be too overstimulating for your new small dog. Humans are so tall, and it can be scary when too many are in one room. Invite your friends over one at a time or in small groups. If your dog does well with house guests, consider introducing your dog to the mailman and other humans who may visit your house from time to time, like landscapers or maids.
Little dogs have a tendency to be – how shall I say this without sounding rude – territorial. Which means they feel they need to protect the house from outsiders. I’d recommend getting a home security system if you’re looking for protection. Teach your dog who the safe humans are, and everyone will feel more relaxed to be around each other.
Have you ever rescued a small dog? What tips could you share with someone considering it for the first time? Let us know in the comments!
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