By Nikki Senecal
Editor’s Note: Nikki Senecal and her husband adopted Stella from the Animal Coalition of Delaware County last year.
At Stella’s first vet visit just days after we adopted her, the doctor declared, “Your dog has behavioral problems.” I replied that we had enrolled her in obedience classes. I was hurt by this diagnosis but completely unsurprised by it. My husband and I had spent the evenings with a dog who basically thought of us as human chew toys. What had we done?
I told this story to my sister who rescued her dog 11 years ago. She revealed that she had similar doubts for the first few months. In fact, when I was telling this story to a group of ACDC volunteers, one admitted that she wondered what they had done when the dog got in the car to go home with them!
Whether your cat is pooping on your bed, or your rabbit has chewed through PVC pipe flooding your bathroom, or your guinea pig is waking the kids from their naps, pets don’t always behave perfectly, especially in the early stages of a new relationship.
While every adoption is different, there are some steps we can take to make them happy and successful.
- Talk to other adopters. I can’t tell you how relieved I was when my sister said she had doubts about her dog. Sometimes all you need to know is that the adjustment to the new pet is just as hard for other people as it is for you!
- Attend obedience training. Not only will your dog learn some basic manners, but you will learn how to respond better to your dog. The classes will help build trust between you. Finally, dogs like to have a job and need intellectual stimulation as well as physical exercise. Obedience training helps with this too.
- Get specialized training. Stella’s mouthiness wasn’t being addressed in our obedience class. That’s when we hired a certified professional dog trainer. Knowing how to respond to Stella made our evenings much more relaxing.
- Restrict your pet’s space. Put the cat, its food, and litter box in one room until she begins to get used to her new home.
- Smells of home. If your new pet comes to you with a bed or toy, continue to use it as a “security blanket.”