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Bonding With The Adult Rescue Dog
by Charlotte Mielziner

Bonding with the Adult Rescue Dog

Carolyn was frustrated. Raven, the lovely five year old Border Collie she fell in love with and brought home was not the affectionate, loyal companion she expected. As the rescue group had claimed, he was housebroken, gentle with the cat and walked well on lead, but it was something else. He would come forward for a treat, hesitantly take it and back away. In the evenings, he would lay behind a rocker in the corner and stare at her as only Border Collies can. He only approached when he wanted her to throw a tennis ball. Frankly, Raven seemed better friends with the cat. Why didn’t he seem to like Carolyn?

There are many advantages to adopting an adult rescue dog. A reputable shelter or rescue organization will have examined the dog and provided spaying or neutering, shots, worming and often, microchipping. The dog is usually temperament tested for suitability in different home environments, comfort level with children or cats and energy level. Several dogs at the sanctuary fit Carolyn’s lifestyle and from those, she chose Raven.

The problem was that he had not yet bonded with Carolyn. Imagine leaving your first home and being tossed into an unknown environment. Unable to speak the language, you don’t know that this is forever. How long before you give your heart to the people who share your new life?

The wolf, the species from which dogs descended, closes its socialization window around the age of four to six months and rarely allows anyone else in their circle of friends for life. Luckily, the dog remains pliable enough in its emotional makeup to bond at any age, but it can take longer once they are an adult. How long? It depends on many factors. The age of the dog, prior experiences, temperament and the new caretakers ability to provide leadership and consistent interaction. We cannot predict how and when a dog will bond with their new owner. Sometimes, they give their hearts with the first bowl of kibble, or it may take a month or a year. Be patient, there are things you can do to assist this process.

1. Be the stable thing in your dog’s environment. Take him everywhere you can. Walk in the park today, stroll down a nature trail tomorrow and on errands the next day. You must be the predictable thing he can count on. Become a pack of two, together in all life’s adventures.

2. Take an obedience class. Even if your dog obeys basic commands, obedience training is the single best method to help new owners learn to communicate and bond with their dog. It is also the safest venue in which to socialize your dog with other dogs. In just a few weeks, dogs go from lunging, barking and anxious to calmer, focused partners with their handlers. An obedience trained dog is welcome in more places and has greater freedom at home. If you want to do agility, rally or another canine sport, basic obedience is a must. But, be careful where you go. Work only with dedicated, professional positive motivation trainers.

3. Touch your dog and speak to him as often as possible. The importance of touch should not be underestimated. Stroke him as you put his dinner down. Bathe or brush him yourself, telling him what a great dog he is. Make physical contact from you a pleasant thing by finding his favorite itchy spots and giving them a good scratch. You may even sit on the floor with him for a while each evening and give him a nice massage.

4. Play with your dog. This does not mean sitting in a lounge chair and throwing a tennis ball for two minutes while you watch TV. Get up and move. Give your dog your undivided attention for a while. You may try having several tennis balls and as the dog goes for one, turn and run a few steps and throw another. It means enjoying a really good game of tug, smiling, laughing and moving around. Truly enjoy the moment, enjoy the human animal bond.

Carolyn wisely chose to put all of these tips into play. Some adoptive owners can tell the moment their dog realizes he is truly in his forever home. Carolyn is not sure when Raven finally bonded with her, but he did. She thinks in this case, maybe it was a process that took place over time. She says, “We sort of bonded with each other.” The techniques listed above work both ways. Trust grew as a real friendship between Carolyn and her dog evolved.

Today, Carolyn proudly states she and her beloved rescue border collie make regular visits to a local nursing home. Each morning, Raven watches closely as she gets ready for the day and waits for a kiss on his nose. He dozes in the evenings with his head on her foot, so that when his special human moves he can be there, living life with his best friend.

Published: Oct 21,2008 23:56
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