The second hand dog has become commonplace. He may be a champion you purchase from a fine kennel. She may be an established brood bitch you wish to add to your breeding program. Or it may be a dog who was disappointing as a show prospect. More often than not, the secondhand dog is slated for pet hood and his somewhat checkered past is rarely revealed in full. In fact, the dog in your life who needs a bit of patching and refurbishing may even be a found dog, a treasure left somewhere to fend for himself in a cold, cold world.
Whether the older, used , secondhand, pass-around dog you know was recycled for a "legitimate" reason or not, you will have taken on a problem. Solving the problem, or more accurately, the set of problems that come with your new pet, can be most satisfying, and necessary pastime.
If your secondhand dog has been abused, neglected or battered in any way, even by being low man on his pack's totem pole, you'll want to change your rules and standards for him, at least for a few months. I would not take a dog who had been wandering the streets or neglected in a kennel run and teach it not to jump up. In fact, I'd be delighted to see a dog with that history jumping up to say hello. And while any new dogs needs a dose of R and R (rules and regulations), the hand-me-down dog needs more than that. He needs in fact, more of everything: more good food; more grooming; more contact; more company; more bonding activities; more long, solitary walks with you; more exposure to your particular environment; more time in your car; more games; more patient training.
FC Shenandoah Drummer Boy. Drummer's record included 37 AKC wins, 29 points, 4 majors, 17 American field wins: 1969 All Age Dog of the Year, Associated Bird Dog Clubs of Ohio. He was the WCA Eastern Field CH and in 1969, the WCA National Open CH. BD January 11, 1963
Since every dog has a history, if your new friend comes without one - or with a sketchy one - careful observation will help fill in the missing details. You'll never get them all, but you'll get a surprising amount of information by watching quietly while your dog adjusts to his new home and new playmates. You'll learn more by watching without interfering than you'll learn by jumping in and trying to control what he does. Eventually, alone with him, collar and leash securely on your pet, the training process will be another stage in your learning about him, while he learns to understand what you want and what you'll praise or correct.
While each of us has certain standards of behavior for our pets, the secondhand dog, in some severe cases, may not be able to live up to your most fair standards. Something in his past, something you may or may not know about, may eliminate the possibility of you using a crate, for example. There are some dogs that will not tolerate confinement, especially if they are grown when first exposed to it. In this case, the dog may be destructive when left alone. This is a most difficult rehabilitation case because it will take a month or more to work the dog out of it. The chore of conniving the dog that past is past and this is now, will take time and cannot be done with words. But if you are one of those who feels that "if it isn't me who'll help, who will it be," here are some guidelines for helping a slightly or very used dog to adjust well to your new and loving home. Remember that you may not be able to do all of these things with every pass-around dog, particularly, as stated, item #1.
1. Buy and use a crate. Give your wanderer a permanent den, a room with a view, a place to call home, somewhere where he can dream and rest in peace. In most cases, the crate will offer security to the dog who badly needs just that. Some dogs will do better with the crate in the hub of the house- the den or the kitchen. Others need a quiet place. Some like a good view and even some conversation while they rest. Others need a towel draped over the crate or the comfort of a semi-closed-up, airline-type crate rather than the all-wire models. This can be discovered only by trial and error. Luckily, most of these dogs, even the homeliest ones, are so sweet and needy that you won't want to stop trying until you get the job done.
2. Bonding is urgent. Make time for the dog in your life. Tie your new dog's leash to your belt and keep him attached for five minutes at a time, working up to an hour a day, indoors and out. Tie-on time is silent time. Don't keep hammering away at the animal in an effort to get acquainted. Don't be a distracter. Let him understand the full implication of the physical attachment to you (leash on belt) and let him make the decision to watch you. Dogs are not verbal animals. Give him time to absorb the way things are in silence. He's smart. He'll get it. He'll become attached to you as figuratively as he is literally in this exercise.
3. Train with patience, affection and quiet firmness. Your rules and regulations will help make the dog secure in his new home. But he has lost something profound. He'll need good reasons to feel proud of himself again. You can give him those. Whenever he does something worthy, let him know it. Don't gush and stop the training. Coo to him like his mother used to and keep the work flowing. Work is the best medicine for anxious, insecure creatures. It even works for people in trouble.
4. Give your pass-around pet the best diet you can afford. He needs it to combat the stress of change. Even if the change is for the better, it will still cause stress at first.
5. Explore with our new dog. First explore your house and grounds with him. If your "grounds" are your block, fine. Explore it. Continue off your property and into your neighborhood. Make big circles, the way he would. Walk around the block one way and reverse the next. Walk from your driveway left and go right the next day. You can watch him getting familiar with the turf and enjoying knowing where home is. Ah, home. Who doesn't feel that way? Now, play a game with him. When you get near home ( a house away, a block away, an acre away), tell him GO HOME, GO HOME and run him to your door. Now, get down with him and praise and hug. Kissing is in order, too. Here's a dog who'll soak up affection. That, in fact, is on of the rewards of working with a slightly used dog. Now take your dog out in the car when you have places to go. Show him the world. Make him bold. Make him yours.
6. Grooming time isn't just for knots and mats. Grooming him relaxes both of you It's another quiet way of getting the message across - I love you, kid. You're here to stay. Grooming is a nice ending for a walk, a training session, or a hectic day.
7.The dog is a contemplative animal. He's a hairy computer. He likes to looks around, take things in , occasionally make a print out. Take some long, silent walks with your new friend. Get to know him away from home, away from your kennel, your kids, your other dogs, your phone, your cuisinart, your answering machine, your power mower, Go someplace quiet and pretty and watch your little sponge soak it up. Learn to see like a dog, like this dog. You'll love it.
8. Bed your new dog down in your room. That's seven or eight hours of bonding time at no cost to you. Again, it's an important message. You belong to me. But don't , in your zealousness, let the dog spend the night on the bed with you. This message says, We're equals. And, of course, you're not. While you may have to put up with a time of crying or destruction or jumping that you would not tolerate from a dog who started out with you, still you do not want to initiate anything that is false, that is a lie. Keep the dog in his place, in his crate or on a mat, but in your room, Staying alpha will help get the proper message to your dog. And that will help the rehabilitation process along too.
It is not true that a puppy will only make a strong bond during the first few months of this life. And, while it is indeed wonderful to bring home a wooly ball that still smells like mother's milk and raise him "from scratch," a secondhand dog can also become a fast friend. He can indeed bond well to a second owner and he can indeed provide the kind of loyalty and companionship that bonds all of us to the family of the dog. The rehabilitation of a secondhand dog is , in fact, a rich project, one you're unlikely to regret or forget.