Introducing a Rescue Dog into the Family
Hello! My name is Alex and I’m the summer Marketing Assistant for Terrible Tobys. I’ve absolutely been loving the position and one of the tasks that I’ve been doing throughout my term has been coming up with and writing blog posts for our website, some of which you might have already read. One of my ideas was talking about introducing a new dog to the family, specifically introducing a rescue dog into your family and a previous dog. Over quarantine, my family did just that, and who better to interview about this is my mom! I asked her a few questions regarding our family history and her history with dogs, the process of adopting a rescue and things she learned.
Introduce yourself, the dogs and when/where we got them
My name is Fiona and my family currently has a mixed breed dog called Forrest. We adopted Forrest 2 ½ years ago from Texas through UDR. UDR rescued a group of dogs from a kill shelter and brought them to Canada in early 2020. Forrest is between 4 and 7 years old. Until last year, we also had a 13 year old Goldiepoo called Brooks who we got from a breeder when she was 6 months old. Unfortunately, she passed away in February (2021).
We originally got Brooks after not having a dog for a very long time as we wanted our kids to grow up with a dog. Brooks was the quiet one at the breeder who made herself as small as possible so she was overlooked by everyone. Really she was waiting for our family as she was truly a special dog.
We had always thought about getting a 2nd dog because we had been in a similar situation before and with Brooks getting older, it would help keep her young. Plus we know how heartbreaking it is to lose your dog so still having one when the other one passes helps soften the blow. Also, the first dog teaches the second dog the ropes.
I had been looking at a number of rescue organizations for a while but the timing never seemed right. We (Alex and I) had run into a rescue organization in August of 2019 at the airport in Aruba and that really made me think about it. Probably if we had been able to visit the organization before our last day, we might have brought back a puppy.
Back in February 2020 (before the pandemic) we saw Forrest in a social media post by UDR. There was just something about his handsome face and goofy personality that caught my eye. Several of the pics showed him interacting with the foster’s family daughter too. There are a lot of kids in our neighbourhood so we wanted to make sure he’d be okay with kids even though our kids are older.
Me and my husband’s very first dog Suzie was also a rescue which we didn’t really understand at the time. She had belonged to someone who no longer wished to keep her. She was a beautiful purebred Collie that somehow won my Mum over in just one night. My husband and I weren’t married at the time so she lived with me and my parents. At the time, we had no idea about rescues or any of the potential challenges that they may face. For the 1st 3 months, she wouldn’t go for a walk and she barked like crazy. We now know that she was just afraid of what might happen if she left the house. If only we understood about rescues needing to decompress.
After my husband and I got married we took Suzie with us to our new home and later that year got our puppy, Teddy. Our first every puppy! It was a rollercoaster but Suzie took the lead and showed him what to do.
What was the adoption process with Forrest?
To adopt Forrest, we made contact with the rescue organization and submitted an application. Then COVID hit and we weren’t sure if anything would happen but they accepted our application and on a very cold day about a week later, we went for a visit to meet him and to introduce Brooks to her potential new brother. Forrest was just how we saw him in the pics and he looked out of the window and my daughter was in love. We took him for a walk with the foster family and talked about him and how he was in her home. Brooks had no interest in him and Forrest paid little attention to her, truly the perfect siblings. Forrest was relatively calm on the walk and seemed easygoing. That night we confirmed with UDR that we’d like to adopt him and within the week he came home. In that week, UDR did a virtual home inspection and we finalized the contract.
When we heard the news that we were getting him the four of us were all really excited, particularly because by then COVID was a reality and we were already in lockdown. It seemed like the perfect time to bring him home as someone would always be around in the beginning. We were somewhat concerned about him as we knew nothing about his background, not even his real age. And one day we realized, Forrest wasn’t even his real name, it was just the name the original rescue organization gave him. But we thought it suited him and never changed it. He eventually got used to it. Based on what a sweet soul he is, we don’t think he had been abused. We strongly believe someone loved him, they just couldn’t keep him.
Did you do any research about introducing a new dog (especially a rescue dog) into a new family/environment? If so, what did you learn?
I talked to a number of my co-workers who had adopted rescues and some of the challenges to be prepared for. We heard the rule/philosophy “3 days to decompress and transition into your home, 3 weeks to learn and develop and routine in your home, 3 months for them to really “call” it home” but it’s not until you’re living it that it kicks in. Our first night with him was a bit crazy, he was jumping at food, surfing the counters, and upsetting Brooks. We tried to walk him that night and it didn’t go well as he was so reactive to EVERYTHING. I didn’t have any doubts, I just knew it would take time.
What I learned was to remind myself, that we don’t know what he’s been through and keep the 3/3/3 rule in mind. Some days I even add 3 years to the end of that as Forrest continues to change in our home. He also suffered the loss of Brooks. While she never really interacted or played with him, she was always there. They found a way to exist together. On some level, Forrest understood that her health was failing and tried to comfort her. He regressed in his behaviour for a few weeks. A bit like a teenager.
Walking him was a huge challenge. He was terrible on the leash and reactive to anything on wheels, runners, loud noises...it was so stressful. It got to the point that I would wait till it was dark and go out on my own. Kids would yell at me to get my dog under control! But without fail every time I brought him home from a walk, he got a treat. Initially, when we got him, he was a runner – if the front door was open he was gone. There were a few frantic chases. One time he slipped his harness on a busy road and we thought this would be the end of him. Miraculously, he turned around and ran back to us. We knew we were turning a corner when one day our side gate was left open by mistake. He took the opportunity to get out but didn’t take off, instead decided to lay at the front door waiting for someone to let him in. The treats had really paid off.
We also believe he likely slept outside as, during the first few months, he didn’t like to go out at night before bed. We believed he probably thought he’d get left there or he’d be sleeping. He also ate (still eats) very fast and would try and take Brooks’s food as well. Back in Texas he had a brother (Ranger) and we came up with the idea that they would have to compete for food, but he was never aggressive about it.
Walking still continued to be an issue. We were actually turned down by a number of places that did obedience training – they weren’t interested in working with him or us. We completed some training at a local pet store. We made a bit of progress but it was stressful for us going there, being at the store for an hour and coming back in the car. Yup, he wasn’t good in the car either. Eventually, I found this amazing man who came to our house and worked with us. It was life changing. With the right training method, anything really is possible. Forrest is now one of the calmest and quietest dogs in the neighbourhood. But as all dogs do, he still has his moments. We often say that he has many qualities that came from Brooks. But unlike Brooks, he hates the snow.
What works with a rescue or any dog is love, patience, understanding and acceptance. It will be challenging but it’s so worth it. Find someone to help you with one-on-one training. It might be expensive but it is so worth it. Above all, do your research. Go back a few times to visit before making a decision. Remember that rescue organizations are making decisions that are in the best interest of the animal. If you don’t get chosen, that’s ok. The right one is out there for you.
We through lots of information and stories at you but, we want to reiterate that when introducing a new dog into the family, especially a rescue dog, patience is going to be your best friend. We don’t know what Forrest’s background was so it was important to use to be patient with him and give him the love he deserves. Also, remember to keep in mind the 3/3/3 rule change won’t happen overnight and that's okay.
We would like to say that we are not experts on this subject, this was our family’s experience with rescue dogs and introducing a new dog into the family. We would love to hear your stories or tips you have with rescue dogs and getting a new dog.