Even the loveliest of dogs and cats may take time to adjust after time in a shelter. Here are some tips to ease any bumps in their transition.
If your newly adopted companion is urinating on the floor, the first thing to do is assess whether the issue is that they’re not house-trained, or they’re simply marking their territory.
Territorial marking is quite common dog behaviour – they’ve busted out of the shelter and wants to make sure any other canines in the vicinity know your home is now their turf. Try distracting your dog while they’re in the act with a loud noise such as a clap. Also reward them when they goes in the right place, and they’ll soon learn where they can and can’t go to the toilet.
If the problem is that your dog or cat isn’t toilet house-trained, it’s important never to shout at or punish them. It’s not their fault they doesn’t yet know where to go, and it’s up to you to teach them. Do this by taking them outside to their designated toilet area – or to the litter box for cats – after every meal, nap or play session, then offer lavish praise and a food reward when they does their business in the right spot. They’ll get the message in no time.
This behaviour is known as resource guarding, and it’s common in rescued pets because they’ve had to be protective in the shelter to avoid losing items of value to other dogs or cats.
Resource guarding needs to be addressed early or it may escalate to aggression or even biting. Start by removing your pet’s access to whatever it is they’re particularly possessive of. If it’s a toy, take it away. If they’re protective during mealtimes, feed them in a low-traffic area of the home and remove their bowl as soon as they’re finished. They should soon realise that their behaviour means they’re the one losing out.
When a dog or cat is surrendered to a shelter or picked up as a stray, it’s not always possible to find out much about their background or previous home. That means they may have certain fears or display behaviour that makes perfect sense to them, but seems odd to their new family.
Imagine, for example, how it may take time for a dog to adjust to new family members to love, different rules to learn and new people, places and smells to what they’re used to. Fears and anxiety can often be overcome with time, patience and gentle, reward-based training, but if your pet seems highly stressed, consult your Greencross Vet or an accredited veterinary behavioural specialist.