I’m one of those people that added a new pet to the family during 2020; it wasn’t planned but a shared post on Facebook reached me and the first week of December ‘Leaf’ joined my family.
As an ex breeding dog (approx. 5-6) my heart went out to her, now ‘surplus to requirement’ she needed to be re-homed. Although her body shows the signs of being well looked she is understandably rather tired. The instant bond between myself and Leaf was amazing and a little unexpected, she follows me everywhere as I think she realises I’m the lady that dishes out the dinners.
Although incredibly well behaved, a long lead was invaluable those first few days whilst she explored the garden as we feared she would attempt to scale the 6ft fence to escape. Her manners are impeccable with only a few issues to overcome to date – crossing the road is one of them as I think her previous walks were mostly rural.
We were all very cautious at first, I didn’t know how she would react to Luna (who I have had for two years), my children or even my house with full-on Christmas decorations but luckily working from home I was able to keep a watchful eye as things settles down. She has even joined me on a few zoom calls.
We have had a few disagreements about food (the dogs that is, not the children) but mostly it has been ok. A few extra Christmas presents found their way under the tree and Luna and Leaf are fast becoming friends.
I’ve learned a few things that although would not have changed my decision to add Leaf to our family, has altered my opinion a little for any future pets to the house.
In my experience the last few weeks, bringing an older dog in has been far more rewarding than a new puppy. Having experienced both in the last two years I can safely say I will never have a puppy again (and my children even agree with me). I may have just been incredibly lucky (so far) with Leaf that she is so gentle and loving, and Luna has been very accommodating to her new pal but the rewards with Leaf are vast.
Did you experience the Rule of Three?
According to the book “Love Has No Age Limit” by Drs. Karen London and Patricia McConnell, it takes 3 days for the initial transition period from a shelter to your home. I can agree with this, those first few days we were all on edge. All the senses are on high alert and they are not to know that there will be new rules. Lots of positive reinforcements and patience needed and gentle reminders of what is expected (where do you want them to go to the toilet, are they allowed on the sofa, is your slipper a nice thing to chew?)
At 3 weeks your dog knows you and your house a bit more, remembers that you feed them at regular intervals, may even know your wake-up time or become your early alarm clock. With a lot less fear, combined with the excitement of having a new world to discover the true personality of your friend is now appearing. It maybe they don’t like cars or they are not used to the road noise; think about where your dog may have grown up as it could answer some of the little quirks that are starting to show themselves. In my home, Leaf has certainly got used to who we all are, who is the easy target to steal food from and when no really means no. One of the main issues with an older dog is like the saying goes ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’; Leaf knows what she likes and even if I say no sleeping on the bed if it is something she has been allowed to do in the past then who am I to change her habits.
By 3 months your dog will be ‘top dog’ in the house, they know more about what boundaries they can cross (they will still try to push them but they also know you more too and when you really mean “down”) and what the treat cupboard door sounds like.
As we are only just past the first few weeks I cannot wait until she is more settled and the trust is firmly there. I worry that I haven’t left her much so I know I need to work on her separation anxiety that I do come back if I leave the house. Currently we have cries from her if I nip out the room so this will be my next big task. Any tips will be gratefully received!