Since I've been involved with Stray Rescue, I've noticed several recurring reasons why dogs and cats are returned to us. In many cases, these are simply problems that can easily be solved with a little patience and training. An understanding of the unique nature of a stray animal is also needed to gain some insight into why these animals may act differently when they first come to your home. An excellent article for owners of rescued dogs is on our Second Time Around page.
Below are the most common reasons dogs and cats are returned, and ways to overcome them. I'll be adding to this list as more crop up.
The Dog/Cat Growled at My Child - Before you pack up your new pet and send him back to us, take a close look at the situation that caused the animal to growl. Did the child treat the pet roughly? Did he/she suddenly jump at the pet, or grab it and squeeze it too hard? Many times children don't understand that this is a living creature, not a stuffed toy. They need to be taught to treat the animal with respect, and pet it gently. Be careful when allowing your child to run when a large puppy is around. Puppies love to chase, and they may nip when they catch up. This is not aggression on the part of the dog, it's just the way puppies play with each other. They roll around and nip each other, working out who is dominant. This behavior will eventually stop when the puppy reaches adulthood. Even my two poodles gave me a bruise or two when they were young puppies and I let them chase me around the house. But now they're a couple of couch potatoes!
The Dog/Cat is Too Playful - This is perfectly normal! Puppies love to play. Didn't you play when you were a child? Sure you did! And adult dogs who were lonely strays on the streets are so happy to have a safe and loving home, that they're bound to be playful for a while. They've certainly had no opportunity to play out on the streets. My terrier, Binks, who was abandoned as a puppy right before Christmas, is a bundle of playful energy, and I love it! It doesn't take a lot of effort to play with your dog and make him happy. I play with Binks even when I'm watching television. She brings her tug rope or stuffed toy to me, and I pull on it with her and throw it. If I'm outside with her, I run around the yard a bit, and pretty soon she's tearing all over the place, and all I have to do is stand there and act like I'm trying to catch her. There's all kinds of little games you can play with your pet that don't take up that much time, and will satisfy their urge to play. And you get the added benefit of some exercise! As they get older, the playfulness will wind down. My poodles and St. Bernard (also a rescue) are happy to lie on the couch and play only once in a while. Please don't return your pet because he or she is a perfectly normal happy, playful animal.
My New Rescue Pet and My Current Pet Don't Get Along - This will often happen at first. One way to lessen the problem is to introduce the two pets on neutral territory. Don't just bring your new pet to your house one day and spring it on your current pet. Your pet is bound to get territorial on his own turf. Take them to a park or your neighbor's yard and let them get to know each other. There will always be a transition period when they work out the pecking order. In our house there is a definite pecking order of who is boss amongst the four dogs. And don't make the mistake of petting the underdog first. Always pet and feed the top dog first, then the rest. I felt sorry for our oldest poodle because he was obviously at the bottom of the totem pole, and I started petting him first. All this accomplished was to get him picked on by my top dog terrier. When I petted her first, she was happy, then didn't kick up a fuss when I petted the rest of the pack. Little skirmishes will also occur over toys and bones. This is also normal. As long as things don't get out of hand, let them work things out. Make sure that each dog has a bone or toy, and encourage them to leave other's toys alone.
Of course, there will be situations when a dog or cat just isn't suitable, and must be returned. But I hope that everyone who adopts a rescue from Stray Rescue will be patient, and take the time to help things work out. Obedience training is also very helpful in these cases. Some of our rescues are obedience school graduates (Chewbacca, for example). And please take the time to call us or email us if you have a problem with your newly adopted pet. We will do our best to help you along.
Above all, thank you for adopting a wonderful pet from us!