Rescue Ranch Adopters Can Always Get Help With Their Dog

Last week, we looked at Rescue Ranch’s free weekly dog socialization classes, which are open to any dog owner, adopters and the public alike. Following up on that article, this week I wanted to focus on our lifetime commitment to our dogs and what that means for adopters. We try very hard to find the right match from the start, but we’re in it for the long haul. That’s why at Rescue Ranch adopters can always get help with their dog, no matter how much time has gone by.

We’re happy to report that our return rate is consistently below the industry average. And, unlike many other rescues, we’ll always take our dogs back. What we want, however,  is for our adoptions to be successful. That’s why we do everything we can to help Rescue Ranch dog owners overcome challenges with their pet.  We believe that good outcomes are the result of working in partnership with adopters. In our book, rescue is for life.

It would be impossible to avoid returns altogether. Life is full of unforeseens that can dramatically change an adopter’s circumstances. And, of course, some matches just don’t work out, despite our best efforts.

The rule of three

The “rule of three” states that a new dog takes three days to recover from the shock of being in a new home, three weeks to start showing their full personality and three months to understand the adopter’s expectations ( and for adopters to adjust to the dog too).

When they go home, we go over the dog’s needs and discuss the rule of three with new adopters. But we still occasionally get returns after just a few days. In extreme cases, after just 24 hours! Usually, what the dog needed was time to acclimatize. The return would probably have been unnecessary if the adopter had called us and asked for help.

Typically, we hear that the dog reacted, snapped or bit, when the new owner took the food bowl or toy away from the dog, pushed the dog off the couch, or introduced the cat on the first day. We know why it happened: the dog wasn’t ready and it was on sensory overload. It wasn’t “bad” or “aggressive,” it was scared and overwhelmed. It couldn’t possibly know the rules, and it didn’t trust the new stranger grabbing for the food bowl. Usually, the correct approach would have been to let the dog get its bearings for the first few days and not assume trust.

Lord knows, puppies aren’t good citizens right out of the box. They’re exuberant and mouthy and can get pushy. They definitely have no idea that play-biting hurts humans. It’s all normal, they’re puppies! Now imagine an adult or senior animal that was dumped at a shelter or abandoned on the streets to fend for itself. Maybe it was picked up and placed on a kill list before being transported and then moved to yet another rescue. Now they’re in a new home. They have no idea what’s going on. They need patience. Their trust has to be earned.

Ask for help early, Rescue Ranch is here for its adopters

Many returns occur because adopters didn’t ask for help in time. They didn’t call us when they first ran into difficulties and didn’t come in for our free classes. They didn’t ask for advice from our dog handlers and didn’t contact professional trainer Debbie Raymond. All of our adopters get a free 30 minute consultation with her.

At Rescue Ranch, we know that issues will arise and some of our adopters will need help. We hope they’ll contact us earlier, rather than later when they’ve reached their breaking point. Unfortunately, they’ve given up by then. Please don’t wait to call, that’s what we’re here for.

One of our residents came back after over a year because he was reactive to the man of the house. The children were very attached to the little dog and the feeling was mutual. He tolerated their mother.  It turns out that the father has a demanding job with a variable schedule. The dog was probably confused by this “here today, gone tomorrow” human who didn’t spend any quality time with him. Perhaps the dog was more wary of men to begin with. If the family had called us earlier, we probably could have helped. We would have given actionable advice, which, if followed, would have improved the relationship between the dog and both adults.  Addressed early, it’s unlikely that a return would have been necessary.

Sometimes, a return is the only solution

Of course, we can’t guarantee that we’ll always find a solution.  Sometimes a return is the only answer, even when the adopters are fully engaged in making the relationship work.

One family adopted a wonderful dog from Rescue Ranch, and they loved him dearly. He was, however, highly focused, super intense and played too rough around the young children. We worked with them, using many different approaches. They also came to class. They tried for months.  In the end, though, the dog was just never going to work out with a young family. Everyone did their best, but we eventually all agreed that a return was the only fix. It’s rare, but it happens.

That was the exception rather than the rule. In most cases, when problems are addressed immediately and owners are engaged in the process, we can overcome challenges and the adoption is successful.  If not, we’re still here to help. We’ll take the dog back. What we’ve learned in the process will help us find a better match for the dog as well as the adopter.

In any case, whether you adopt from us or not, remember the rule of three: “three days, three weeks, three months.” And get help when you need it. You’ll be amazed at the satisfaction that comes from taking the time to build a meaningful, trusting relationship with your dog.