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Adoption Jitters

Shelter Dog
Photo Caption: Arcaion

The new dog isn't working out. He doesn't like the food you bought him. He won't take the treat you offered. He's ignoring the toys you gave him. He's sort of stand-offish. He's making it clear that he doesn't trust you.

What is wrong with him? After all, you've brought him into your home. You are providing him with a forever home. You'd think he'd be overjoyed to get out of that shelter, to live with a family he can count on, one that he can trust.

But that's the point. He doesn't know that he can trust you and he doesn't know he's with you to stay.

Often, especially with rescues, we think our new dog should be ecstatic over his new forever home. We don’t recognize that "forever" is a concept that the dog has not yet experienced. Forever may be a word he has heard before, but it has not worked out well for him in the past.

It is probable that someone else was once smitten with his cuteness. That didn't last, for reasons far beyond his power to comprehend. For all the dog knows, you’ll act like you love the hell out of him for awhile. Then you’ll either boot him out on the street, bring him back to the shelter … or worse.

dog at fence
Photo caption: Temur85

For many dogs, the animal shelter is the only place they have found a measure of acceptance, comfort, and stability. The car ride that will be such fun later was a worrisome thing today as you drove away from the place he felt safe. He has no idea what's in store for him next.

Was your new dog fostered? If he was you have taken him away from a very comfortable place that maybe was starting to feel like "home." A place where he was well cared for by people who like and understand dogs. It's no wonder you aren't his hero. Just be thankful he doesn't see you as a villain.

If he doesn't.

Dogs don't have the capacity to judge others except on what they have experienced in the past. For some dogs, this adoption isn’t their first rodeo. They have been through the "catch and release" more than once. It’s no wonder that it takes a fair amount of time to trust in a new caregiver and adjust to a new home. They say, "Time heals all wounds." Even if you can't see any outside injuries, you must be patient. Give your new dog the time he needs to heal on the inside. He's worth it.

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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