By Phyllis DeGioia
A rescued adult dog needs patience while adjusting to his new home. In the beginning, he will be on his best behavior, but at some point -- a few weeks or months, sometimes a year -- you will see that he has become comfortable and knows he's home.
Dogs who have lived only outdoors or were neglected or abused will typically take longer to adjust than rescues who have already lived the good life in a home. And some dogs may take six months or even a year before they begin to bark or engage in other common canine behaviors.
"It takes some time for a dog to understand that this is not a halfway house, this is not a stopping point, and it's a real deal," said Betsy Banks Saul, founder of PetFinder. "It's a miraculous moment if you catch it."
Saul fostered a "polite" dog who had screaming nightmares once a week. After the dog went to her new home, the owner called two weeks later to say that there hadn't been any nightmares. But she also said that for the first week the dog was perfect. Then all of a sudden, the behavior of a 6-month-old puppy came out, and the dog ate all of the kids' toys, all of the woman's shoes, and chewed the leg of the dining room table.
"She was behaving well because she didn't know her place," Saul said, and then "she got into a good place and realized she was here for good, and she was going to come out."
Another dog Saul had for six months just whined once in a while but was otherwise silent.
"Then, suddenly, I heard a funny noise. The dog was on the landing looking at a squirrel. I said, 'Oh, good boy! Good boy!' and he suddenly let loose with this ear-deafening roar and kept barking. Somewhere he'd gotten the idea that he shouldn't make a peep. I disavowed him of that."
If a rescued dog has baggage, usually it's from anxiety issues or because he has spent years living in the backyard. It's confusing to a dog to start living inside, where people use the toilet while he must go outside.
"Now he's in the house, and he's not going to know the rules. He may be tentative and apprehensive. He'll watch for rules, but he'll figure it out quickly," Saul said. "Or he will think rugs are porous like grass and are good to pee on, but that's a smart dog who has never had exposure. There's great hope for that dog."
To decrease the number of pets surrendered for behavioral issues and to help new adoptees in their new home, PetFinder launched its Train FurKeeps program. It involves using positive rewards to train a dog so that a bond is created.
"Our belief is that a bond will determine whether you go back or not," Saul said. "Even if the dog came with some baggage, if there's a bond, people will work through it. You learn to converse with each other and teach life skills. You'll adjust more quickly."
All dogs need mental stimulation, and they need to have fun during training. It shouldn't be only basic obedience. If you're spending time learning fun tricks, the rest of the relationship will fall into place.
"If you've trained a dog to turn and look at his butt when you go, 'Phhht,' that's a bond. People won't return that dog."
Phyllis DeGioia is a member of the PetConnection team and the editor of VeterinaryPartner.com.
Short-nosed pets at risk
for travel by air cargo
Q: I'm moving cross-country, and I need to figure out the best way to transport my two Persian cats there. Is it safe to ship them by air cargo? -- via email
A: Because Persian cats have short noses and can be prone to breathing difficulties, they should not fly in the belly of an airliner. Travel in the cargo bay is not only extremely stressful for any pet, it also exposes your pets to extremes of heat and cold, both of which can affect their ability to breathe comfortably. Animals with flat faces, like your Persians, as well as Pugs, Boston Terriers and Bulldogs, to name just a few, are less tolerant of temperature extremes than other breeds.
And no matter what type of animal you are shipping, there is always going to be some risk involved. Pets get lost or escape from their cages and become injured or even killed if their kennel overturns or falls off the conveyor belt as they are loaded or unloaded from the plane. Some pets become frantic and hurt themselves trying to get out of their shipping crates.
The best solution is to take a flight in which you can carry your cats on board. If that's just not feasible, look into shipping them with a company that transports pets in the cabin of the plane, with attendants on hand to care for them, or a company that specializes in shipping pets and can ensure that your cats are properly cared for.
If there is no alternative to flying your cats in cargo, choose a direct flight, an overnight flight or one at off-peak times. Take your cats to the veterinarian for a complete checkup beforehand to ensure that they don't have any underlying health problems that could be affected by the flight. Do not tranquilize your cats beforehand. Tranquilizers can blunt an animal's ability to pant or to deal with temperature extremes he may encounter in the cargo area. Make friends with the cargo personnel and ask for a phone number that you can call to follow your cats' progress. Make sure they have your cell phone number so you can be reached immediately if they have any questions or problems. -- Kim Campbell Thornton
Dogs put a bite
on insurance costs
-- Medical expenses from dog attacks on mail carriers cost the U.S. Postal Service $1.2 million annually, said the Insurance Information Institute, which noted that in 2010, dog attacks accounted for more than one-third of homeowners' liability insurance claims, totaling about $413 million.
About 4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year, with the majority being kids. Last year, 5,669 postal employees were attacked in more than 1,400 cities. Houston tops the nation in dog-bite incidents involving postal carriers, with 62 attacks last year alone.
-- All cats are born with blue eyes, with the transition to their adult eye color beginning at around 5 weeks of age.
-- Does a bear eat in the woods? Yes, if you're there and he's hungry. Researchers say the most dangerous bear to run into isn't a mother with cubs -- it's a hungry one. A study by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and Brigham Young University shows the greatest risk to humans are solitary male black bears hunting for food. From 1900 to 2009, statistics showed 63 people were killed in 59 incidents in Canada, Alaska and the lower 48 states. In all, 88 percent of fatal attacks involved a bear exhibiting predatory behavior, and 92 percent of the predatory bears were males.
Other findings: Bears involved in attacks were not usually familiar with humans; bears who have killed humans were likely to attack again; people in groups of two or more were less likely to be attacked; and human food and garbage does attract bears and increases the chance of an attack. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Mikkel Becker and Ed Murietta
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" and "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Dr. Becker can also be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker.