First, what is a stray dog?
Not a simple term to define, according to a report of the World Society for the Protection of Animals & The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals International, and that’s because countries differ in their interpretation of “stray,” with many of them having national and local regulations for stray animals such as dogs and cats.
However, out of the necessity to conduct an investigation of stray dog and cat population control practices across Europe, the report presented the following classification of stray dogs:
- In some countries, any dog that’s been found in a public place without a responsible person as companion may be classified a stray and collected accordingly.
- Unwanted dogs are also classified as stray, which means their owners have abandoned them completely. They may become feral, with low survival and reproductive rates.
- The third type of stray dog is an ownerless dog that roams the streets, but with one or more members of the community providing it with basic needs in order to survive. They are the major contributor to the overpopulation of stray dogs.
In the United States, based on the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’s pet statistics, more than 3 million homeless dogs are admitted in animal shelters yearly, with 2 million of them getting adopted every year.
If you are one of these kindhearted people who don’t hesitate in offering such poor animals a forever home, you’re doing the planet a lot of goodness. These animals need — deserve — a second chance to enjoy life and be loved.
But adopting a formerly stray dog may come with a few challenges, according to PetHelpful. The problems may arise from certain behaviors that your new fur baby may be exhibiting as it starts to adapt to a new human family and new surroundings.
However, be assured that these challenges can be overcome with patience, love, and understanding. The fruit of which, of course, is joy and happiness for your whole family!
- Fearfulness. It is natural for a dog to be scared of a new environment and new people. The problem may be more serious if your newly-adopted dog is a victim of neglect, maltreatment, or abuse. Loud noises and sudden movement may easily frighten him. When you encounter this problem, focus first on how to earn your dog’s trust. You start by perceiving the world through its eyes and making a list of his triggers. Then, you should set an avoidance safety zone to make him relax and feel secure. Desensitization follows next, then counter-conditioning. Be sure to reinforce alternate behaviors with rewards. You can also make use of calming aids to soothe your new fur baby. Then, you can turn these relaxing and enjoyable activities into a routine that your dog will always look forward to! For sure, the result of your efforts will surprise you!
- Roaming and Wandering Habits. These are common habits among stray dogs, and chances are your newly-adopted pet still feels the urge to roam around like it used to. To prevent your new dog from escaping, it’s best to have a strong and secure fence around your yard. Just in case you can’t build a fence, opt for an outdoor dog kennel or dog pen and gate where your pet can move around comfortably. Your other options are a tie-out cable, a long line, and teaching your dog about boundaries.
- Urine Markings. This is a means of communication between dogs. They learn things about each other by picking up the pee-scent. Peeing on vertical surfaces is strategic for them since these are up to nose level.
- Lack of House-Training. This is another problematic behavior you may encounter with your new dog. They instinctively avoid making their eating and sleeping areas dirty, but they go potty everywhere else. However, you can still potty-train your dog by patiently teaching him where you want him to take his potty breaks through schedule. Make him familiar with the area, ensuring it’s different from other areas in your home, like the rough feel of the yard compared to your smooth floor.
- Food Scavenging. Stray dogs have been used to getting food from trash cans or stealing sustenance from other places. You may also observe that your former stray dog tends to eat quickly and behaves possessively toward his food, always suspecting that other animals will try to take it away. Buy dog-proof trash cans for your home and install baby gates in your kitchen and around the dining table to discourage scavenging.
- Predation. Stray dogs have the instinct to hunt down smaller animals. To avoid this kind of problem, building a fence to keep out the critters is a good option. You should be extra careful, as well, with other small pets at home like rabbits and cats, because they could cause a predatory drift in your new dog.
- Excessive barking. Newly-adopted stray dogs may react to unfamiliar sounds or sights by barking excessively. You should observe what triggers your dog and use the “hear that” method to help him cope with it.
- Overprotectiveness Over Resources. In the wild or out in the streets, stray dogs often fight with other dogs for food or shelter. Your new dog may have carried this behavior to your home. Get professional assistance from a dog trainer or dog behaviorist to deal with this problem, if necessary.
- Destructive Behavior. Some dogs react to stress by engaging in destructive behavior. Other dogs have never had a home before; that’s why they don’t know how to behave properly in a household. Dogs that are bored or lacking in exercise may also relieve their frustration by destroying things. But this behavior is especially prevalent among dogs with separation anxiety. You should do your best to find out what’s causing your dog’s destructive behavior, then train it accordingly. When you have to leave your dog for a long period of time, you can also try giving it a toy or treat that it can chew on while you’re away. Meanwhile, some dogs appreciate being left alone at home with the television or radio on.
- Feeling Trapped at Home. Since stray dogs are used to roaming freely, your newly-adopted former stray dog may feel uncomfortable in his first days or weeks at home. He may feel anxious, start whining and pacing, and beg to be let out. You should put extra effort into helping your new pet to like his new forever home. You may opt to crate-train him, but don’t expect your dog to love it instantly — or learn to love it at all! To prevent your dog from escaping with possible disastrous consequences such as getting into a dog fight or hit by a car, having a fence without gaps will ensure his safety. Spaying or neutering will also aid in minimizing your dog’s urge to escape and wander. Keeping your dog engaged in various activities that stimulate his mind and body will also make your dog’s life enjoyable with you.
- Stressed by Human Care. Stray dogs are not familiar with baths and grooming, including veterinary care. Depending on your dog’s level of discomfort, you can either slowly teach him to adapt to your loving care or seek professional help. Some dogs, when they feel frightened or threatened, may bite; that’s why you should observe your new dog carefully before building a close bond between the two of you.
- Refusing to Walk with a Leash. This is another aspect that may present a challenge to you. Since stray dogs are used to total freedom, a leash can make them uncomfortable. Your dog may resist by scratching his collar or even by making a struggle! First, you should choose a sturdy leash that’s escape-proof, but don’t push your dog to like it at first sight. For your dog to appreciate a collar and a leash, they must be associated with something positive. Also, you must view a dog leash as a means of communication between you and your dog. So take this as an opportunity to build a beautiful and steadfast friendship between the two of you.
Former stray dogs can be trained to become happy and comfortable in their new forever home, nourished by human love. Just give your new pet the time and space he needs, so he learns to trust and eventually love you back. Look at the world through his point of view to understand his fears and anxieties; this way, you can fully support his needs and become his best friend. Don’t hesitate to seek professional help if your dog needs this kind of intervention to alter problematic behaviors. Yes, it may take extra effort and time, but a dog’s undying love and loyalty is a reward beyond measure.
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