Rehoming an Older Dog
by Karen Brittan

This can be anything from a rescue to a dog retired from a breeding program. These dogs may or may not come with "baggage", but initially the reactions from any of these dogs may be quite similar.

Andy, a rescueOne of the first things that must be done is to thoroughly check out the fencing to make certain that there are no areas that might allow the dog to escape. I personally can attest to the fact that a schnauzer can get through an opening that is 4" wide. (Master earthdog tests have a 6" tunnel restriction... that is enormous for most schnauzers!) Many older schnauzers are going to want to try to return to familiar surroundings, and thoughts of escape may be high on their priority list.

The new dog has now moved in. What should the new owner do to help the bonding situation?

First of all, there should be NO visitors to see the new family member for the first few days! I cannot tell you how may people have friends and relatives over the very first night... along with their dogs!... to meet the new arrival. Your new dog is already going to be under plenty of stress. Do not make it any worse by throwing more strangers into the mix.

Moji, a rescueNever answer the door while the dog is loose. Either pick him up and hold him firmly while answering the door, put him in his crate, or put him on a leash to avoid the possibility of him dashing through the open door and running away. Remember, he doesn't know you and wants to get back to what is familiar to him.

Housebroken or not, pretend you just brought a new puppy into your home. Crate him when you cannot watch him and take him outside every couple hours, praising him profusely when he eliminates in the proper spot. He doesn't know your schedule and you don't know his; he doesn't know where the door or potty area is. The first several trips outdoors should be on leash (a Flexi-lead is even better as it allows him a bit more room to roam). Although you may experience problems with his eliminating on leash initially, just have patience and give him time to come around. The more frightened the dog, the more he will try to shut down.

Draco, a rescueThe way to most schnauzers' hearts is through their stomaches. While I don't believe in treats, getting a new dog to bond with you is an exception. Instead of setting that food bowl down in front of him in the morning, use that food as his treats throughout the day. Every kibble he eats must come from your hand. Use it to reward him for small things throughout the day, even if it is calling him to you from two feet away. This will also help if the dog is learning a new name.

For those dogs who might be harder to get through to, take a six-foot lead and put it around your waist, and after sliding the snap through the handle of the leash, attach the snap to the dog's collar, making sort of an "umbilical cord" from you to the dog. Wherever you go, the dog must go. You will function as one. This forces the dog to become more in tune with you and what you are doing. While the new dog really needs your undivided attention during this time of bonding, don't forget to allow him nap periods occasionally during the day. If you plan on an active day, put him in his crate so that he can get some rest occasionally, but working on that bonding should be your primary goal the first few days.

I have placed many older dogs over the years, and I find what works the best for the dogs is to do three home visits. If I have more than one dog to place, I take the two dogs together so that I can better evaluate which dog might work out better in the new home. We just sit and visit for a couple hours while the dog is allowed to just "hang out". The prospective new owner is encouraged to feed the dog pieces of kibble.

With the first visit, the dog is generally quite stressed. He knows something is going on, Lady, a rescueand he tends to hang fairly close to me. This is a very common reaction. When trying to determine if one dog might work out better than another, I watch to see if one dog is more open to overtures from the prospective owner than the other. Some of the dogs will readily accept food, while others will not on this first visit. Remember, these dogs already have a bond with me, and transferring that bond to a new owner is extremely stressful for the dog, but certainly *will* happen with a bit of effort on the new owner's part. Expect that these dogs might not be interested in interacting on that first visit. This is not uncommon.

The second visit is usually done about a week or so later. The time between the early visits is a good time to have the dog altered if it hasn't already been done. I generally incorporate the alteration costs as part of the dog's price, which will vary according to the dog's age. Enough time should be allowed for the dog to heal before that next visit. If the dog isn't neutered before placement, the new owner needs to wait a few weeks until the dog is comfortable in its new environment before scheduling surgery. This entire transition from one home to another must be kept as stress-free as possible.

Rebel, a rescueA noticeable change will be seen in the dog on that second visit. He will be much more comfortable... much more relaxed. He will take food more readily and may be more willing to explore the house (although some won't be comfortable with exploration until the third visit). Their attitude starts to become, "Hey, I was here before and nothing terrible happened to me!"

Generally, the third visit is the final visit. It starts out just as the previous ones, with simple chatting, answering any remaining questions, and finalizing the paperwork. The dog and I then retire to the bathroom together for our final goodbyes, where the dog is left alone for a period of time after I have slipped out the door.

Those dogs who could be more aptly termed "extroverts" will adapt more readily than those who are more "introverted", and schnauzers can run the gamut from the dog who would go home with anybody to the more common one-family dog. Occasionally a schnauzer will be a one-man dog, but these are fairly rare. Schnauzers are an extremely loyal breed, but any can be rehomed with lots of love, attention, and time. Giving an older dog a chance for a new life may be the best thing you ever did!

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