I read a lot of information about getting a dog before I brought home my two pugs. I had expected to get a puppy, though. A lot of what I had read focused on getting a puppy, instead of adopting adult dogs. I read so many posts that warned about things like a “honeymoon period” that fades after a few days, and then a much more difficult period with problematic behavior. I had read about how some dogs don’t bond to their new humans very quickly. I knew there was some risk they would be angry at first, and might be pretty naughty. I was prepared for the worst. I’m glad I was, because that is a possibility. However, I still found myself very surprised by our actual experience. This isn’t to say that your experience will go like ours did. I feel like we got lucky in a lot of ways. Still, here is our real experience of adopting a bonded pair.
When we brought home frank and beans they were 8 and 9 years old. We were told they had been crate trained at night, and their previous owner gave us a large crate that they were used to sleeping in at night. We didn’t have much information about their personalities or activity levels. So at first we assumed what we saw was just their normal.
The first three or four days they seemed both lazy and energetic. They would lay around lazily for several hours, and then burst with energy running around, trying to mount each other, and so on. My assumption was that was just how they were. I tried getting them to play with toys, or run around with me outside to get some energy out but they were very resistant. I thought the only way to expend their energy was by regular walks because they didn’t seem to have any interest in toys or playing with me. They just seemed wound-up, though. They never did anything that struck me as naughty. It was only their third night with us when they started crying when I went to cage them or the night. They hadn’t wined at all the previous nights. By then we had left them home alone for a few hours and they hadn’t had any accidents or chewed anything. We decided to try letting them sleep in bed with us. It went great and they’ve never slept in the kennel since then! It was day three or four that I realized I was head over heels in love with them. I was surprised at how quickly I grew to really deeply care about them. I had worried that getting up at night to let them potty, or just cleaning up their hair and such would feel like a lot of new responsibility because I hadn’t had a pet before. The extra work never bothered me though, because it was just taking care of them and I liked them so much so quickly. They also seemed fairly comfortable with Ryan & I from the beginning. They would lay next to us when invited, and spend almost all of their time staying in the same room that we were in. They never just walked around or spend time in rooms that nobody else was in. After about a week those “zoomy” periods almost entirely disappeared. They just became pretty lazy all the time. At first I wondered if they were depressed. However, around that same time they seemed to get really attached to Ryan & I. They wanted to lay with us all the time, and they started licking us on occasion. It took a while for me to fully realize it, but they weren’t getting depressed, they were just relaxing with us. I think those zoomy periods were bursts of nervous energy. As they got more settled in and bonded with us, their anxiety largely went away so they stopped having those crazy bursts.
It took a few weeks, but eventually they started playing with us, too. I think it was 4-5 weeks after we brought them home that they first started playing tug with a plush toy. Unfortunately it was poorly made and broke within that first day. I was so excited when they first played with us. It felt like they were fully accepting us! I purchased so many dogs toys in the few months following that, trying to find out which toys they did and didn’t like. They did turn out to be pretty selective with their toys. I did a post about my pugs favorite toys a few weeks ago. Even to this day, our dogs won’t play with any of our extended family members. We have family members who they see regularly, and love sitting with and getting attention from but they won’t play with them with toys. They both seem to require a very high level of trust in order to play with someone. I’m not sure how common that is, but it’s sort of sweet to have a special experience that they only share with Ryan & I.
The only other aspects of adopting the pugs that surprised me were base don me being a bit ignorant about dogs in general. I knew that most pet owners used flea medication regularly. However, I didn’t know that we needed to start treating them for fleas even if they didn’t have any obvious issues. We didn’t even have them for a full week before I saw a flea on them! Then it took a few days for flea medication to arrive in the mail. I assume they had fleas before they got to us, but I don’t know for sure. Still, it takes 3 months for flea medications such as Frontline to work fully due to the 3-month flea life cycle. I wish I wouldn’t have wasted any time treating them for fleas because those first 3 months of them being itchy was really rough. I’ve never been late on their flea medication since then because I don’t want to risk that happening to them again. Itchy dogs makes for a miserable household all around. Our vet believes that Frank has a flea allergy which probably makes it worse. Still, my advice is use flea medication year round and don’t let yourself be late on a treatment. Be sure to ask the person you get your pet from if they have been medicated with any flea medication though so you don’t treat too early.
The last aspect was changing their belly problems. I had read that it’s best to keep a dog on the food their previous owner had them on for a while, until they adjust. Changing their home and their food, toys, bedding, etc all at once is a lot. I understood the concept of letting some minor things like their food remain constant for security. However, I waited quite a while because the previous owner gave us a decent amount of food and I thought I should use it up. I think it lasted us about two months? Once we changed foods, I saw a big improvement in their bathroom habits. The previous owner had them on a very cheap food so upgrading seemed to make a big difference. Their fur was softer, they licked their paws less and their potty habits were more regular. I feel like we got lucky by choosing a food that worked well for them on our first try, but I wish I wouldn’t have waited to finish their old food before switching. Prior to switching they had licked their paws a lot, and were constantly going back and forth between being constipated or having diarrhea. I thought they just had sensitive stomachs. So once I realized that changing food brands made such a big difference I felt guilty for waiting so long.
Have you adopted an adult dog in the past? What went well, and what struggles did you have? Did anything surprise you?