Most people would be surprised at how many dogs are imported from one state to another and put in shelters and foster care. These dogs come from areas of the United States that have too many dogs for the local shelter to handle. Some are rescued by breed specific groups. But what most people do not realize is that many dogs are imported from other countries. Most of those dogs are street dogs which present a different problem.
Dogs from other countries do not understand our language, are used to a different climate, water and food. Many had to scavenge for food and have never had a good diet. They are often aggressive to other dogs because they had to fight to survive. They may also be wary of humans.
Rehabilitating these dogs can be done but may take much more time. Genetics play an important part in how well these dogs can be rehabilitated since temperament is inherited. A dog that has a mild temperament and who is not inherently aggressive may respond well to rehabilitation. As a rule of thumb you cannot change the genes but you can change or alter the behavior. This does not mean that a dog will forget what he has learned, but dogs are capable of learning to change how they react to given situations.
A good rule of thumb for rehabilitating foreign dogs is as follows:
- Give the dog time to adjust to the physical changes that he must face. This would include food, weather, water, where he is housed, general odors and language. Remember that scent is one of the key elements in a dog’s life. The scents of one place can be drastically different than another, even in the United States. This will mean that the dog has to learn a whole new point of reference. Even people smell different from one area to another. This is because the soil and plants that surround us have different odors and cling to our clothes and permeate our homes. Also the food we eat make up a part of a person’s general scent.
- Start easy basic training using a non-force method such as clicker training. No matter what language a dog has grown up hearing, all dogs understand human facial expressions and tone of voice. Take baby steps and use very short, (five minute) training sessions. Dogs need time to analyze and think of what is going on and relate to it.
- Give the dog space. Too much activity and people can make the dog withdraw.
- Do not house the dog with other dogs unless it is apparent that the dog is dog friendly. If the foster dog had to fight for its food and existence, he may not get along with other dogs.
- Do not be discouraged if the dog seems to backslide. We all do. Dogs have bad days just like humans. Give the dog a day off if he seems to be having a bad day and try again the next day.
With time and patience, a foster or adopted dog can adjust to a completely new environment, learn to trust humans and perhaps, enjoy the company of other dogs.