Follow these steps to speed up
your dog's adoption and to
increase his chances.
Getting your rescued dog adopted
The time to begin preparing your dog for adoption is the day s/he is rescued. There are no guarantees but the more adoptable your dog is, the better his/her chances and the faster it will be placed. The dogs we list for adoption are all competing for homes and, here in La Paz, there are more dogs than there are homes. So we have a system to advertise dogs in the US, Canada, and other parts of Mexico to find the best possible homes as quickly as possible. In many cases, the family adopting your dog may not have met your dog– and will only have photos, video, and a description by which to make a decision. So the more you can provide in photos, video, verbal descriptions, and stories the better.
You will notice throughout this guide, we use the term “your dog” or “your rescued dog” and that is because when you rescue a dog here in La Paz, it is your property. The role of Amigos de 4 Patas is to support those who rescue dogs by helping them get the dog adopted. We do not have a shelter and we do not receive dogs that one person rescues and assign them to another person to foster. The shear volume of dogs needing rescue prevents us from doing this. If you take in a dog, it is your property until you relinquish it for adoption.
What we will do is offer assistance to get your dog adopted as quickly as we can by advertising it in various locations, qualifying adoptive homes, and getting your dog transported. We need you to help get your dog ready for adoption so we offer these tips to speed up the process. Click on any of the topics below to expand the explanation. It is YOUR responsibility to read and understand the information below – so please do so before you complete the intake form and as often as necessary to make sure you are following the process to ensure you dog will get adopted.
Depending on where your dog is adopted, it will need to clear customs and entry laws as well as specific airline requirements for transport. Since we do not know where your dog will be adopted when you rescue it, we follow the strictest protocols to ensure your dog is ready to go wherever its permanent home might be. Ultimately, your dog will need to pass a medical/veterinary checkup, have proof of vaccines, be free of internal and external parasites, be free of bacterial infections and communicable diseases, and be sterilized prior to adoption. The Amigos de 4 Patas Wellness Clinic covers much of this care as it is preventive:
- Quarantine/Observation Period – Your dog needs a minimum 2 weeks quarantine and observation period before it can come to our clinic. Because many of the dogs coming are unvaccinated or vaccines are incomplete, they are susceptible to communicable diseases. During this quarantine period, you can deworm your dog (if healthy), get your dog sterilized (if old enough and healthy), and apply a preventive product to control fleas and ticks. If you have rescued a dog that is sick, you must first take it to your veterinarian for treatment at your expense. This is because our clinic is for prevention only and we do not have the ability to treat many illnesses and injuries.
- Deworming – Your dog will need to be dewormed before applying vaccines and approximately every 3 months thereafter.
- Tests for Erlichiosis, Anaplasma, and Heartworm – It is necessary to perform this test prior to vaccinating your dog. If your dog is positive to any of these diseases, some treatment may be required to ensure the vaccine effectiveness.
- Vaccines – Vaccines are applied at least twice for adults and 3 times for puppies. The rabies vaccines must be at least (can be more than but not less than) 30 days prior to entry to the US.. We will work with you on the timing of this vaccine.
- Sterilization – Except for puppies that are too young, all dogs must be sterilized before they can be advertised for adoption. If your dog is on our waiting list and is healthy, this is something you can do to speed up the process of getting it listed once it is in our program. Sterilization is free of charge at Centro de Salud.
IMPORTANT: If you use your own personal vet for the above services, it must be at your cost and must follow the protocols above (Deworming, following by diagnosis/treatment of Erlichiois/Anaplasma and Heartworm, and proof of vaccines). Please keep all of your records (carnets) and make sure that all treatments, vaccines, deworming, medical care, results of tests are documented. Lack of documentation results in retesting, retreating, re-vaccinating and this is stressful for the dog and expensive.
From the moment you rescue your dog or decide to put it up for adoption, start preparing it to succeed in its new home. The goal is for your rescued dog, when adopted, to think his/her new home is WAY better than yours ever was and for him/her to bond with the new family rather than miss you and wish s/he could be back with you. Most potential adopters are looking for dogs with basic manners. You might feel it’s appropriate to let your own dog jump on people, get mouthy during play, or beg for food, but please do not let your rescue dog have these same indulgences. Set boundaries for your rescue dog, and be consistent.
Once your dog is fully vaccinated it can and should take part in our weekly training program – check our calendar for the next training event. Once your dog is fully vaccinated, it is mandatory that you attend this training program at least once a month so your dog can be evaluated, photographed, and advertised. However, you still need to work on the dog’s manners in the home and you can begin this right away as basic training and manners will increase adoptability. Shy dogs will benefit from your patience, routine, and slowly exposing them to new people to build their confidence. Rambunctious adolescents who learn good manners will help show off their trainability and long term potential. And while puppies are adorable, they need a lot of love, attention and hand holding from humans to develop properly and feel secure. Here are some things you can do to increase the chances your rescue dog will be adopted sooner. This is not an exhaustive list, but is a good place to start.
A dog that is leash trained will get adopted much faster than a dog that is not. If your dog is not used to a leash, put it on him/her and just leave it lay without holding it. Give the dog treats and gradually start walking with the dog in your home on the leash rewarding him when he walks with you. Then make each walk outside very rewarding for the dog and gradually s/he will come to love it. As your dog is leashed trained and assuming it is fully vaccinated, take it for walks on the Malecon or other busy places where it can get exposed to other dogs, kids, people, skateboards and learn not to be afraid of these things. If you feel your dog would respond well, you can ask strangers or kids to give your dog treats so s/he starts to become more friendly.
Remember when you are walking your dog on a leash to remain calm because your dog keys off your behavior. At the same time, always be aware of your surroundings. Always keep a good handle on your leash and be extremely careful around busy streets, or where there are distractions like other dogs, skateboards, bicycles, etc. If your dog reacts to someone/ something on your walk, interrupt the behavior by crossing the street or walk in a different direction. If you’re a runner/jogger, start off slow and keep an eye on your foster dog and see how they react. Many dogs pull when they are in front of you, and running can intensify this behavior. Keeping them at your side, rather than in front can help eliminate this pulling behavior. You may need to start and stop many times, but be patient. Remember, these runs should be about the dog, not about your own exercise. Puppies under 6 months old should not run with you and only occasionally, for short distances after 6 months. Also, remember your rescued dog probably is not used to running regularly, and like a person, will have to improve his conditioning and stamina over a period of time to avoid injury.
Make sure puppies have lots of new experiences, so they are well socialized and will be adaptable as an adult. Since it’s best not to take puppies out in public until they are fully vaccinated, bring new experiences to them. Expose them to adults of both genders as well as children as much as possible. Have friends over and invite children over to play. Always supervise playtime with children and dogs closely! Take your foster puppy in car rides (crate them for safety) to get used to the car. Keep in mind that puppies need to go to the bathroom frequently so be sure they eliminate before you go on a car ride, and keep the ride brief, since they will have to go again soon.
Human handling is especially important for the healthy development of puppies. Puppies should be introduced to new people every single day so they learn to be sociable and not frightened. Once they have developed into older puppies or young adults, it is more difficult to socialize them – so doing this while they are young is critical.
If your rescue dog is to be transported, it will be provided an airline approved crate prior to transport. Most dogs find crates to be safe places – think of wolves in the wild that like caves or dens. Most dogs feel safe and secure when they are there – kind of like a dog house with a door! Here are some ideas for introducing the crate:
- Place the crate (with a blanket inside) and toss in some of the dog’s toys. Put some treats inside and if the dog is hesitant, but them close to the door and gradually farther and farther back.
- If your dog still refuses to go near the crate, put the smelliest, tastiest wet food (or a steak!) in the crate and shut the door. Let the dog hang outside the crate for a while, smelling the food inside. Soon s/he should beg you to let him/her in!
- In time, you can close the door to the crate and then open it again. Place treats inside the crate and each time the dog goes in and you close the door, feed him/her some treats through the door and then let him out. You can gradually increase the amount of time the door is closed.
- If you have a puppy, you can try placing a warm hot water bottle wrapped in a towel next to him/her (during the winter months). Warmth makes puppies sleepy. Be careful of dog crates during hot weather and always place them in a shady area
Dogs should not be left in a crate too long especially at first. Do not ever use the crate for punishment — keep it a positive experience for the dog.
A dog with an unknown/questionable history may need to be observed for a while before being adopted. Many of the behaviors that we find problematic, such as barking, whining, digging, chewing, scavenging and hunting other animals are really just normal dog behaviors and can be explained as “dogs truly being dogs.” The easiest way to coexist with our canine companions is to provide more appropriate (aka human accepted) outlets for these behaviors. Some of the most common behavioral issues include:
- Attention seeking
- Garbage hunting
- Leash pulling
- Greeting manners
- Destructive chewing
- Puppy nipping and rough play
- Submissive and/or excitement urination
- Urine marking behavior
- Separation anxiety
- Resource guarding
- Prey drive
If your dog is exhibiting any behavioral issues, ask yourself the questions below:
- Is my dog getting enough exercise?
- Is s/he being left alone for long periods of time?
- Does s/he have interesting toys to keep his mind engaged and stimulated?
- Is s/he getting enough attention and playtime?
- Am I reinforcing bad behavior? Some examples include verbally scolding a dog when they are seeking attention or engaging the dog when s/he uses bad manners to get you to play.
- Does my foster dog have a safe place that is dog-proofed with appropriate chew toys, or am I leaving my own belongings within reach?
- Am I providing specific outlets based on his natural instincts and drives?
Regardless of the issue, most trainers now believe that punishment does not work because it will not address the cause of the behavior. In fact, it may worsen any behavior that’s motivated by fear or anxiety. Punishment may also cause anxiety in dogs that aren’t currently fearful. A common mistake is to discipline your dog after the fact. People often believe their dog makes this connection because he runs and hides or “looks guilty.” But dogs display submissive postures like cowering, running away, or hiding when they feel threatened by an angry tone of voice, body posture, or facial expression. Your dog doesn’t know what he’s done wrong; he only knows that you’re upset. Punishment after the fact will not only fail to eliminate the undesirable behavior, but may provoke other undesirable behaviors, too. Instead, look at the questions above and try to address the cause of the behavior.
Create a consistent schedule for feeding your rescued dog and feed at the same time and in the same space. If you have other dogs at home, start off you new rescue dog in a separate room and close the door – to prevent arguments over food. Train your rescue dog to sit and wait for you to put the food bowl down and to only eat from his/her food bowl. When you have done this, you can start feeding him/her with other dogs as long as all of your dogs are trained to eat from their own bowls. Do not feed any “people” food. You do not know what the adoptive family will want to do, so don’t start a habit they will have to break. By feeding only dog food, you are also discouraging begging.
Many household products can be toxic to dogs. Remove any rat or mouse poisonings, antifreeze and windshield wiper fluid from your home before fostering! And store cleaning products and other items listed below out of reach of pets. The following common food items are poisonous for dogs:
- Macadamia Nuts
- Onion, Garlic, and Mushrooms
The ten most common poisonous plants are:
- Sago Palm
- Tulip/Narcissus bulbs
In addition to all of the things mentioned above, you can promote you dog on your personal Facebook page, to your friends and family, and tell everyone you know about your dog. You can share your dog’s personal profile web page by going to his/her page and clicking on the “Share” link. Potential adopters can submit inquiries and applications to adopt your dog and we will process those. You can direct potential adopters to this section of our website which explains the adoption process. All they need to do is complete an adoption application.
Keep your cell phone ready to take photos and videos when your rescued dog is playing or doing something that is really cute or special and send those to us – the more frequent, the better! To include them in your dog’s web page – share them with the Adoption Coordinator for your dog.
During the course of finding a home for your dog, we may contact you with specific questions or need specific photos or video of your dog. Once we believe we have found a home for your dog, we contact you to tell you about the home and get your input. Some potential adopters may want to Skype with you first to meet the dog via video and talk to you. We will work with you to set this up. Assuming that all goes well, we will work with you to prepare your dog for the final steps to be adopted. If the home is here in La Paz, we may ask for a meeting, a sleepover or trial period to make sure everything works out well. If this is the case, it would be great to give your dog a bath, trim his/her nails and otherwise get him ready to meet prospective families. If you need help with this, please let us know.
If you find your dog a home and want to adopt it out yourself without our assistance, just let us know so we can avoid unnecessary work and money advertising and promoting your dog. We are always excited when we know a rescued dog has been adopted whether we are involved or not. The most important thing is to let us know as soon as you think you have a home. If later, things don’t work out, just let us know again and we’ll reactivate everything in our system.
If the adopter is in the US or Canada, we will be in contact with you to prepare your dog for transport and entry into those countries. This involves a health examination and certificate by the vet and we will need all of your dog’s current health records, carnet, and vaccination details in order to create the certificate that the vet will sign. You will be glad you kept all of those documents from the vet and had the vet enter all data in the dog’s carnet/vaccination book because this will be very important.
We will start looking for a “Pet Escort” who is someone flying to the same city your dog needs to go to as well as a volunteer to drive your dog to the airport (generally in San Jose del Cabo.) We will fly your dog into a major airport that is as close as we can get to the new family and recruit volunteers to drive you dog the rest of the way.
Transporting a dog into the US or Canada is a tremendous amount of work, can involve as many as 15 or 20 different volunteers in 3 countries. The timing of every step is critically important. Your cooperation, assistance, flexibility, and patience are very much appreciated as we work on this final step toward getting your dog into its new home.
Prior to your dog’s departure we will also microchip and register him/her keeping Hope 4 La Pawz as the Guardian. This means if the dog is found and the owner cannot be reached, we are contacted as a back up. This is our way of making sure the dog your rescued, fostered, and gave up for adoption will be in good care for their entire lifetime.
Once your dog is adopted through our adoption program, you will relinquish your rescued dog to the new family or to a volunteer who is transporting your dog and it becomes the property of the new owner with Amigos de 4 Patas remaining the “Guardian.” Once we have transported a dog to the US or Canada we initiate our follow up program to validate the dog is in good care.
The process of turning your dog over to someone else, either at the airport for transport or to the new family, can be emotional and there is no getting over that. We are all happy the dog is going to its forever family, but we are also going to miss his/her presence in our lives.
Because dogs sense all of your emotions, it is important to try very hard to think about the happiness your dog will bring to someone else and the wonderful life ahead for him/her. Try to approach this with as much of a celebratory attitude as possible so when you dog gets on the plane or goes to his new family, he is not confused, upset, or concerned about your emotions. Let the last thing your dog sees and remembers about you to be as happy as possible. This is all easier said than done and all of us shed tears, but we try to put on a happy face and attitude so the dog’s expectation for everything that comes after parting with you is happy and positive – not sad, depressing, or set up to miss you and look for you.
Once you dog is adopted, we invite the new family and you to a “secret” Facebook group set up to share photos and updates about your dog. This is not a requirement for either you or the new family, but many new adopters like the ability to share updates in a private controlled setting. Due to many privacy laws and concerns, we do not require the adoptive family to share their contact details with the rescuer/fosterer in order to adopt a dog. But we invite them to this page and from there, many new friendships are made. It is a choice on their part to invite you to “friend” them and we love seeing this happen.
Some families and adopters are extremely private and choose either not to join the group or may not even have a Facebook account. So we ask them to share a photo of the dog in its new home that we can pass on to the rescuer/fosterer. We also require them to allow a Amigos de 4 Patas volunteer access to the dog so we can follow up and ensure the dog is safe and well cared for. We are very careful to honor the privacy of adopters while still maintaining a relationship that allows our volunteers to check up on the dog.
Because we now microchip all dogs before going to the US/Canada, we are able to be contacted anytime a dog is located and the owner is not available. Hope 4 La Pawz will remain the “Guardian” of the dog for the remainder of the dog’s life.