What do I need to get for my dog?

  • Leash & Collar - A martingale style collar is the best collar to prevent dogs from slipping out. You can also get harnesses available in a wide assortment of styles and colors too, we recommend going to a pet store to get your dog properly fitted and to assure the quality will be good. There are even options with reflective or light up material/stitching to make walking at night safer. We suggest you stay away from harnesses that are secured by Velcro and cheap material as those can be easily broken and es capable.

  • Quality Food - We feed our dogs premium dog food, so make sure that your dog stays on a high quality diet after you adopt. Of course that means the food will be more costly, but better quality foods lead to a healthier dog. Poor food could lead to overfeeding and increased medical costs.

  • Food & Water Dishes - Pick a spot and leave them in the same place so your dog knows exactly where to go for water. Make sure the water bowl is clean and has fresh water at all times. The safest pet food bowls are made of stainless steel - stainless steel bowls are unbreakable, durable, dishwasher-safe, and easy to keep clean

  • Crate - Crates are not a punishment - they make the adjustment period less stressful for you and your new fur-baby. The crate should be big enough for your dog to stand up, turn completely around and lie down comfortably in.  However, if the crate is too big your dog may have accidents in it, so pay attention to crate dimensions and the dog weight/height it is recommended for.

  • Toys - Safe toys help dogs ease stress and, of course, have fun! Having toys available will ease the adjustment period. Always supervise your dog when playing with toys. You can leave him alone with heavy duty toys like Kong sometimes, but check for damage periodically to avoid choking hazards.

  • Grooming Tools - Keep a brush, comb, and good quality shampoo to help keep your dog's coat at it's finest. A good pair of nail clippers will keep your dog's nails healthy too; long nails can turn a sound paw into a splayed foot and reduce traction, they can cause deformed feet and injure the tendons over an extended period.

  • Bed and Blankets - Beds provide dogs with comfort, security, and insulation. A supportive bed helps cushion joints and bones, which is especially important for older canines and dogs with arthritis or other medical issues. It’s good to keep pressure off of the joints whenever possible.

  • Treats - Treats are a great way to reward your dog for good behavior and to give your dog the occasional snack. Just remember to feed treats in moderation to keep this as a high value reward for your dog.

What does it mean to decompress?

Imagine living for days, weeks, even months in a shelter where your home is a kennel surrounded by rows of other kennels and lots of unfamiliar barking dogs. There might be sadness and confusion if the dog was given up by its previous family. Maybe it was living as a stray, struggling to survive on the streets. The animal may have lived with an abusive or neglectful owner.

Then one day, everything changes. Someone new comes to the shelter and takes him or her home. All the surroundings, the people, and perhaps other pets inside the new home are new and confusing. The routine is completely different.

Even if a dog comes from a great shelter or foster home and is entering your loving home, there’s a lot of stress associated with so much change. As the new pet parent, you should be prepared to help make the transition as comfortable and soothing as possible. It’s going to take both time and some patience.

Dogs need a period of time to decompress and get back to a calm state of mind, and the amount of time that requires can vary with each dog. At a minimum, expect it to take at least a full week, sometimes even a couple mo. During that time treat the dog with respect while giving gentle guidance, exercise – walking and playing – and bonding through quiet times together.

How do I change my dog's food from one brand to another?

Be sure if you do decide to change your dogs diet, that you do a slow transition. Changing a dog's food abruptly can cause diarrhea, sometimes for several weeks. To avoid this, continue feeding the same food provided by the foster home, or mix the old with the new to gradually adjust your dog to a new diet. Instructions on switching to a new food as well as guidelines on how much to feed your dog and how often should be on the bag itself, however most dog food brands also have this information on their website. You can also ask your vet for advice on how to transition or what would be a good quality diet for your dog.

And remember when changing your dog's food: Low quality food can cause gastrointestinal issues, cardiovascular illness, osteoarthritis, poor skin & coat, and even cancer could result from feeding a dog low quality food for extended periods of time. Sure, you might a little money now choosing a low quality product; but if this leads to health problems, the cost of a few vet visits will quickly eliminate these savings and often surpass what might be saved on the cost of food. 

Be gentle and take things slow!

Recognize when your new rescue dog dog is afraid. Fear is a powerful emotion that throws training and commands out of the window. Comforting the dog when he is afraid does not reinforce the fear as some believe. Speak in a soft voice, and stroke him gently until he calms down. You’re probably eager to show off your new canine companion to extended family and friends, but give it some time. During the decompression period allow the dog some time to relax and adjust before rushing them into social situations and expecting them to interact with strangers. We recommend you keep your dog home for at least two weeks to get adjusted to his new life transition, then slowly add small trips and adventures little by little. 

How do I introduce my adopted dog to my current dogs?

If you have other pets, make those introductions slowly. Initially it’s best to let dogs get acquainted away from home, on a walk or in the park. The established dogs may feel more territorial in the home. If the animals seem to get along, let them continue their meet-and-greet in the back yard, supervised by you. When you feel comfortable – and only then – let them be together in the house. If you have any hesitation, keep them separated indoors and repeat the outdoor meetings until they all fully adjust.

Every dog will make the transition to a new home at his or her own speed. It can take a shelter dog 6-8 weeks or even more to fully adjust to a new home. Don’t worry if the behavior doesn’t fall into place right away. With love and patience, it will happen.

The rescue told me the dog was potty trained, so why is he having accidents in the house?

Even if the dog is house trained, expect some accidents when you bring a new dog home. The stress of change to a new environment and the associated anxiety can lead to training lapses. Set the dog up for success by taking him or her outside frequently and rewarding with lavish praise and a treat each time they eliminate outside. If you catch the dog in the act, don’t punish. Pick him up and take him outside to finish and praise and reward then. If you don’t catch the dog in the act, never punish him after the fact. The dog simply won’t remember the accident and will not understand why he is being punished. If the dog does something you like and want him to continue doing in the future, lavish praise and a treat will communicate that he should do this again.

What should I do to train my dog?

Training isn't just knowing how to shake and rollover, you should make sure your dog learns the basics like sit, stay, and knowing their name. It may not seem like much, but it's an important skill to have when you need your dog to pay attention to you in the right situation.

You can learn your basics and more advanced training in our Drool School program.

Does my dog need grooming?

Every dog needs grooming - whether they have short hair, long hair, hypoallergenic, shed a lot, etc. Grooming isn't just just brushing and shampoo - you should trim hair, clip nails, and brush their teeth too! Does brushing your dog's teeth sound silly? It shouldn't, just like you, your dog's dental health is important too. You should also make sure to have the teeth professionally cleaned by your vet once a year for deep cleaning and examination to prevent gum disease that can go unseen and untreated. If you are uncomfortable grooming your dog, be sure to research a groomer in your area and schedule regular sessions.

Another thing you should always keep in your arsenal of dog supplies: a flea comb and blue Dawn dish soap. Even if your dog doesn't have fleas, sometimes accidents can occur like going out to the park and it happens. Flea combs easily remove fleas and a quick bath with Dawn soap kills them fast. It's always good to keep your dog on flea/tick prevention though to keep the fleas and ticks at bay. Fleas & ticks are not only uncomfortable with the bites and potential infection, they can exasperate to tapeworms and develop dermatitis.

How do I prevent my dog from getting lost, and what do I do if it does happen?

Loosing a dog can be scary, dangerous, and tragic. Many times owners get their dog back, many times it never comes and wait years to never see your dog again - or could even be too late if they cross rainbow bridge while lost. No one wants that to happen to their pet. So what can you do to prevent this from happening to you?

  • Always watch your dog outside - even if you have a fence or can see your dog from your kitchen window, stay outside with your dog and watch him. If you're not paying attention, your dog could dig out, climb the fence, or even be lured out by someone else trying to take your dog. If you're watching him, you can grab  your dog to prevent this from happening.

  • Keep your dog on a leash always outside your home - if your yard is not secured or are out in public, leash your dog! No matter how well behaved you think your dog is, for your safety and everyone else's keep your dog on a leash. Your dog could get distracted running after a squirrel or could get harder to handle if another animal/person nearby and not listen to you. With a leash you could easily redirect your dog to safety. In many places like in Lee County, it's actually illegal to have your dog unleashed off of your property.

  • Get an ID tag - it's important to get a tag with your dog's name and at least your name and phone number on it. Add your address if there is enough space on it too! Also if you have a dog that needs regular medicine or a special diet, we suggest you try to add that on there too (add a second tag if you have to). Someone could feed your dog something it's allergic to getting your dog sick while they think they are helping it by feeding what they think is okay. If your dog does not like loose tags, there are also slide on tags that slide in the collar or can even get personalized collars with your dog's name and your phone number too.

  • Microchip your dog and register it to you - getting your dog a microchip implant is painless, simple, and the best identification and owner can have. A microchip can cost $10-$50 (varies between vet offices) and when the chip is scanned it shows the vet and owner information. Many times though, owners get a microchip and forget to register or don't realize they need to. Go to your vet office or check your vet paperwork to find out what your chip brand and number is so you can call or go online to register it in your name. It's important to always update it too when yo move or change phone numbers; many times if your dog is lost and animal services scans it, they can bring your dog straight to you instead of processing to the shelter.

  • Get the right collar - make sure your dog's collar is not too loose that he can escape when you're on walks or in public. Martingale collars are ideal for escape artists or anxious dogs that dart away in fear because they are “limited slip” collars. They tighten a bit under tension but not so much that they continue tightening like a slip or “choke” collar can.

  • If your dog is lost, file a missing pet report and check animal services regularly - call your local animal services and submit a missing pet report as soon as possible if your pet gets lost. If a dog comes into the shelter matching your description, they'll call you in to claim. It's always best to go in person to the shelter too to view the intake (sometimes dogs shown online look totally different in person and could mistake it for not being yours!). If your dog is at animal services, bring proof of ownership such as vet records, microchip registration, or adoption papers - photos alone generally do not count as proof. Animal Services keeps animals on a hold period to give the owners a chance to claim, after that can end up on the adoption floor or transferred to a rescue. It's your responsibility to be on top of tracking down your lost pet.

  • Post lost dog flyers and on social media - post flyers in your neighborhood, vet bulletin boards, and on store bulletin boards with permission. You can distribute flyers walking door to door to houses, but do not put flyers in mailboxes. Mailboxes are considered federal property, and it's against the law to vandalize a mailbox or to open - you could get accused of mail theft, it's wise to stay away from them. Posting on social media like Facebook, NextDoor, LostMyDoggie, PawBoost, Craigslist, etc. to reach a wider audience. 

Why do I need to buy a county license for my pets?

All cats, dogs, and ferrets that are four months of age or older residing in Lee County for at least 30 days per year must be vaccinated against rabies and licensed by Lee County. If your pet's rabies vaccine is still current from another state, you only need to purchase a Lee County license, which will expire when the rabies vaccination expires. The ordinance may differ in other counties and states.

This ordinance enables Lee County Domestic Animal Services to return pets to their owners when they are lost. It also ensures that all pets receive a current rabies vaccination, which is necessary for public health and safety because this fatal disease is transmissible to humans.

Not only is a license required by Lee County, but a pet license and a microchip is the best proof of ownership you can have in case a pet is lost or stolen.

 You can buy a Lee County license one of three ways:

  1. From your veterinarian when your pet receives its rabies vaccination. If your veterinarian does not sell licenses, see options 2 and 3 below.
  2. At Lee County Domestic Animal Services, 5600 Banner Drive, Fort Myers, FL 33912. Animal Services' Licensing Department is located in the Veterinary Services Center (blue building entrance), off Six Mile Cypress Parkway next to the Lee County Sheriff's Office, is open from 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday (excluding holidays). On Saturdays (excluding holidays) pet licenses may be purchased at Animal Services' Lost and Found Pet Center (orange building entrance) from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
    You must bring:
    • COPY of your pet's rabies certificate – marked by the veterinarian as to whether the pet is sterilized; and if microchipped, including microchip number.
    • Appropriate fee by check or money order made payable to Lee County Domestic Animal Services, or by credit card (VISA, MasterCard and Discover).

  1. By mail to the address in option 2 above. You must send in:
    • COPY of your pet's rabies certificate – marked by the veterinarian as to whether the pet is sterilized; and if microchipped, including microchip number.
    • Appropriate fee by check or money order only, made payable to Lee County Domestic Animal Services.

Check out the Lee County Domestic Animal Services website for more licensing information and fees