These notes have been compiled for you if you are adopting or fostering a dog from us. Every dog is different, but I put these together having adopted eight Romanian dogs myself and having seen common themes arising with the dogs. Please take time to have a read through them - they may pre-empt a problem happening. Remember, we are here to help if a problem does arise. Please don't let these notes worry you - most dogs settle with no problem at all - but, hopefully, they will be helpful at some point!
The most important thing to be aware of is that many of our dogs were strays and used to living on the streets. Given the chance, some of them may make a bid for freedom if they have the opportunity, so you need to be extremely vigilant at all times - keep your dog on a harness and long line and be extra careful with doors. Dogs have escaped within hours of arriving! Recently, a Romanian dog brought over by another rescue, escaped by backing out of her collar at a Service Station after having been handed to the new owner, and ran onto the motorway, where she was killed. Another dog scaled a six foot high fence after being in her home for a fortnight, and went on the run for a week around the streets of London before, luckily, being caught. We don't want this to happen to one of our dogs (or indeed, any dog!).
You may be asked to collect your dog from the foster home if you are an adopter. It is vital that you are able to secure your dog on the journey home. We, and the transporters, want you to secure your dog in a crate in your car. This is the best way for a nervous dog to travel and will ensure that when you get home your dog won't jump out of the car and run!
You will also need a slip lead and a harness for your new dog. Don't stop to walk your dog on the way home however far you have to travel - better a wee and poo in the crate, than a lost dog!
Take your dog on a slip lead into the house. I have always carried my dogs in to be on the safe side. Your dog should ideally travel in a harness from his foster home, but, just in case he doesn't, please take a harness with you (not a collar!). If you aren't sure of the size, buy several and go back to the shop with the ones that don't fit, to get a refund. I have found a really good harness is one made by www.dog-games.co.uk but there are many other types.
However high your fences are, keep your new dog on a lead in the garden for the first few days until you have judged how likely they are to try to escape. Every dog is different, but we have had instances of dogs attempting to jump six foot fences and five-barred gates in their panic to get away. Scared dogs become very athletic when panicking. Keeping them on the lead until they know where the door is to the house and until they are familiar with you, is a wise move.
Some dogs have never lived in a house before so may need encouraging (or carrying) into the house, initially. Again, every dog is different but always err on the side of caution. Better to have the dog on a lead in the garden, than risk losing it! If you have a standard collar and lead, be careful that the collar doesn't come over the dog's head if he reverses suddenly. Make sure that it is tight enough without being constricting.
We recommend the double lead system where the dog has a lead attached to his collar and another one to his harness (or a double-ended lead) - if he escapes from one, he will still be safe on the other.
After a while, once you know your dog, you will be able to relax a little and just use one lead.
Having a quiet place for your dog will make him feel more secure. A crate with the door open and a cover on makes a great den. Feed your dog in there so that it becomes a happy place to be. Many of our dogs have food issues - they have literally been starved and even the most gentle soul will turn into a maniac when food arrives!! Feed your new dog separately from other dogs until you can judge how he will be with food. Some can show real aggression at meal times even if they are perfect the rest of the time. Putting up a 'baby gate' can separate dogs when needed, or feed your dog in the crate.
Please make sure that you are extra careful when people come to your house who aren't used to your dog. There have been very sad incidents recently of Romanian dogs slipping out through an open door and getting killed on the road. It takes a split second for a dog to slip through! Don't be tempted to show your dog off to all and sundry for a few days. He will be physically and emotionally exhausted so allow him plenty of rest and to get used to you and any other animals you might have.
Your dog may have been starved or have had a poor diet consisting of bread and scraps. Don't over-compensate in the first few days. A bland food is ideal - mine have Chappie and mixer biscuits to start with until their tummies are settled, but anything mild will be fine. Please try to avoid Bakers - it is full of additives (colours) and your dog will be unused to food like this. You can gradually change their diet as time goes by, but Bakers is best avoided.
Some of the dogs have an upset tummy when they arrive - sometimes caused by the stress of travelling. If it doesn't settle within a very short time ask the vets' opinion as they may have picked up a bug on the journey.
I have found that the dogs are a little dehydrated when they arrive, even though they have fresh water available at all times in the foster home. They can be too worried to drink! Make sure that they have water available all the time at home and don't panic if they don't wee for a day, it will happen!!
Some of our dogs have been badly treated and need time to get used to their new life. Everything - from a strange language to the TV - may upset them to start with. The best thing is to allow them to progress at their own pace. Some dogs will be out walking with you within a couple of days, others may take several weeks. It really doesn't matter how long they take - they all get there in the end.
Some dogs are super-confident from the word go. It is very tempting to give them too much freedom too soon and, because they are unused to being allowed to do whatever they choose, may become possessive of their new owner. This can cause problems, especially with existing dogs in the household.
Make sure that your new dog is not allowed to usurp your existing dog for your affection. You don't need to over compensate for their bad life before they came to you. Treat them the same as you would any other dog and give them boundaries from the moment they arrive. For example, if you don't want the dog to go upstairs or on the furniture, don't let them - from day one.
Many of our dogs have been strays and have lived 'wild' and fended for themselves. As such, the call of the streets may prove to be irresistible at first! It is very sensible to keep your new dog on the lead until you are absolutely sure that you are able to get them back if they are free. It's always best to err on the side of caution and keep them on a long line rather than see them disappear over the horizon!! My dogs are all keen rabbit hunters, having lived rough and depended on prey for food, I imagine. The prey drive has been the most difficult to deal with when letting them off the lead.
Work hard on the recall on the long line and see if you can find an enclosed area to let them off. Eventually, almost all dogs can be let off - as most of ours are blind be extra careful not to put them in danger near a road, river or railway line.
Get your own dog to meet the new dog outside if possible. It may not be possible to take them out on a walk together as you might a more confident dog. Most of our dogs are used to living in shelters in big groups and don't have problems mixing with other dogs. Usually, they all settle down very well but do ask for help if they don't. Take care when feeding as this can be a tricky time, until you know your new dog a little better.
We don't rehome dogs to families with children under the age of ten. Our dogs have often come from very bad situations and may never have met children, or may have been abused by them abroad. As our dogs are blind or partially sighted, they may be startled by children moving quickly, and become frightened.
Sensible, older children can be taught to approach dogs carefully, giving ample warning before stroking them. If your dogs are going to meet children from other family members, for example, make sure that the child and dog are never left alone together, however quiet the dog seems to be. This is just the normal sensible precaution that you would take with any dog and child.
Many potential adopters have cats. We do our best to test our dogs' reaction to cats but this is not always possible in shelters abroad. Most dogs can live with cats if introduced sensibly, but it's a good idea to allow your cat somewhere that he can escape from the dog, if necessary.
Many dogs like to chase a cat when it runs, so you will need to teach your dog not to chase your cat. Introductions should be on a lead initially so that you can remove the dog quickly if necessary. We discourage people with cats to adopt a completely untested dog as some strays and street dogs view a cat as prey and serious incidents can happen.
If you decide to adopt an untested dog, we would expect you to take great care to keep the dog and your cat separate until you can judge if it is safe for them to meet. This also applies to rabbits, guinea pigs and chickens.
When the dog first arrives, we will contact you to ask for specific information from their passport so that we can register their microchip in your name as soon as possible. The most likely time to lose a dog is when they first arrive, so we need the microchip details up-to-date as soon as possible. We are currently using a company called AVID (who use the Pettrac database). The cost of the registration of the chip is included in your adoption donation. After your dog is registered in your name, you will receive an email which will give you access to your own account so that in future, should you move, you will be able to update your details yourself. Please make sure that your dog's details are always up-to-date. Apart from it being important in case you lose your dog, it is also against the law not to have the dog registered correctly.
Take out insurance as soon as you possibly can. Our dogs all come with 5 weeks free insurance with Agria.
Please send us some photos of your new dog as soon as you can the rescuers worry about the dogs until they have seen them in their new homes! We love to hear updates and see photos too!!
If you have any difficulties, please contact us. We have plenty of experience in medical matters and training issues between us, and can often come up with a quick solution to a problem. If things are extremely tricky, we ask you to do your best to resolve them, with help, but, if all else fails, we ask that the dog is returned to us. We ask that you keep him until a suitable alternative home or kennels can be found - which would normally be a week to ten days.
Please join our Facebook page - BDRUK Owners' Club. Here, you can meet other owners of blind dogs, 'show off' your new friend, and ask for advice if you need it. The other owners have a wealth of advice to offer but always approach us first if it is a serious matter.
If you have a major problem with your dog such as illness, you MUST tell us before you take any drastic step such as putting the dog to sleep unless it is an emergency (for example a RTA). Your adoption contract states this and we do expect adopters to liaise fully with us. Please remember this when you sign your contract.
ENJOY your new dog and have years of fun together. This document isn't meant to scare you, but is a way of reminding you of things that can go wrong in the early days. Nearly every dog settles in quickly and easily but, due to the background of the dogs, their lack of sight and the long journey they have undertaken, they need a little extra patience.
Look at our page about caring for a blind dog.
Ask us for advice - all three of us have blind dogs living with sighted dogs at home.
Read 'Living with Blind Dogs' by Caroline Levin. Available from Amazon and an excellent resource book.