"Trousseau" is a term for the set of belongings a bride should have when she marries. So it is a term I use for the set of belongings a foster dog will need to start his new life in his new adoptive home. Here I present a list of items and some ideas on lower cost ways to obtain them.
Although I am writing in terms of rescued dogs being adopted, some of this may also be applicable to breeders sending puppies to their new homes.
Rescue Dog's Adoption Trousseau
"Trousseau" is a term for the set of belongings a bride should have when she marries to start her new life in her new home. So it is a term I use for the set of belongings a foster dog will need in his new adoptive home. Here I present a list of items and some ideas on lower cost ways to obtain them. Some items are ones which the adopter should have gotten prior to picking up the dog. Some are ones that the foster home or Rescue will want to provide. Others are more optional or only needed for some dogs ; these will usually be acquired by the adopter after adoption.
I will include some of the lower cost sources simply because most rescues need to conserve funds. Some adopters would be a bit pinched to pay adoption fee and buy trousseau items at the same time. And for items that may rarely be needed, it's nice to save money on acquisiton. I'd better admit up front that I tend to love thrift shops and to be a bargain hunter because I spent so many years as a student with no real money of my own.
Essential Items : needed on day one for all dogs
- Identification tags :
I NEVER allow a dog to leave my place without his new phone number attached to him. (Just as I never load a dog into my car at the pound without first putting my own phone number onto him.) A phone tag is the dog's best and often only hope of getting home if he escapes or is lost or separated from his people. (Even if the dog is tattooed or microchipped, the collar tag is the best way for a finder to know how to contact the owner ; a tag is obvious to notice and does not need any special technology to read and interpret.)
I ask my adopters if they live near or pass near a PetCo, PetsMart, or WalMart because these stores usually have machines that will custom engrave tags while you wait. I advise the adopter to go to such a source before our adoption appointment to get a tag that has their home phone number and cell phone number (if any) or work phone number (if any). It does not need to have the dog's name, so they don't need to consider whether they will be adopting this particular dog or whether they may want to change his name after adoption. I advise that the stainless steel and brass tags hold up better than the anodized aluminum ones. If they arrive with the tag, I am pleased that they have shown they can follow a reasonable suggestion and thus I have more confidence that they will follow any other advise I may give.. Note : the attachment rings supplied by these tag machines are usually too flimsy for use on dog collars. Instead I use S-hooks bought at the hardware store ; I keep a supply of these on hand and pliers to squeeze the S into closed position on tag and collar ring.
Alternatively, I can make them a hand-stamped metal tag with one phone number. Some years back I bought at a hardware store a set of numerical dies. These can be used to stamp numbers into metal disks, easy to find at hardware stores. Put the disk on top of any firm surface, preferably metal, and place the die carefully and give it a whack with a hammer. The disk can hold one ten digit number, thus one phone number.
Another alternative is to use an indelible marking pen such as Sharpie to write the phone number on the collar, which of course must be fairly light in color, or on a light colored tubular nylon web sleeve slipped over the collar. You can get tubular nylon at most camping stores, such as REI. You can also get snap-locks at such stores if you want to make your own collar from either tubular web or flat web. Indelible marking is not really permanent but it will last a couple of weeks to a month before becoming too faded to be read easily.
The flimsiest and least trustworthy temporary tag would be a plastic keychain tag, the kind that has a slip of paper inside. I cover these with transparent tape to make them water resistant and keep the flap from opening. I don't really consider this to be an adequate ID tag, but it might be OK if the adopter has simply forgotten to bring their engraved tag and so you just want something for the ride home. The hand stamped metal tag or the indelible pen on the collar is a better bet.
- Collar and leash :
Collar and leash are needed of course to allow control of the dog during the trip home, thus ensuring the dog's safety, and the collar is needed to carry the identification tag. So a dog does not leave my place without a functional collar and leash. My adoption contract requires that the dog wear a collar with ID tag at all times. I advise adopters to leave the leash attached for the ride home and to get their hands on the leash before opening the car door, so as to minimize risks of dog scooting out of the car and into traffic. Dog remains on leash until safely inside the house. (Actually I suggest they go to the fenced backyard first for a potty break before entering the house itself.) I discuss the "umbilical cord" method of keeping the dog right next to the person inside the house as a bonding and house-breaking refresher technique.
I grab up appropriate used collars and tags at the local thrift store, so that I always have a supply on hand. Another good source is Dollar Tree or similar stores, which sometimes have decent dog collars. Be sure that any snaps and buckles are of good quality, ie won't break. In a pinch , just about any length of rope can be used for a leash for the ride home and entry into the new house.
Of course the adopter may well already have a collar and leash and bring it with them. Note that some adopters are comfortable using their deceased dog's collar and leash on a new dog, but some are very disturbed by the idea of doing so or by the sight of a new dog in their dead dog's collar. In any case at some point the adopter will be buying additional leashes (one can always use a few extra ones) and probably a collar that appeals better to their esthetic tastes.
- Halter or training collar :
I usually take the adopters and the dog to the local PetCo to purchase either a halter or whatever other training/control collar I have found works on this dog. If it is a halter, I make sure it is fitted properly and use a needle and some dental floss to put in a few stitches that stabilize that adjustment of fit. In some cases I have custom made a halter to fit a particular dog, using tubular nylon and snap locks from the camping store and metal rings from hardware store.
For choke chains (which I normally refer to as "slip chain" , other types of slip collar, or for pinch collars (for the occasional dog who needs one), I have a few collected from the thrift store, but if not, I will take the adopter to the store to buy and fit it. For pinch collars, you want to be very sure that the adopter knows the trick of opening and closing the links to put collar on and take it off.
For all training devices of course you want to be certain the adopter knows these can only be on the dog when the owner is present and actually doing some training. These devices, except for the halter, can be lethal causing death by choking in a dog who is not observed and snags the collar on something.
I will also take the adopters on a walk with the dog to coach them on using the equipment and be sure they are doing so reasonably correctly. Sometimes this walk shows us both that the adopter is a mis-match for the dog, so the adoption does not take place. Usually the walk is just a chance to fine tune the adopter's handling technique. Usually my adopters are impressed with how well the dog behaves on leash.
- Dog food :
I like to provide a few days supply of the food the dog has been eating , so the adopter can make any changes gradually over the course of several days. The first night the dog should get 100% the same food he is accustomed to. I usually measure out the first day's supply and package it separately, in a plastic bag. (They also have written instructions about food and other matters.) I then put all the food in the original bag, ie as it was sold at the store, so that the adopter can recognize this brand and can inspect the ingredient list.
I also let adopters know that some dogs have impaired interest in food the first day or couple of days in a new home and that this is not something to worry about.
- Food and water bowls :
Most often the adopter already has these. But I have extra ordinary plastic ones, again from the thrift store or from Dollar Tree, that can be given for use during the period before the adopter buys something that pleases them better.
- Training treats :
If this dog has been trained with some use of food rewards, I will usually give a modest supply of some in a plastic bag. In one case I gave them in a metal container (sugar cannister from the thrift store) which the adopter was told to be sure to place very high out of any possible reach of the dog . Do I need to explain why ?
Desirable Items : Useful for most dogs, but not always needed on day one.
- Dog bed :
Normally the adopter would be expected to supply this. Sometimes they need a new bed because the thought of sight of a new dog in their dead dog's bed is painful. If you need some inexpensive bedding, a blanket or old sleeping bag , folded over one or more times, bought at the thrift store will work well. I tell adopters that Costco has very nice large dog beds at a very good price, quite a bit less than the pet stores sell similar beds for.
I generally advise my adopters that if they intend to invite the dog to share their own bed, they would be wise to wait to do so until after the first couple of months when the dog is fairly well trained, has good everyday manners, and has shown no signs of any status issues. (Of course a lot of the time I know perfectly well the dog will have joined them in bed before the opening music for Letterman, a time by which I hope I have once again won the daily effort to remind Pixel that I need about a third of the width of our bed for my own body and that she can be completely comfortable with the remainder.)
Of course it is also possible for a dog to simply sleep on the floor. In hot weather , most Bouvs will find a cold spot such as the tiled bathroom floor. Sooner or later the dog may also discover the comfort of the sofa.
- stretch gate :
These show up from time to time at my local thrift store, so I usually have a few extra ones on hand. But otherwise, I'd take the adopter to the store to buy as many as needed. If you have not seen adopter's home, maybe they can bring some photos (or e-mail photos to you) and make a floor plan so together you can figure out which room or rooms could be dog-proofed and gated off from those portions of the house that might need to be off limits to unsupervised dogs during the initial weeks or months or maybe forever. I let my adopters know that no dog or child needs total unsupervised access to every square inch of the home : eg we all lock them out of medicine cabinet and cleaning goods cabinet ; mine are stretch gated out of my office/computer room (which in theory is also the guest bedroom when the bed is not piled high with stuff I intend to put away in an organized way at some future date). The floor plan also aids in planning where a dog door could go, if one is not already present.
- crate :
My local thrift shop has these from time to time and generally in very useable condition and for a price less than 10% of a new one. So I try to have one or more stored away so I can supply one for a dog who really needs it. Sometimes they just need it for the trip home. Sometimes use of crate is highly advised for first weeks or months in the new home. Some dogs really need to be crated at times and if so the adopter has to be one who believes in the value of doing so. Other dogs can go their whole life and never need to be crated, though it is good if they are comfortable enough with crates to be comfortable in a vet's hospital cage or to be crated for travel. Some dogs love to retire into an open-doored crate for privacy when taking a nap. I find that older dogs especially seem to like a napping place where they are protected from being bumped or stepped on.
- toys :
I try to pick out a toy that the dog has already shown he likes to play with while he was in foster care. A familiar toy can help on the trip home and help during the first few times adopter leaves dog home alone. Sometimes the dog has chosen a toy I can afford to spare, and other times I take the adopter to the pet store to purchase one or more appropriate toys.
Stufffed toys can be found at any thrift store for very little cost ; pick only ones that do not have parts externally or internally that could be dangeroous if swallowed. Other dog toys tend to show up at the thrift store, so you can lay in a supply.
Be sure to warn the adopter if a standard tennis ball is samll enough relative to the dog's mouth size that it could be a choking hazzard. Of course you would also permanently forbid tennis balls of any size to dogs who have shown tendency to break off pieces or swallow pieces or whole balls.
If dog is going to a home with a smaller dog, the issue of small dog's toys as possible swallowing or choking risk needs to be discussed. Ditto if dog is going to home with baby or young child (to me this is one more reason why I rarely consider homes with young children as eligible to adopt dogs).
- grooming tools :
The adopter should be shown appropriate tools and given a short lesson on doing ordinary pet grooming. I will take the adopter to a store to buy the essential tools. Of course some combs and brushes will show up at thrift stores, but these may not be suitable for the coat of this particular type.
Optional Items : useful for some dogs
- car seat cover (or sofa cover) :
If the dog is going to be traveling to new home in a rented car, it's worth swinging by the thrift shop to buy a blanket or bedspread to use to keep the car seat clean and hair free so the rental company does not complain. A blanket or bedspread is also a good way to keep a sofa clean if the dog is one who will be invited to share the sofa or one who is a "midnight sofa sneak".
- front back barrier for use in car :
These will sometimes appear at the thrift store, but more usually you will take the adopter to the pet supply store to buy one. This can be a great safety essential if the dog is prone to act like a ping-pong ball in the car. An alternative would be a crate, but sometimes a big dog crate won't fit into the back seat of a small to medium car.
- "Springer" bicycle attachment :
Very useful for the dog who needs brisk exercise, ie some trotting or running, but the adopter does not jog or run. This is something the adopter would have to buy. However you may want to download some web pages and print them out or just send the adopter the URL by e-mail.
There is an endless list of stuff that a dog adopter will want or need sooner or later. A dog door installed in the home is one of the most desirable. But these are mostly things that the adopter either already has or can obtain as they become needed or desired. This article only is intended to cover things needed on day one or soon after.
Make sure the dog has an adequate collar with phone tag attached , plus a leash sutable for the trip home. You the foster home should always be prepared to supply these if the adopter does not bring appropriate ones along. The adopter should be given recomendations as to other things this particular dog should have. If you are able to supply a few items, doing so tends to be appreciated by the adopter as a sign of your concern for the dog's welfare. Don't hesitate to take advantage of lower cost sources as they may be available. Finally, ensure that the adopter has written information as to the dog's medical history, training history, diet, etc. I have prepared a form I call Adopter's Information Summary that I find handy as a way of preparing such information.
Related topics :
- Adopter's Information Summary (concise summary of information on individual dog's temperament, behavior, medical, training, etc data). revised 8/05. can be used as periodic evaluation of dog's behavior.
- Adopter's Guidebook , written as advice for foster homes and adopters, but also a good short guide to many dog-keeping issues, revised 8/05.
- C.T., Phone Home (keeping identification on your dog)
- "Toy Story", photo and description of some of my dogs' favorite dog toys for chewing and throwing, with advice and cautions on their use.