The approach to training rescue dogs is generally speaking, substantially the same as other dogs. Even those that have been rescued as a result of legitimate cruelty and neglect. The pace and what might be expected regarding a reasonable outcome may differ but with the right approach massaged with the dog’s history in mind can go a long way towards building confidence and life skills that vastly improve quality of life.
I’ve worked with 1,000’s of rescue dogs, many humane societies, animal shelters, and private rescues over my nearly 30-year career and the potential and progress of many rescue dogs are sometimes unintentionally impeded.
Table Of Contents
The Never Ending Rescue and Rescuer
If you have been introducing your dog as your ‘rescue’ dog or ever say things such as ‘I rescued… .’ you may be a never-ending rescuer and unconsciously impeding your dog’s development. Whatever your dog’s history, that is not what he or she is, it is something that happened to him or her. Acknowledge it certainly, tailor your rehabilitation approach with the historical reality in mind but don’t let it get in the way of helping your dog become the best he or she can be.
All too often the never-ending rescuer seriously unconsciously and inadvertently impedes their dog’s rehabilitation because they see their dog as a victim that needs protection. They set lower expectations and almost always are holding their dogs back in areas that would contribute to the building of confidence and life skills. One might argue this to be just another form of cruelty.
I am very interested in learning all we can about your dog’s history as the more I know, the better I can help. Even if the details are not available, because I have assessed thousands of dogs with a history of cruelty and neglect it is almost a certainty that I will after observing your dog in his or her home setting, be able to extrapolate that history and plot an appropriate path forward. However, even if your dog’s history makes me feel sad or sorry for your dog, neither you nor your dog will ever know it. I will not let that get in the way of my goal which is to help you, help your dog be the best he or she can be.
Once the rescuing stops and the rehabilitation begins not only will you find that your dog recovers more thoroughly, you will find that your dog blossoms far faster. We will be using proven behavior modification techniques that will break the journey down into smaller far more digestible chunks so that your dog leaves his or her world behind and can begin to enjoy the world you’ve provided.
Most dogs that find themselves in a rescue/rehoming situation are there for a reason. The vast majority of times that reason or those reasons are withheld from the people taking on the dog. This is for a variety of reasons:
That a rescue dog might and even very likely has baggage is in itself not problematic. People that purchase rescue dogs usually are very aware and expect a little baggage. The problem is that buying a dog from a rescue is a bit like dating people that have lived more than a few decades. You know there’s going to be baggage on both sides of the relationship, you just need some honesty as to what that baggage is so you can gauge whether you are equipped to help carry that baggage and maybe even help them shed that baggage.
Because the reality is that there are far more rescue brokerages than there are well trained ethically operating rescues it is worth learning a few things about how rescue dog ‘baggage’ can unnecessarily trip up your future with your dog.
Baggage Can Be Left Behind
Almost always the baggage that lands a dog in a shelter is less a reflection of the dog’s potential than it is of how his or her’s prior owners lived with and trained or didn’t train the dog. I have found in many cases that if we start a legitimate approach to understanding how your dog sees the world and to training the behavior/baggage never shows up. Almost always these dogs came from places where the owners were told to train their dogs in either an ‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free…’, or to a lesser extent, a ‘Might Is Right,’ neither of which is how any higher order social species teaches life-skills. You can read a bit here about how this sets so many dogs and owners up for failure and how you can better guide your dog here:
Baggage Arrival Is Sometimes (Often) Delayed
Many times when a dog moves from one household to another, they will initially for a few weeks or even a few months mask their baggage only to catch their new owners off-guard with a display of aggression. As a result, there are specific protocols I recommend implementing during this settling period to prepare for the sudden arrival of baggage.
Almost without exception, whether the dog’s baggage is unruliness, anxiety, aggression you can count that 80% of what you are seeing is drama and related to flaws in the way the people in the dog’s past responded or didn’t respond to the dog’s behavior as opposed to any inherent flaws in the dog. We may not be able to extinguish behaviors legitimately aggressive or anxious in nature but if we can extinguish the 80% that is drama we can generally guarantee a pretty good life for the dog and owner.
Training Options For Your Rescue Dog
Puppy Obedience, Socialization, Crate & House Training, Mouthing & Nipping...
Teach your dog real skills for the real world - for in your home, your yard and on all your outings...
Aggression, Anxiety, House Soiling, Destructive Chewing, Excessive Barking, Thunder Phobia...
Guide your rescue dog out of his or her shell faster and further by avoiding common mistakes...
Can't find satisfactory local help with a training or behavior problem? I can help...
Expecting a baby? Change in your dog's behavior? Want to introduce a 2nd dog?...