Building a bond with a rescue dog
At Animal Dog Club we are seeing more and more rescue and re-homing dogs coming in for training many from foreign countries. A little bit of care and knowledge in the first few weeks can say months of heartbreak later down the line. All our trainers have got together and produced this tips sheet for you to try and get the most from your rescue dog and your training with us.
Give your dog time to settle in with you and get some trust in you before expecting him to mix with and greet other dogs and people. It could take weeks, or even months. Keep early interaction low key. Move around the dog casually, wait until he comes to you, then gently praise this behaviour, keep touching to a minimum and minimise eye contact. All this will reduce his stress levels. Do not pressure the dog into interaction if they are not ready for it.
Remember your dog may develop over attachment from excessive fuss and attention in this initial period, which can lead to problems later. Do not hold tight or cuddle your dog in the early part of your new relationship. This is not a normal canine behaviour but is learned by most puppies in a normal household. Many rescue dogs will become stressed if you try to hold them close and may bite.
Have a fixed schedule of dog quiet time, training time, play time, exercise and feeding times, to help build his confidence and give structure to his new life. Give your dog a quiet, comfortable place of his own where he can go and not be disturbed – bed, open crate if crate-trained, it’s probably advisable to confine your dog to a specific part of the home that is easy to clean and easily accessible to the garden. Remove valuables, until such time that you are confident the dog is not destructive.
Ensure all the family and regular visitors interact with your dog so they do not get too attached to one person and try and use the same commands to avoid confusing the dog. Once the “honeymoon” period is over some dogs will try to push the barriers. Remain consistent and calm in dealings with the dog; stick to the schedule and things will settle again.
To form a quick bond try feeding by hand/bag at least once a day preferably three times a day. If feeding from a bowl do not take food away at this stage in case the dog “guards” his food. Look out for triggers that will worry or distress your dog. Such as raised voices, raised hands, walking sticks, enclosed spaces, clothes and shoes that need guarding, or sudden moves such as grabbing the collar.
Dogs live in the moment, so do not make allowances or excuses for behaviour you do not want just because you think your dog may have been ill-treated.
Spend time with your dog and try to have positive interactions such as daily grooming, games and fun and when walking do not just allow your dog to trail behind you on a lead. Do you not punish your dog, it is unlikely to understand what you are doing and he may turn on you. Stick to boundaries for example do not allow on the sofa one day but tell dog get off the next day.
Make sure your training treats are of high value to the dog and only give them when training. Remember to only train when your dog is hungry.
If your dog has been neutered recently it will take a while for the body to get used to the loss of hormones so they maybe unpredictable for a while.