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Rescue Dog Training Tips

: Christie Roening, for TAP

Dogs have basic needs, just like humans. Appropriate socialization and training is important to your pup’s vitality and for your shelter dog! 

Some rescue pet parents assume their new, furry friend is already trained. They might also assume, as the old saying goes, “can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, so it isn’t necessary to train. This just is not true. You might have a shelter dog that is perfectly trained to sit, avoid jumping, or let you know when it’s time to go outside. However, this pup still needs socialization with other dogs and people, to reinforce positive, past behavior. Conversely, you might have a shelter dog that was abused or neglected and displays aggressive behaviors such as snapping, growling, or barking at strangers or lunging at dogs. Training is so important to correct these instances not only for your safety but also for other people and dog’s safety. If you have adopted a dog that has abuse issues, you may have to take extra steps to encourage a stable adjustment period. And…hats off to you for giving a troubled dog a home!

Traits Commonly Found in Rescue Dogs

Introducing your new rescue pup to your home is an exciting endeavor! Although, it’s important to remember that your dog is probably anxious and won’t understand this is a new home. After all, they have been transferred from home, to shelter, possibly foster families, back to shelters, etc. They will most likely show one or more of the following behaviors:

  1. Jumping up on people, especially when excited
  2. Aggression with food
  3. Escaping the yard or climbing fences
  4. Separation anxiety when you leave for work, the store, etc.
  5. Anxiety and/or submission
  6. Digging

As troublesome as these behaviors can be, there is hope! Unless your dog is so aggressive that he consistently and purposely harms other animals or humans, (if that’s the case, talk to a professional trainer and your vet ASAP), there are various methods you can use to provide an enjoyable training experience with your shelter pup. Read on to find out more!

Training Tips

Do not set high expectations for your new rescue dog. Although your new shelter pup may be trained, he or she may not behave the way you assume they might and will need time to adjust. 

  1. Consistency is key! Keeping a consistent schedule for potty breaks, walks, and feeding times. A predictable schedule will help establish security and lessen anxiety for your furry friend.
  2. Generosity is important for enforcing good behavior. If your dog is obedient, give him or her an ear rub with positive verbal praise.
  3. When voicing a command, use it only once and be concise. If the command is repeated too often, your pup may begin to believe they do not need to obey.
  4. Once you begin walking your shelter pup, do not immediately allow other adults, children, or dogs to approach your pup. Your dog needs time to acclimate to the new surroundings and you do not want to introduce too much stimulation too soon.
  5. Make sure you’re prepared with LOTS of training treats! You can use store-bought treats, small pieces of cheese, carrots, or even frozen green beans. 
  6. Have lots of patience. Patience is important when training any dog, but especially a shelter pup as you don’t know what their background may be. 
  7. Although you can train your new dog at home, an obedience class can be extremely helpful, too. There are many training classes available virtually and in person, depending on your comfort level during these trying times. 

Remember that your furry companion’s new life is another experience for them so they will need ample time to adjust. Patience, consistency, and love will be generously rewarded for both of you!