Rescue dogs come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and personalities, and they can have special challenges for the owners who adopt them.
A rescue dog’s personality is shaped to a large extent by its age, and the environment from which the animal was rescued. For example, a puppy who was rescued from a shelter or puppy mill will typically be quite different from an older Greyhound rescued from the dog racing circuit.
The way the dog was treated in its former life will also play a big role in its behavior. If the dog was abused or neglected by its former owner, for example, the animal can often have some severe behavioral issues that will have to be addressed before it can become a pleasant, well-behaved pet for its new owner.
But don’t let these challenges dissuade you from taking on a rescue dog. These canines, with a little love and understanding, almost always become loyal, obedient and loving animals for their adoptive owners.
And wit that in mind, we’ve put together a short list of tips that you may find helpful if you’re in the position of training (or re-training, as the case may be) a rescue dog.
Tip #1 - House Training Your Rescue Dog
House training can often be a difficult challenge with a rescue dog, depending on the canine’s previous environment. In their previous life, many of these dogs were not required to be potty trained, as they were housed in pens or dog runs where they could do their business as they pleased.
If the dog is an older animal, then you can expect that breaking this behavior will take more time and effort than house training a puppy or younger dog.
A few quick tips include staying home with your dog for the first few days, and monitoring the animal closely. Limit the amount of space in the home where the rescue dog is allowed to inhabit, and watch closely for signs that the animal is getting ready to “do his business.” Usually the animal will walk around, sniffing and searching for a spot to go.
Once you spot this behavior, be prepared to lead the animal out of the house and into the yard. Once he does his business outside, pet and praise the animal for his good manners. And never yell or scold your rescue dog for having an “accident” in the house. This will often confuse the animal, and make house training more difficult.
Visit this page for a more in-depth article about house training older adult dogs.
Tip #2 - Separation Anxiety Training For Your Dog
Because rescue dogs have often come from stressful, lonely, and even frightening living circumstances, they naturally form very strong bonds with the humans who adopt them. This makes them loving and loyal pets, but it can also foster separation anxiety in the dog when you leave him alone in the home, especially in the beginning.
This anxiety can be mild, or more severe, depending on the animal. Some dogs just whine for a few minutes upon being left alone, while others have a more physical reaction, such as rapid heartbeat, problems breathing, and other forms of extreme distress. Fortunately, separation anxiety can usually be reduced or eliminated with time, patience, and the proper training.
It’s a good idea when you bring a new puppy or rescue dog home is to ease into the separation gradually. If you can, take a few days off from work, or adopt the dog on a Friday so you’ll have the weekend to work with the animal. Then begin with short trips to the store, or out into the yard, no more than ten or fifteen minutes at a time. Then extend the trips to thirty minutes, then an hour. Hopefully by the time you have to return to work, the dog will be more used to being home without you.
Another tried and true method of easing separation anxiety in puppies and dogs is by making it seem like someone’s still home when you’re away. Leave the radio on, preferably tuned to a talk radio station, but relaxing music will work as well. And have toys available to give your dog something to play with, and keep them from chewing on inappropriate items in the home. Another tip is to leave articles of your clothing nearby so your scent is always present in the home.
Tip #3 - Training Your Dog To Be Less Aggressive
Aggression in dogs takes several forms, the most common being aggression toward humans, and aggression toward other dogs. Because many rescue dogs were abused or neglected in their past lives, they’re often afraid of humans or other animals. And that fear can translate into aggression in certain circumstances, as the dog is stressed and instinctively looks to defend itself.
A good place to start when facing a rescue dog that displays aggressive behavior is by letting the animal know what he can expect from you as his master. Be consistent in your behavior towards the dog, and let him know that you will be a firm but gentle master. No yelling or hitting of any kind on your part, no matter how frustrated you may become with your new pet. Over time the dog will come to understand that you won’t hurt him, the fear the animal is feeling will subside, and he will usually begin to back away from his aggressive behavior.
Another necessary step in controlling an aggressive rescue dog is by building the animal’s trust, and making him understand that you won’t tolerate any aggressive behavior - toward humans or other dogs. Again, be firm but gentle, and make the dog understand that aggression is not acceptable under any circumstances.
If he snarls or snips at you when you try to take a toy away from him, for example, let him know that you won’t tolerate this possessive behavior. Keep taking the toy away until the dog understands your right to do so, and usually he will become less possessive over time. If the dog is aggressive toward other dogs, step between him and the other animal and let him know in a firm voice (and body language) that he’s stepped out of bounds, and that you will protect him.
Animal Career Tips & Articles to guide you on your way to a rewarding new business or career in the growing animal services industry. Or visit or blog for up-to-date industry news and information.