How to Retrain a Rescue Dog

In the US, more than 3.3 million dogs enter animal shelters every year.

It’s a sad fact that some people aren’t able to look after their pets. This may be due to age, new or existing disabilities, lifestyle change, financial burden or many other unfortunate reasons. In other cases, dogs are retrieved due to abandonment, or saved from abusive homes.

But there is some good news. At least half of these dogs go on to find new homes with loving owners, according to the ASPCA.

Adopting a rescue dog

There are many good reasons to adopt a rescue dog. For starters, it means that your dog will probably be already trained and won’t need housetraining or even crate training.

Secondly, you will be contributing towards helping the many abandoned dogs that seek loving homes around the country. What better way to help a deserving animal.

For some owners, particularly seniors, companionship in a dog is important. In this case, older dogs would be more docile than a lively puppy, and offer the right sort of friendship for an owner, without the burden of a long commitment that a puppy would.

Plus, adopting a dog is often much cheaper than buying one ($50-200 versus $500-$1,000+). In many cases they are likely to be fully vaccinated and chipped too.

Since mixed breed dogs are more common in shelters, you could also consider that they may be less prone to health conditions than a purebred version.

Your rescue dog’s history

It’s natural to worry that your dog might have come from a traumatic background. Sometimes, the implications of this will have lifelong effects on the dog, requiring an experienced owner to care for them. Your shelter will be best place to advise on the right dog to meet your needs and vice-versa.

While not all dogs come from difficult backgrounds, those that do can still very much go on to have a happy and fulfilling life, overcoming their trauma with the love, care and respect that a new owner can provide.

Training a rescue dog

You may or may not need to retrain your dog, but in any case, you will want to lay down the law. It’s important for your dog to respect you and understand that you are “leader of the pack” from the get-go. Here are a few things you can do to aid their assimilation in to your family.

Give them time: Keep in mind that there should be a period of adjustment. Your new family member might have come from a troubling background or might be missing their original owner, and will need some time to feel comfortable in his new space.

Set boundaries: Nonetheless, you will want to set clear boundaries from the start, establishing certain no-go areas. This might be not allowing them on the sofa, or keeping them out of the kitchen.

Create a routine: Dogs enjoy routine, so try and establish a set way of living from the start. There’s nothing quite like a walk in the park every morning to excite your pup. This can certainly help with the adjustment period too.

Be firm: Although your dog might have been trained before, you may want to start from the beginning to ensure they act appropriately in certain situations. This includes not attacking other dogs, and also sitting for a treat. By using positive reinforcement and taking time to get to know your dog, this will come. If you have a dog with bad habits, you can even enroll in an obedience class together, where you can help undo some of the bad behaviors it has adopted.

Adopting a dog is a rewarding act. Visit the ASPCA for information on your nearest shelter, as well as helpful tips for dog owners. Find a veterinarian here

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