Tips for Making a Fearful Rescue Dog Feel Right at Home
If you’ve chosen to rescue a dog, congratulations – you’ve made an excellent decision that you will feel good about for the rest of your life. Helping shelter the most vulnerable animals among us is a truly higher calling. Of course, adopting a rescue comes with its own set of challenges, as the dogs are oftentimes coming from less-than-optimal situations. Here are some tips for making a fearful rescue dog feel right at home.
Focus on dog-proofing a particular area
A rescue dog will likely feel safer with a comfortable, but defined space. Too much freedom is confusing – especially in a totally new environment. It’s best to designate a small, but roomy space for your new dog and keep them there until they are fully acclimated. Slowly introduce them to the rest of your home. You’ll need to dog-proof1 the area before they arrive.
“This may mean taping loose electrical cords to baseboards; storing household chemicals on high shelves; removing plants, rugs, and breakables; setting up the crate, and installing baby gates,” says2 Petfinder.com.
Keeping them somewhat confined – at first – will help you set ground rules, train them, and make sure they don’t have any bathroom/marking issues.
Set and stick to a schedule for most everything
Dogs – especially rescue pups – find comfort in structure. Everything you do – from daily walks, to feeding, to bathroom breaks – should follow a fairly strict schedule. This dependable routine will bring stability to their lives, which may have been pretty chaotic up to this point.
“Try to walk him and feed him at the same times each day, and signal the walking and feeding times with the same keywords every time. For instance, right before you feed him, you might say, ‘Dinner time!’ A reliable routine is an important tool in successfully integrating your new dog into your family and helping him feel secure,” says AdoptaPet.com3.
Be overly patient
This goes for any pet, but it goes double for rescue dogs. Rescue dogs were either given away, found as strays, or taken from an abusive situation. All of these situations are stressful. Now, they’ye being introduced to a new environment and have no idea what to expect. Even if they are mostly house trained, they may make mistakes. They may be wary of touch and affection at first. They may not want to eat or drink. The main point is that you must be very patient.
“Recognize when your new rescue dog dog is afraid. Fear is a powerful emotion that throws training and commands out of the window. Comforting the dog when he is afraid does not reinforce the fear as some believe. Speak in a soft voice, and stroke him gently until he calms down,” says DogTime.com4.
Start training immediately (and get some help!)
Not all of us are Cesar Millan. It’s hard to train a dog – especially one that may be older and who may have been given mixed signals for years. If you don’t feel confident training your new dog yourself – get some help!
“Even though it may take a little while for your shelter dog to get used to his new home, that doesn’t mean you should put off starting an obedience program. On the contrary, regular training sessions can help get him into a routine,” says TheSpruce.com5.
You shouldn’t treat your new rescue dog with kids gloves – proper training and structure is actually good for them – but you should practice an abundance of patience. With time, your dog will become accustomed to its new life and the time you spent in the early days, being patient, will help strengthen your bond.
Jessica is the creator of OurBestFriends.pet. Jessica lives in Dallas, Texas with her loving family (which includes 2 dachshunds and a black lab). She is a certified dog lover, and believes dogs are just about the greatest creatures on earth.