Rescue Dogs

“I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights.  That is the way of a whole human being.”

- Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States

“A lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me.”

- Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States

BlueEyes02There are many thousands of people who enjoy sharing their lives with a rescue dog. It is a rewarding, fulfilling experience to know that you’re living with a dog who has been let down by a human already, and you’re helping to right that wrong.

If you are living with a rescue dog, it’s very important to make sure that you’re not doing your little friend a dis-service. Some of them may have gone through terrible experiences, and others may well have just needed to find a new home through no fault of their own.

It’s sad that the term ‘rescue dog’ seem have a stigma attached - it suggests to many people that there must be something wrong with this particular dog, otherwise they wouldn’t be in a rescue situation. It’s probably more accurate to consider them as dogs that haven’t found a permanent home yet.

Many dogs come into rescue purely because the owners did not understand what they were taking on when they were seduced by a small, cute puppy. After the initial novelty has worn off, the reality of house training and the responsibility that comes with sharing your home with an animal can become too much.

In other cases, a much beloved family pet can come into rescue because of a bereavement, or a change in circumstances. Sadly, when members of the family lose their job, it is often the pets who are the first ‘cost cutting’ measure.

Sometimes dogs are just found as a stray, and there’s nothing known about them whatsoever. No microchip or identifying tags mean that if no-one comes forward to claim them, the local pound must either find a rescue space for them, or have them put to sleep.

Here's some more articles about rescue dogs:

Homechecks >

Be Prepared >

Your Rescue Journey Pt1 >

Your Rescue Journey Pt2 >

Taking On A Stray >

Homechecks

“A lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me.”

- Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States

Homechecks are a very important part of the rehoming procedure, not just for the rescue itself, but for you too.

Some people think of homechecks as an inconvenience. After all, you know that you’d be a fabulous home for a rescue dog. If there are rescue dogs needing homes, then they should welcome you with open arms, right?

Well, no. This dog has, one way or another, already been let down once. It’s more important than ever to make sure that this homing is right.

Whether a centre carries out homechecks or not gives you a good idea of whether they care about where the dog is going. While you may know your garden is secure, should a centre responsible for homing a living, breathing creature really take your word for it?

If a centre isn’t worried about your garden, your house, your family circumstances, how is it possible to make sure the right match takes place?

You may take a shine to Billy, a very bouncy Lab who has a penchant for jumping into ponds. Your next door neighbour has expensive Koi carp, and your fences are only 3ft high. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that Billy will be very tempted to go and splash around. And whilst he’ll have a fabulous time swimming, the Koi might not be so lucky, and you’ll end up with a bill for hundreds of pounds for some very expensive dead fish.

Whilst you’ll be furious getting a huge invoice like that, and your relationship with your neighbour will now be a bit frosty, there would be no point getting angry with Billy because it wasn’t his fault. If the garden was secure and he couldn’t see the pond, he wouldn’t have leapt over there for a splash around.

With a homecheck and the right advice, that situation might be avoided. Heightening the fence so Billy never even notices that there’s a pond, and even if he did, he couldn’t get to it, would solve that problem. Billy wouldn’t get into mischief, and you won’t get a huge bill.

According to www.justdiydecor.com, homecheckers are usually volunteers of the rescue, and may have done many homechecks over the years. Their expertise and help can aid you in making sure that your garden is secure, safe and a happy environment for a new friend.

If you’re thinking of adopting a dog but his vice is enjoying digging up gardens, you could install a sand pit (with non-toxic sand, obviously) and hide toys in there. By guiding what is often seen as a problem behaviour from your flower beds into a controlled area where you can encourage him to play and dig, you’re showing that dog that there’s exciting things to do in this new environment. Instead of trying to stop a dog from doing something they enjoy, you’re showing them that they’re still allowed to do it in an area specially designed for them to have loads of fun.

If you do decide to take a dog from a centre that does not carry out homechecks, then you should really carry out your own homecheck to make sure everything is right for a dog to come home. You would not want to bring a dog home, and then it all go wrong because you didn’t check the basics. Here are some of the things to look out for:

Outdoors

First, the garden. It’s worth making sure that your fences are in good repair, of a good height, and are entirely secure. Clearly the size of fence you would need for a Yorkie in comparison to a Great Dane is obvious, so you must use your common sense. Equally, if you have wrought iron gates, the Great Dane can’t slip through the bars, but a Yorkie could.

There’s no point having a fully secure garden with high fences if then you have raised flower beds, tables and chairs stacked against the fence. We’ve often seen a nice little arrangement where a flower bed leads onto a chair, onto a table, onto the shed roof… and there’s the dog running havoc in a neighbours garden because it’s smelled the barbeque. All while you’re oblivious in the house because you were confident that the garden is completely secure.

Also, don’t be lulled into thinking that even if your fence isn’t high enough “they can’t get out of the neighbours garden”. Firstly, it really isn’t your neighbour’s responsibility to make sure your dog is safe. If they open their gates, have a window open, have visiting children round that are scared of dogs, all sorts of bad things can happen. You wouldn’t want to find your dog has been injured or killed in a road accident because they got out of your neighbours garden.

Make sure that your fence panels are nice and sturdy. Whilst you may bring home a dog who has no interest in replicating their own version of ‘The Great Escape’, if your fences are rotten, high winds, or even an over-enthusiastic dog chasing a ball could quickly breach the perimeter.

You may have a fantastically secure garden… six foot fence panels and a nice six foot gate. However, that gate isn’t much use if it isn’t bolted. If someone opens the gate and doesn’t shut it properly, it could be quite some time before you realise that your little pal has gone missing. Invest in a sprung gate hinge, which will automatically swing shut if someone doesn’t close it properly, and make sure you install a bolt on the inside of the gate. These things may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many dogs are lost simply because a gate or a door has been left open. Spending a few pounds on a sprung hinge and bolt, is a small price to pay for the safety and security of your dog.

People also believe that their garden is fully secure because they have very thick hedging. Dogs, even large ones, can get through small gaps at the bottom of a hedge. You would not believe the size of holes some dogs can squeeze through! This is especially the case if you’ve had foxes push their way into your garden. Their scent can lead some dogs directly to the gap, and they’re off trying to find Mr Fox!

One of the easiest solutions to this problem is to install some wire mesh into the hedge, and fix it to the ground with something like tent pegs. The best way to achieve this is to cut the hedge back, and push the mesh flush with the hedge. Use stakes every four feet or so, and fix the wire to the stakes. Then, use tent pegs to keep the wire mesh flush to the floor. Although it isn’t always possible to do this, the best time is during spring and early summer, because within a week or two, the hedge will have grown through the mesh, and you won’t even be able to see it any more. The hedge will now strengthen the mesh, and you have a fully secure hedge, without any visual impact.

It is also worth considering the plants and decor of your garden. Do you have any plants that are poisonous to dogs? Common plants such as Holly, Hydrangea and Tulips can cause skin rashes and other associated problems. More seriously, plants such as Azalea, Foxglove, Mistletoe and Rhododendron can be fatal. If you have a dog, you may want to put up fake mistletoe at Christmas just to be on the safe side.

There are many, many more plants that are poisonous to dogs, and we'll explore that further in another article on the site. It isn’t an exhaustive list, that simply isn’t possible, so you should always use common sense when looking at the safety of your home and garden. If you aren’t sure - always err on the side of caution. There is nothing worse than thinking ‘it’ll be okay’, only to find that it isn’t.

There are other things in your garden you may never have considered as being a problem. For example, do you have any bark chippings in your garden? Some packs of bark chippings include the bark from cocoa trees, which are poisonous (for the same reasons as chocolate) to dogs. This all depends on where the chippings were sourced, so if you’re unsure, check the bag (if you still have it), or contact the retailer you purchased it from for more information.

There’s nothing more important to a dog that does not know your environment than feeling safe and secure. Even if you’ve had an exhaustive homecheck, it’s your responsibility to make sure that your garden is a safe environment. They may miss something that you’ve noticed.

Indoors

You can have a good think about where you’d like your dog to sleep, but quite often dogs like to choose their own place where they feel safe and secure. Some dogs prefer to be with you, others prefer to be alone. Some love having their own crate at nighttime and others prefer free-range. Make sure they have some nice bedding - it’s often best to use an old duvet or blanket - something that has a familiar smell of you and your household, rather than an expensive new bed which just smells of fire retardant foam.

If you’re considering taking on a dog who is known to have food issues, or perhaps has been a stray for a long time, you’ll probably want to invest in a kitchen bin with a lockable lid. Even flip top bins are no problem for your determined canine food thief! These dogs have often had to use their intelligence and ingenuity to gain access to food, so you must make sure that you’re careful about where, and how you store things. If they really are interested in wherever you put food, than have all your foodstuffs in the higher cupboards, and no food in the cupboards at doggy-access level.

If you have children, make sure any toys that are precious are kept out of reach of a dog. We often give dogs cuddly toys to play with, and then that same dog gets in trouble for taking little Katie’s teddy bear. We can’t be inconsistent over the rules. Allow your dog to have access to the toys you want them to have. If you buy your dog small squeaky furry toys, don’t be surprised if they get obsessed by small squeaky furry hamsters. If you buy them a novelty squeaky toy that looks like a phone, don’t be entirely shocked when they chew your new smartphone to pieces.

It seems obvious, but just make sure that any you’d hate getting broken is put away safely. When you’re dog-proofing your house, think of it in the same way as if you’d be baby-proofing. You may have a lovely vase that sits on a jardiniere, but Timmy’s waggy tail isn’t as delicate as the appraiser on Antiques Roadshow… Most things that get broken by a dog are usually collateral damage!

Of course, making your garden secure, and the house completely dog-proof is useless if you forget that you’ve left a window open. Many dogs escape from homes purely because a window has been left open. We’ve even heard of determined dogs jumping (unharmed, thank goodness) from upstairs windows. Make sure that your windows and doors are secure. If you’ve taken on a dog who is nervous and skittish, it only takes a second for them to squirm past you - so don’t be tempted to chat to the postman with the door open. A dog is always quicker than you are!

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Be Prepared

I very much believe in rescuing animals, not buying them.

- Candice Bergen

Don’t Make A Decision Based On Emotion

This is probably the most important, and the most difficult to follow piece of advice. You must make a decision about a dog based on who you can give the best home. You should never adopt or take on a dog because you feel sorry for them. If you choose the wrong dog because you felt sorry for them, you’re going to end up letting them down. If you cannot truly help them, then another stressful experience in a home that cannot cope with them won’t help.

You must always think “can I offer this dog the best home for them”? If you can’t, then they aren’t the right dog for you, and you aren’t the right person for them.

There’s no point taking on a dog with severe separation anxiety if you’re out for extended periods of time. You wouldn’t be the best home for that dog. If you have cats, and this dog hates cats, it doesn’t matter how sorry you feel for them - it wouldn’t be right for your dog or the cats. If a dog is scared of children, and you have lots of visiting children, it seems obvious that your environment isn’t the best one for that dog.

These things all may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people let themselves ignore the obvious things because they are making a decision based entirely on the desire to ‘save’ a dog. There are so many rescue dogs out there looking for homes, that the right dog is out there. If you take the wrong one, not only are you putting the wrong dog in the wrong home so that both the owner and the dog is unhappy, but you’ve perhaps overlooked the dog who would love you, your house and environment so you could all be happy.

And, if you choose the wrong dog, who is to say the right person for that dog wasn’t the next one to visit?

If a dog has to go back to the rescue because you made the wrong choice, the rescue has to explain to anyone else interested that this dog has gone to a home and come back again. Some people understand that these things sometimes can’t be avoided, but others may think there’s a hidden reason this dog was returned, and not consider them at all.

So, think carefully because the wrong decision can have a big impact on the future of the dog.

Dress Appropriately

Don’t ‘dress up’ to make a positive impression on the people at the rescue - rescues are always wary of people who come dressed inappropriately. If you’re wearing high heels and a short skirt, how will you be able to take a dog for a walk? If you’re wearing designer jeans and an expensive jacket, how will you react if a dog splashes in a puddle, jumps up and gets mud all over you?

There’s always a sense of dread that we feel if a family arrive to meet a dog dressed up to the nines. We’ve had people arrive in full-length designer cream coloured wool coats - in the middle of winter! People have arrived as though they were ready to go out to a nightclub rather than meet a potential new friend. As a rescue, you have to take into consideration that if potential owners don’t know what’s appropriate when meeting a dog, are they really ready to have a dog at all?

If you’re wanting to add a dog to your family, you need to be practical. Dress as though you were off for a walk in the country, expecting to get mud or paw prints on you. If you dress appropriately, you’ll be relaxed. If you’re relaxed, the dog you’re meeting will know you’re relaxed.

Assume that you will get dog hairs on you - assume you will have to pick up dog poo, and assume that you will get muddy paw prints on your clothes. All of these things will happen if you’re a dog owner, so you may as well get used to the idea from the first moment you decide to have a new friend.

So, be prepared, and when meeting a dog, don’t dress as though you’re heading out to the catwalk!

Don’t Expect A Hearts And Flowers Moment

Many people think that when they meet the dog for them, it will be an instant bond. Immediately there will be a moment where time slows down, and dog and human fall into each other’s arms.

This really doesn’t happen all that often. Some of the strongest bonds come when the human has proved to their dog that they can be trusted. For some dogs this can take a long time, but when that bond has been created through a lengthy period of trust, it is one of the strongest bonds you can ever have.

On many occasions we’ve seen people declare that our own dog Jack is the perfect dog for them because ‘we felt an instant bond to him’. Whilst that’s how they felt, it isn’t how Jack feels. Jack, for want of a better phrase, is a tart. He’ll cuddle and play with anyone. He’ll make you feel like you’re the only person in the world that makes him play like this… until someone new arrives. And when ‘new blood’ arrives, he does the whole thing all over again with someone new. He’s a serial philanderer. He has no special ties to anyone in particular, but makes those people feel like it for the time he’s interested in them.

On the other hand, Rags is the complete opposite. He will not interact with people very much. Sometimes he’ll let them stroke him, but he seems like a loner who wouldn’t have a bond to anyone. However, of all our dogs, we know that Rags is the one who keeps the sharpest eye on where we are and what’s going on. If he thinks any dog is getting out of hand, he runs in like the ‘referee’ to deal with it. You know instinctively that Rags would be the dog who would defend you in a scary situation and make sure you’re safe, whereas Jack would present your attackers with a toy.

A relationship and trust must be earned. Even if you do get that ‘hearts and flowers’ moment, you must make sure that you build that bond. It’s more difficult to get Jack away from strangers picnic baskets over the park than it is for Rags. If the dog you choose is a bit of a floosie like Jack, it’s even more important that you work at being more interesting than everything else around you, or he’ll never listen to you, and you’ll spend your walks tearing your hair out because they are spending more time and paying more attention to everyone else but you.

Don’t Act Like A Trainer

Some people think that in order to make a good impression at a rescue, they need to show how much skill they have in training a dog. As soon as they’ve got their hands on the canine in question, they start pulling them around, and trying to get them to ‘sit’, ‘stay’, ‘give paw’.

The dog they have just met doesn’t know them. They have no reason to trust or listen to this person. So, if the first actions of this person are to boss them around, for the wrong dog, it can have some very unfortunate consequences. Don’t push things - let a dog get to know you in their own time. When they like you, and trust you, they will want to do things for you.

You’re Not A Dog Show Judge

Despite knowing nothing about the dog in front of them, some people insist on behaving like a Dog Show Judge, pulling the dog’s mouth up to see their teeth and gums, running their hands all over the dog’s body as though having a medial exam, and prodding and pulling ears.

If a stranger came up to another human and started prodding and poking us, we’d get very angry very quickly. But some people think they can do this with a rescue dog just because they want to look like they know what they are doing.

If that dog nips or even bites that person for pulling them around, it will be the dog who gets labelled as a ‘problem’ dog, or an ‘aggressive’ dog.

At the end of the day, we as humans (the supposed intelligent species) shouldn’t be putting a dog in an uncomfortable situation where they feel that they need to defend themselves or tell a human to back off.

If you want to see their teeth, and ask other health questions, ask for an experienced member of staff or volunteer who is familiar with the dog - and more importantly - who the dog is familiar with.

Don’t ruin the possibility of a new friend by pushing things too far, too soon.

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Your Rescue Journey Pt1

 From behind a wooden crate we saw a long black-muzzled nose poking round at us. We took him out—soft, wobbly, tearful; set him down on his four, as yet not quite simultaneous legs, and regarded him. He wandered a little round our legs, neither wagging his tail nor licking at our hands; then he looked up, and my companion said: "He's an angel!"

- John Galsworthy

Remember That You’re On A Brand New Journey

Hopefully you’ll have navigated the treacherous waters of adoption, and finally come home with the dog you believe will be the happiest with you.

However, when you bring a new dog home, you may find that they are reacting in a completely unexpected way. You’ve asked all the questions, and the rescue seemed honest when describing everything to you, but suddenly, you’re at home, little Toto is acting very strangely and it looks as though the rescue have lied to you!

Unless you’ve found a disreputable one, rescues don’t want to mislead you about a dog you’re taking on. A reputable rescue that has the best interests of the dog at heart wants you and your new pal to be together forever.

Most rescues with a good reputation will stipulate that if there is a problem, they will take the dog back - this is not just for the peace of mind of the new owner, but it’s the best thing for the dog too. Dogs don’t just come back to rescues because of ‘behaviour’ problems, but they can come back for all sorts of reasons.

People’s personal circumstances can change, they may need to move into a flat where animals aren’t allowed, a family member may become allergic, health issues of the human may mean they can’t cope with a dog any more - there are any number of unexpected situations that can arise that mean you can no longer look after your dog. Knowing that a rescue has made a commitment to be there when these things happen mean that you know it’s in their best interests to match the right dog with the right home.

It also means there’s no point lying just to get a dog in a new home; if it isn’t right and doesn’t work, then it just means the dog is coming back to them anyway. There are so many dogs out there needing to be rescued, that it’s in everyone’s interests for them to tell you everything they know and have observed about the dog.

However, there are two things to remember:

The people at the rescue are human, and are just as prone to misinterpreting behaviour as you are, and dogs react differently in different situations.

Unfortunately, no matter how thorough they are explaining all they know, a new adopter can still feel like they have been lied to, because the dog doesn’t necessarily behave how they expected, or how that behaviour was described by the rescue.

This can happen both ways. If a rescue has been told that Barrington, a huge Red Setter that has been handed in to them hates children, they will pass that information on to you. Rescues don’t generally have stunt children ready to test whether this is true or not, so they have to assume that the information they’ve been given is true. However, let’s say you’ve adopted Barrington, and due to an unexpected family visit you discover that Barrington actually loves children! In fact, the most likely reason Barrington got labelled as hating children is that he just didn’t like the previous owner’s children because they were mean to him. Dogs often get the blame even when it isn’t their fault.

The other thing to bear in mind is that dogs will react different ways in different situations with different people. The way a dog reacts in a large group of dogs can be different to when they are on their own. Some dogs feel safer in a large group where they don’t feel they need to be responsible for anything, but when they get into a home where they are the only dog, they may suddenly feel they need to be protective of their new people.

Scrap’s Story

How much do you know about the history of dogs? How much do we really understand? Click the picture to read our article, "The Story Of The Dog".

We had a dog called Scrap come back to us because he was a nightmare with the adopters cat. We found this very odd; we would always do a ‘cat test’ when adopters have cats. We wouldn’t even just let the adopters take our word for it; our own cats would come wandering in and we’d show exactly how the dog reacts with a cat around. Scrap really couldn’t give two hoots about cats. They could do anything to him, snuggle up to him, and even play with him. Generally Scrap just wasn’t all that fussed what they did.

However, this wasn’t what was happening in his new home. They described his behaviour, and it seemed very out of character. We gave advice, and they tried to work with him for a couple of months with no success. When they came back with him, he jumped out of the car, and one of the first things that happened was that one of our own cats, Whiskey, walked up to him, and started rubbing all round Scrap’s face. Scrap stood there and did nothing.

“I can’t believe it,” the adopter said, “he wouldn’t let our cat anywhere near him!”

At that moment, a couple of our other cats appeared and sat in front of him. Scrap, once again, was unperturbed. He acted as though the cats didn’t even exist, all while Whiskey continued rubbing around him.

So, when we delved into the story, we discovered that when they had first introduced Scrap to their cat, the cat slapped him across the nose with it’s claws and bolted. So every time Scrap saw the cat from that moment, the cat would run - so Scrap would chase this thing that had hurt him the first time they met. The problem wasn’t that Scrap didn’t like cats - Scrap didn’t like THAT cat - with good reason! So, it became a routine; every time the cat ran, Scrap would chase. It wasn’t that Scrap wanted to kill the cat; he was trying to get rid of a cat he’d seen as a violent threat.

The problem with trying to solve this issue between Scrap and the adopters cat was this - if when you first met someone they punched you in the face and ran off, would you ever trust them again?

What it did prove though, was that Scrap hadn’t associated the cat’s violence toward him to all cats; he recognised that there was one, single cat who had been horrible to him. He didn’t hold that against the rest of the feline species.

Scrap found a new home - with cats - who love him and don’t smack him round the face. He’s often cuddled up in his dog bed with a cat snuggled in with him. However, without knowing his behaviour with our own cats, poor Scrap would have been branded a cat hater for the rest of his life. And had we not been able to show that Scrap is actually really rather good with cats, the adopters may have thought we’d lied to them about him.

Sometimes Things Are As Good As They Say

There’s an unfortunate side-effect of a lovely, well balanced, happy dog coming into rescue: people don’t believe you. There’s a nagging “there must be something wrong if they are in rescue” that’s at the back of people’s minds.

Some dogs come into rescue purely because of a bereavement, and so a happy, loved, well cared-for fantastic dog needs to find a home. Even then, people will think ‘if they were that good, a member of the family would have them’. It’s more common than you would think that a dog, who has been a companion to the deceased is the first inconvenience out of the door. It’s very sad that some families see the dog as another thing to ‘get rid of’.

As an example of this, we once had a phone call from a family who said that they needed a rescue space for a dog they were keeping in the garage in about ‘three months time’. So we asked why they’d want to keep the dog in the garage for three months rather than get an immediate space. It was then they explained that this was their Uncle’s dog, and he’d just died. They needed to keep the dog for three months, and then they could get their hands on the money he’d left in his will to look after the dog.

People who ignore these dogs are often passing up on some of the most fantastic companions you could ever wish to meet.

Sometimes, you can be presented with a dog that seems ‘too good to be true’. Sometimes, they really are that good.

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Your Rescue Journey Pt2

There are all sorts of cute puppy dogs, but it doesn't stop people from going out and buying Dobermans.

- Angus Young

Children

It stands to reason that you should be careful with dogs around children; especially a rescue dog. This isn’t to say that the rescue dog is dangerous in any way, but it is the humans responsibility to make sure that your dog isn’t put into a difficult situation.

There are dogs I can trust 100% with children, but not all children can be trusted 100% with dogs. This isn’t meant to offend: even the nicest, most careful child can trip and accidentally fall on a dog. Accidents are accidents, but a dog’s natural reaction when feeling a sudden pain can be to become aggressive at the thing causing the pain.

Unfortunately, dogs can get the blame when incidents like this happen, and a dog bites. In most dog bite situations, they could have been avoided had simple common sense precautions been taken.

The age of the child, by and large isn’t an issue. We’ve seen children of toddling age who are fantastic with dogs, and likewise teenagers who are nightmares! Just like adults, dogs need to learn to trust. If children are running around, screaming yelling and being untidy, then some breeds can get very distressed by it. Other breeds might join in, adding to the mayhem! Every breed looks at a situation differently.

Dogs such as the Staffordshire Bull Terrier (Staffie) have a rather poor reputation these days. Unfortunately that has been cultivated by the advent of ‘status’ dogs; but back in the Victorian era, Staffies were known as the ‘Nanny Dog’ because of their excellent temperament around children, and their ability to look after their wards.

For some dogs, children can become mobile buffet carts. They’re often running around with food in their hands, and if dropped, that food becomes ‘fair game’. Even with our own dogs, if you drop something and they’re quicker than you are, there can be an accidental clash of canine teeth and human hand! This doesn’t mean they’re aggressive; simply that we’re clumsy, and accidents happen.

Second Puppyhood

Bruno - A similar shape and size to the dog photographed in 1870.

If you’ve taken on a rescue dog who has had a bad past, has been unsocialised or generally mistreated, you may discover that as they get more and more comfortable with you and your household, they start to show a more mischievous side.

As they hadn’t had the opportunity to learn in their previous environment, they need to do all the puppy learning with you.

It’s really important that you don’t misread these signals though. Sometimes when a full-grown adult dog is acting like a puppy, it can seem like unpleasant behaviour. Little things such as grabbing your arm with their teeth to get your attention can be misinterpreted as an aggressive act - when it isn’t.

Getting Home

The best way to approach going home is to make completely sure that you have everything that you need already organised, and treat your new friend as though they have always lived with you. The more relaxed you are, the more relaxed they will feel.

Don’t Show Off!

It’s natural to want to show everyone your new friend - but don’t overdo things. Too many visitors for a new dog will be stressful, and you don’t want to ruin how comfortable they feel with you straightaway.

Too many people decide to show off their new friend at the park, a local fete, or even take them to a friend’s house. It can be overwhelming for them for so much to happen so quickly with someone they don’t even know properly just yet.

It’s important that you do different things with your new friend so that they don’t get into too much of a routine with you (and don’t get scared of new things), but don’t do too much too soon. You don’t yet know exactly how they react to different things in different situations - there’s a big learning curve for you both, so take it nice and steadily.

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Taking On A Stray

She had no particular breed in mind, no unusual requirements. Except the special sense of mutual recognition that tells dog and human they have both come to the right place.

- Lloyd Alexander

Perhaps the most daunting for any potential adopter is taking on a dog that has been found as a stray. Because there is no history, and no name for this dog, people often think taking on a stray is a very risky thing to do.

As we’ve already shown, each dog can act very differently depending on the person they are with, and how that person reacts to them. When you are getting to know a dog that has no history, it’s very tempting to read signals into every little movement they make. If they flinch when you move your arm, you may think they’ve been hit.

We’ve met dogs that we know have never had a bad thing happen to them in their lives, and yet are still instinctively scared of certain movements or sounds. It’s very tempting to get drawn into trying to piece together the history of a dog based on their body language, but you can make many mistakes or even come up with a very convoluted story about your dog based on nothing more than some body language you may have misinterpreted.

When you’re working with a dog, and getting to know them, whilst it is important to recognise what movements, signals and sounds make them nervous, try not to read too much into it at the meeting stage. This dog doesn’t know you, and is in a strange situation. They are bound to be a little reticent, and will be checking you out just as much as you are watching them. In many ways, the first few minutes of a first meeting, (no matter the background of the dog) will be a time of feeling out whether this human in front of them can be trusted.

One film and two TV series told the story of "The Littlest Hobo", described as a German Shepherd who travelled from town to town helping people, and then moving on. The 1970's TV series had one of the most memorable theme tunes on TV, "Maybe Tomorrow".

Some owners of rescue dogs spend so much time looking back, worrying about what happened in the dog’s past (that you will never be able to confirm with any certainty) that they forget to enjoy what happening in front of them right now.

Irrespective of what caused a problem or issue, if you don’t know for certain what caused it, then too much guesswork can make things much worse.

When we work with a dog who is hand-shy and scared of a raised hand, the solution is all about making the movement they are scared of much less scary. The end product is that you want them to find your hand movements all have positive consequences.

Again, when we go back to some of the ‘pack leader’ techniques which involve bullying a dog into submission, it’s impossible for those techniques to work with a dog that has been physically abused. It’s the shortest way to guarantee that this dog will see you as a threat, and not trust you.

Always look forward, and work with what you do know.