Don't Let Your [Rescue] Dog's Past Define Their Future

rescue training tips Sep 28, 2022
Dog running with ball in mouth

All too often we witness owners of rescue dogs avoid disciplining their pooch because their past wasn’t the best. However, when we do not provide structure, leadership, and proper training, this has the opposite effect than intended and strengthens the emotions associated with the past owners are trying to “protect” them from.

Dogs thrive with structure, play, and proper guidance. They do not thrive when coddled or sheltered instead of being brought out into the world in a way that builds confidence.

And you may have guessed it - the best way to build that confidence is through play and games.

Think of children - how their confidence grows through sports and other recreational activities - their confidence is not built through eating meals in various places. Yet this is the primary approach most owners and trainers take - bring a timid dog who wasn’t exposed properly and try to get them to take treats in scary places. Stop that.

First you must find what type of game your dog finds most rewarding - a cooperative game like fetch, a competitive game like tug, or a mixture of both like frisbee.

Once you have found their game of choice you must establish rules before taking your game out in public. The rules being - 1) You must bring the toy back vs playing the catch-me-if-you-can game, 2) When asked for an out, you must out without rushing back to beat me to the toy, and 3) You will be allowed lots of wins in tug to build confidence, but you must be able to flow between a spicy game of tug and an “all done” calm window.

When you have built a strong play foundation including the boundaries listed above, then take those games out into the real world. Start in lower distracting areas with minimal stimuli around, then build up to other areas your dog may have found challenging or overwhelming in the past.

This isn’t a race. Take your time and don’t let your rescue dog’s past define their future. The future is bright, you just need to lead your dog right.



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