Rescuing a dog can be one of the greatest and most rewarding actions you take. There are countless dogs in shelters that are in need of a loving home, ones that were left behind or disposed of by another human. But with an open mind and an open heart you can change the life of the dog or dogs you choose to take home. However, as a professional trainer, I ask of you one thing: stop coddling your rescue dog.
The majority of rescue dogs were not beaten or mistreated, and even for the ones that unfortunately and wrongly were, that doesn’t mean you should baby them or coddle them for the rest of their lives. This is doing your dog a huge disservice. You are handicapping your dog’s ability to move on and live a much more fulfilling and wonderful life with you as their leader.
Dogs don’t live in the past and they don’t live in the future; they live in the present. Your dog can, and most likely will, come with a little baggage. They may be fearful of loud noises, certain humans or other dogs, overly excitable, runners, jumpers, lack the education of verbal commands, and so on. It is now up to you to commit to their well-being by laying a foundation of training and confidence-building.
In my years of training dogs, I have heard this countless times: “Oh he/she is a rescue, so I don’t want to train him/her as they have had it rough, I just want love them.” I want you to love your dog with all your heart, but by only loving your dog and not looking to educate them on how amazing the world can be with you as their leader and best friend, you will ensure a dog that continues to be stuck in their emotional situation.
We as humans hold onto grudges. Don’t do this to your dog. I truly believe that rescue dogs know when they have been saved. Make sure that you’re not just saving a life but committed to improving their way of life. Being a dog that is loved greatly but who is horrible on walks, hides or jumps on guests, bolts out doors, and doesn’t listen to the commands and/or rules of the house is no way for you or them to live. Dogs thrive when they earn freedom to join you on your adventures around town (or even around the country), and that freedom comes from the foundation of training your rescue dog starting from the moment it comes home.
Don’t live in your dog’s past and please stop coddling your rescue dog (and this goes for many small dog owners as well). Instead, create the future of your dreams through proper training and loving your dog. Find what tools work best for your dog, and remember that training your dog should be a bonding experience, not a chore.