A rescued or rehomed dog can be an amazing addition to a home or family. As with any dog, it's important to find the right match for your lifestyle and it's important to know that there may be some issues to deal with if you are adopting an older dog.
The Honeymoon Period
We all know what a honeymoon is. That blissful time that follows the start of a new union when everything is perfect. When the honeymoon ends, life begins!
Did you know there was a honeymoon period with rehomed or rescued dogs?
In dog circles, we know it all too well. Dogs going into new homes will typically be cautious of their new environments. They'll usually be on their best behaviour, being calm and observant until they feel secure in their new environment.
This means, you won't necessarily see the true character of a new dog until you've lived with them for a short time. The honeymoon period will typically last 1 - 3 weeks. We often get phone calls from people claiming that they've acquired a well trained dog. This phone call typically comes within a few days of the rehoming. We always respond with, "give it time!" Be sure you get to know the dog before making assumptions about reliability in their training. Especially when there are safety considerations.
Tips for Training a Rescued or Rehomed Dog
Get to Know the Dog First
Dogs are wonderful because even when they're new to us, it may seem like we've known them forever! Even with this feeling, it's important to truly get to know them before finalizing their stay. They may or may not be the right fit for your household and it's not a good situation for either party if they aren't the right fit, but stay anyway. It could even be dangerous for both the dog or the adoptive family.
Hopefully the rehoming party has done their homework to ensure they've placed the dog in the right situation, but that is not always the case and can't always be guaranteed. I recently heard of a home with young kids acquiring a dog who was worried about kids on initial contact, but quickly warmed up. This could go either way. Even if this dog learns to love and trust the children living in the home, what happens when they have playdates and friends over? Will it be a safe situation for the children and for the dog? Is this the right match and the right forever-home for this dog?
Are There Issues You Will Need to Address?
It's important to get to know the dog and make sure your home is the right fit for them. Some things to consider:
- Do they have the right energy level?
- Do they have the right temperament?
- Why were they rehomed?
- Are they a runner or wanderer?
- Are they a barker or biter?
- Are they worried?
- Do they suffer from separation anxiety?
If they have any of these issues, are you prepared and equipped to deal with them? There are many reasons that the dog may not be a good match for your home. New homes should know before they fall in love with the dog what steps they need to take to make the match work. Almost all dogs are work whether they're rescued or rehomed, or you've acquired them as a puppy. In all of our years of experience, the percentage of "good old dogs" who don't need work has been very small.
Start From Scratch with Training
We always recommend treating any new dog in the home as a baby puppy. Don't assume they know anything simply because they may be older. Assume the opposite. Start from square one and teach them. Help them understand what you are looking for. A 3-year-old dog doesn't necessarily know how to sit. They may never have been taught or they may not understand the command when it's delivered by a new person. Treat them like they know nothing so they can learn how to respond to their new family. Don't assume they'll be safe alone in the house. Always be sure they are in a safe and secure location, such as a crate, to protect them as well as your home. Be cautious about their interactions with guests or new dogs. Supervise all interactions with kids or other pets in the home.
Start Reinforcing what you Like
Dogs are creatures of habit. That means that they will do what is reinforcing. Be prepared to help your new addition by reinforcing often for things you like! Always have a handful of food in your pocket and look for opportunities to reward the dog for good behaviour. Remember that they will be on their best behaviour through the honeymoon period. Use that to your advantage by capturing behaviours that you want them to repeat. If they are calm greeting strangers on walks, reward them. When they ignore other dogs or passing distractions, reward them. These behaviours may not continue without substantial training, but it will help if they already have a history of reinforcement.
Bringing a rescued or rehomed dog into your life is a wonderful thing. Shelters are full of dogs who have not benefited from the right start. If you find a good match, they'll bring you years of joy and love. We recommend that you do your homework and be honest about what kind of dog will fit well into your lifestyle so that you can cultivate the best possible relationship with your new addition.