Wouldn`t It Be Nice?

Lovely rescued aussie/golden mix Jackson, with me for board/train in Elkton MD, is learning to acclimate to a new home and neighborhood.

What happened? Your newly adopted dog, seemingly afraid of everything, wants no part of a leash, going for a walk, visiting friends and acts like children are little aliens. At the dog park he runs into a corner and plays invisible. Wouldn`t it be nice if he acted like the dog you really signed up for? Jackson, with me for board/train in Elkton MD, a lovely aussie/golden mix, is acclimating to his new home and neighborhood. Jackson is one lucky dog! 

Sadly, the former scenario repeats itself frequently, as frustrated at wits end folks relate their tales. People don`t sign up for project dogs in need of major rehab, but it happens. Seeming apparently adoption ready in the shelter, some dogs prove to be otherwise upon reaching their new home.

What is a family to do? Many folks are ill equipped to cope with problem pooches. Many folks are completely taken aback and at a total loss. Some dogs I see are a challenge for an experienced dog trainer. If you have brought home Problem Pooch, best option #1 is to consult with a certified positive trainer knowledgeable in behavior.

Even better is proactive research prior to adoption. Are you heading to a shelter in the near future to adopt? Ask about their assessments or if they even do them. Best practice is to go through a rescue with a behavior department in place, and volunteers working actively with the dogs. Speaking from experience, here are some things one should never assume about a newly rescued dog:

  • Pooch will love all people and little kids.
  • At the dog park Pooch will be a well adjusted social butterfly adept at doggy social interactions.
  • Walking around a busy neighborhood with traffic, bikes, lawn mowers and barking fenced dogs will not faze Pooch in the least.
  • Pooch will immediately adjust to family life, as if Pooch was always there.
  • The other family dogs and Pooch will have an immediate rapport.
  • Pooch will be just like the last golden retriever you had.

As consequence of the above items NOT happening, I am called by frazzled folks in dire need of assistance, and I truly empathize with these folks. Pooch is often In need of much remedial work.  If this is you, bless you for hanging in there with Pooch. You are in a position to save a life, quite literally. Return to rescues for these dogs can literally be life threatening.

Some useful pointers with any newly adopted dog might be to:

  • Observe for signs of undue stress.
  •  Introduction to other family pets should be gradual.
  • Give the new family member their own space in which to relax and acclimate.
  • Spend a week or so on the home front (give or take) with back yard play before trucking off into often wildly stimulating neighborhoods. (Does Pooch even know what a leash is?)
  • Take it slowly on that first jaunt (with a good supply of treats) around the block and be watching for, yup, signs of stress.
  • Recognize that undesired behaviors appearing are not just going to be a phase of adjustment. They will need to be addressed.
  • Know that fear is often at the root of behavior with any dog coming from a background lacking in appropriate socialization.
  • Practice appropriate human-dog body language towards the newcomer.
  • Never assume that Pooch knows about kids and use good and appropriate management.
  • If there is no training on board, get some sooner rather than later. Assessment by a professional for problematic behaviors, before they escalate, is always best.

Hopefully you have not run into any serious problems with your own rescued dogs. Many many rescued pooches are just perfectly fine; given my profession I tend to see the problem pooches. But wouldn`t it be nice if they all came new life certified? Wouldn`t it be nice if a bad start in life had not left them with so much baggage. CLICKS go to all who commit to giving a better life to your rescued dogs. That is really nice.

Leslie Fisher PMCT CPDT-KA

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