Rehoming rescue dogs
An experienced dog owner and rescuer, Steve Hayes, gives us his advice on how to cope with some of the behavioural issues that rescue dogs can have. Steve and his family have adopted 8 dogs and fostered four dogs over the years .
I think the biggest tip apart from the usual ones is about bad behaviour. Just because a dog chews, fights, pees in the house it is not a reason to give up. It is usually a simple thing like a fear, nerves, separation anxiety, trying to take charge etc. But most behaviour issues settle down naturally with training and support.
The dog starts to settle when they find their feet. Bolting food and stealing is due to a history of not having food, when they realise they will get it they settle. Learning no is important but there is never a need for smacking. Smacking the dog’s nose after a wee is pointless and makes fear issues worse. There are very few dogs that walk into a house and do what is expected. Particularly the rescues as they have had a varied past even just moving from house to kennels to your home is disrupting. They may have had abuse or neglect, they may have had to fight other dogs for food. They may have undiagnosed health problems like a urine infection causing an inability to hold urine long. There may be worms causing ravenous hunger and desperation to get food.
Brucie was a pain in the bottom when we had him. He attacked all the others, wee'd on everything and tried to be the boss. He had bounced about several homes and if he failed this time he was going to be killed on return. So we persevered, we put him in his place, was firm and took control, fed him last, made him wait in a sit until we said he could eat. He slowly turned into a calm and very loving dog that knew his place in the pack and we were so glad we persevered. Many a time we said “what have we done taking him in?” but we were rewarded.
Our Amy is having dog training after a visit from a brilliant behaviourist. She has taken to worrying about visitors and nipping legs of those she doesn't know, as well as going potty at the door so we have to hold them all back to answer it. We now have a form of sit and stay for the door which also addresses the nipping strangers issue. She sits in the kitchen on verbal command and stays calmly as we open the door. She is still learning and we practice but the difference it has made already is amazing.
A useful analogy from Steve's dad
Basically there are very few behaviour issues that can't be solved with knowledge time and patience. More often it is the people that need to change something they are doing or not doing to address the behaviour. My Dad likened a new rescue dog in the home to us visiting a foreign country where we didn't speak the language and the customs and manners are nothing like ours. We don't know what people are telling us to do and don't know what we are supposed to do. We have to learn by making mistakes and upsetting people without quite knowing what and why it was wrong. With showing us what to do, following example, praise when we get it right we can learn how to behave, what is acceptable and expected. We will never learn the language but will pick up and associate certain words. We can learn through body language and physical encouragement....
So many adoptions fail as people want the perfect Andrew puppy or Lassie but those dogs don't exist. That is part of the reward of rescuing.