March 4 2020
The life of a rescue dog or puppy mill dog, may not be a happy one right from the start and any negative experiences can have a huge impact on their personalities and behaviour.
All dogs are born with a certain temperament and if that temperament is shy and nervous, it cannot be changed through training.
However, you can certainly work with your dog to make their lives comfortable, safe and happy and you will see improvements over time.
They may never be that social butterfly and some are even agoraphobic. Some make remarkable progress but will still have that shy attitude.
Here are some guidelines to settle your new dog and ensure their happiness:
- Never rush a timid dog and do not expect too much too soon. They have their own ‘clock’ and some can turn around quickly, whilst others are painfully slow.
- Look at it through their eyes - and not what YOU want and don’t be disappointed that your dog may not be what was expected. Look at him with open eyes and an open heart and exercise lots of patience.
- For the first week or so, let your dog settle and don’t push any training. Try to resist the urge to take them to the busy coffee shop or park. It will be too much for them. Introduce people and places gradually and observe their body language closely. Understanding dog’s body language is very important.
- In the beginning, just let them be, and any visitors should be quiet and not push to make friends. Let the hound go to them - if they want! Be aware that dogs learn by association and if they see someone who reminds them of a previous bad experience they are likely to bark, growl or bite. This does not mean they are aggressive - they are scared. This can be managed with the help of a professional. And beware the ‘expert’! You know the one who has had dogs all their life and want to train your dog for you! These people need to be avoided quickly and politely.
- Make sure you have a quiet spot where you dog can go to relax. They will make their way to where it is comfortable. Of course, have an array of comfy beds around the house.
- Start them off with a new fresh healthy diet. Perhaps for their first couple of meals, make baked sweet potato and pumpkin in coconut oil. That will give the digestive system a chance to detox and relax. I personally recommend a natural raw diet but do your own research and make informed decisions in regards to diet. Detoxing is very important at this stage.
- Try herbal and homeopathic remedies as they can work subtly and effectively. Seek professional advice.
- Try learning massage - this can have wonderful soothing effects. If you have a naturopath, acupuncturist or holistic animal healer seek them out. There are many effective therapies and treatments that are helpful and work on the whole system.
- I would not advise an obedience class…if you engage any type of dog trainer, seek out a behaviourist who will look at the whole picture. Find someone who has had experience with traumatised or rescued dogs and takes a gentle but confident approach. Don’t ever do anything you are uncomfortable with. Too many people assume their trainer is an expert and say nothing when they feel uncomfortable about their approach. Your trainer should be patient, and explain everything to your satisfaction and never use harsh methods. Definitely no shock, citronella or prong collars should ever be used.
- Do not let children approach when sleeping, eating or when on their bed. And children should never reprimand the dog. However, managed properly, a child can be a soothing influence on the dog. Kids and dogs are more on the same ‘wavelength’.
- Take time to learn about separation anxiety…Leaving a dog alone all day is not a good idea and they have to learn to separate when you are home before they will be comfortable when you leave. Separation anxiety may need an expert to assist.
- The temptation is to shower your hound with love and kisses and lots of affection. Of course, give them love but do not overpower them in an attempt to make them feel loved and comfortable. You will only succeed in having a spoilt dog who will eventually rule you and cause trouble. Of course, you can get away with that sort of ‘spoiling’ with many dogs but remember, your dog wants you to lead!
- Dogs feel safe and loved with confident, kind and gentle guidance and directions should be simple, kind, consistent and clear. They also need to understand how to behave and stop undesirable behaviour. Never use your hands to reprimand. Never shout and never use isolation as a punishment. You must use language the dog understands and not be too strict. There is a balance to be achieved.
- Any training should emphasise communication and appropriate for the situation at hand. It should be light and not strict with an element of fun!
- It takes time and patience, good guidance and consistency to get them settled and happy and it’s a wonderful thing to see a shy and nervous hound blossom into a well-adjusted family dog!
Faith has been part of the Bark Busters Family for 20 years. She can make a huge difference to dog's lives for the better, and that is her driving motivation.
After training, rescuing and rehabilitating many many dogs, Faith understands their needs and how to get the very best out of them and their humans in a kind and sometimes humorous way.
It's all about love, respect and fantastic results. Faith understand how stressful an out of control dog can be and loves seeing the dramatic difference in the dog and their human by the end of a lesson.