How long does it take to gain their loyalty and trust?
Good pets: To rescue a dog is really quite a challenging, but rewarding thing.
Some dogs are perfect for their new homes and fit in with no hassle, by giving them the love they deserve will make them most loving and trustworthy pet. However, not all dogs that need a new home are going to be that easy, many have been through a lot of distress in life and have been let down so much by the world and the people in it that they need more than just love.
It is very often that you may see videos shared on your social medias of heart-warming rescue stories. Stories of terrified dogs ‘saved’ by a cuddle, aggressive dogs ‘cured’ with love, photos of unhealthy, shut down dogs followed by a happy and healthy version. These are all great to see, but they don’t show you the whole truth, the full story of how these ‘miracle’ transformations happen, and the hard work that goes into the dogs to save them from their own behaviours.
You don’t get to see the people that work with these types of dogs having to run out of a kennel because a dog flies at them. You don’t get to see them holding a lead so tight and away from them as a dog tries to climb its way up to their hand with its teeth. You don’t see the hours of training and patience it takes to even get a harness onto a petrified dog. And you most certainly don’t see the heartache from the ones that have been so deprived of life, that they don’t make it because their behaviour is just too far gone.
The truth is, scared, reactive, aggressive, damaged dogs, however you label them do need love, but everyone needs to know that they need so much more than that. So Good pets take a work.
When you visit a rescue centre, you must walk in with an open mind. You need to accept that these dogs don’t all come home perfectly trained, and that giving them a nice warm bed and a cuddle isn’t always enough. These dogs have no obligation to be grateful to you for buying them a sparkly collar and a squeaky toy. It’s all too easy to boost your virtue by choosing to rescue the most fearful, aggressive and sorrowful dog, and then be surprised and upset when they aren’t cured by your love.
Dogs, they are the worlds most loved pet, yet so many are let down by their breeders and owners. Rescue centres are there to help save them, and it is only fair that they send them to a home that they are sure will continue to put in the hard work and are capable of restoring a broken dog. These dogs, damaged or not all need and deserve love, but they also need the following:
Time: Ever heard of time heals all wounds?
Although this is not completely true, time is a huge factor in healing and is something you must give your newly rescued dog. Give them time to settle in. It’s common for a traumatised dog to take around a month to do so, and in some cases up to 6 months. Don’t force interaction with them. If they want to hide in their crate, let them, if they want to sit on the edge of the sofa and not move, let them. The first couple of weeks are extremely intimidating, so give them the time they need, however long that may be, to settle and get to know their surroundings.
Calmness: Don’t go taking your timid dog to meet the whole family
Invite all your friends round to meet them in their first week with you. Don’t take them to a busy pet shop and then to the beach straight away. Keep everything calm until you know they can handle it all. Good pets take time…..
Boundaries: No matter how cute or frightened they are
No matter how guilty you feel because they are like this, they still need boundaries. Don’t go and give them the complete run of the house straight away and then moan when they chew the corner of the kitchen table or spoil your new rug. Buy them a crate, it’s a time-out zone and a safe space for them to go to. They don’t come trained, so you need to help them to learn what’s right and wrong.
Training: This is one that must start straight away, as soon as they come home
Have pots of treats around that are easily accessible. Reward everything that is positive behaviour! Eye contact, coming up to you, going to the toilet outside, showing good manners, anything you can think of that is good behaviour you must let them know that they’re on the right track. When/if they are more confident start teaching them how to walk nicely on a lead, teach them a recall, start to teach them tricks, positive reinforcement is the best way for them to gain confidence and knowledge at the same time. This being said, don’t be surprised if they show some undesired behaviours, redirect them to something different and reward that instead.
Consistency: Consistency is everything
This means doing all of the above all the time, every minute of every day. Good pets need consistency allowing them time to settle in, time to be on their own. Be consistent in staying calm and building up the excitement and busyness of their surroundings. Be consistent in giving them boundaries, allowing them to have a place of safety, a place that is theirs with no interference.
A boundary of what is right and wrong, and keep that boundary, don’t confuse them. Be consistent in your training, good pets are not built in a day, and neither is the perfect pet. Trust and loyalty won’t be formed in a day. Training anything takes time, so stay consistent in your teaching and it will be learnt.
Don’t give up on them, other people have already done that, stick with them and the rewards will be worth it. They may still have experiences in life that trigger some undesired behaviours or causes some irrational fears. This is to be expected as rescue dogs can heal from their past, but may never forget, and some experiences are just too prominent in their mind to overcome.
Love: They need love
They most certainly deserve it, but they need everything else first. Show them love by doing the above, give them a shot at a good life, a fearless life, and a meaningful life. Be more selfless in the love you show them, give them what they really need and deserve; safety, a sense of security, and a lifelong home. That is giving them unconditional love and you will be rewarded with good pets.
To sum it all up, yes your rescue dog needs love, show them all the love you can give. But just educate yourself and be aware that they will need more than that. They have scars, some physical some mental, and it’s your job to help them recover from them. Every dog that is put up for rehoming is done so knowing that the right home is out there for them, to give them all they need in every way. Every single dog is different, some come home and it’s as if they have always been there, they are lovely stories. And some come home and take over a year before they are comfortable, happy and a good pets, they are the truly heart-warming stories, and these are the ones that take hard work, time and commitment.
[Photo by Rebecca Brewer]