Considering a Rescue Dog? Here are the top 10 Trainer Tips You Need to Know

Please note, I received compensation in exchange for this blog post. – Shir Limazati CPDT-KA, ABCDT

So, you decided to rescue your best friend – CONGRATULATIONS! Here are 10 things you can do before and after you bring him home to set your pup up for success.

1.            Hold a Family Meeting

  • Hold a family meeting and ensure that everyone is excited about your new family member. There are going to be plenty of highs (doggy cuddles) and few lows (messes on the carpet), so it is important that everyone is going to put in the work to give your new pup the best life possible.

2.            Create your Village

  • It takes a village to help your dog thrive. Ask your rescue staff or join a local social media group for dog lovers to get recommendations on the best vets, trainers, groomers, dog walkers and dog daycares in your area. 

3.            Go Shopping

  • Before you bring your pup home, make sure you have a few essential items ready to go including a collar, ID tag, leash, harness, dog bed, food bowls, and a few toys. Don’t forget the food! Look for nutrition-packed recipes made with high-quality ingredients like ACANA Rescue Care for Adopted Dogs. The first of its kind in the US, the team behind ACANA® pet food worked with animal shelters and veterinarians to develop a food that supports the most common health issues rescue dogs face.

4.            Create a Safe Space

  • Once your four-legged friend arrives home, chances are he’ll be anxious or overwhelmed. Create a space he can call his own — a crate or a comfy dog bed. To help your pup learn to love his special spot, give him a long-lasting treat, like a filled Kong, while he lounges in his crate. Who doesn’t love breakfast in bed?

5.            Head outside

  • It’s safest to assume your dog is not potty trained for the first month your pup is home. To teach him that the bathroom is outside, take your dog out every 2 hours and congratulate him by giving him a high-value treat and telling him that he’s a good dog. I also recommend that you keep a log of when he goes potty to ensure accidents are kept to a minimum.

6.            What’s in a name?

  • Once you’ve chosen the perfect name, it’s time for your pup to learn it! To teach his new cue, have all the humans in your family stand in a circle around your pup holding treats. Take turns saying your dog’s name, and when he looks at you say “Yes!” and give him a treat. Do this for 5-10 minutes and repeat several times over the next week or so, until your dog masters this cue!

7.            Spin Spin Spin

  • Here’s another trick to teach your dog: Spin! Take a treat to his nose when he is on all fours and lure him into a circle as you say “Spin”. In addition to teaching him a fun new trick, the act of luring, or following the treat, can help him trust you and build confidence.

8.            Prevent Boredom

  • Aim to engage with your dog for about 45 minutes each day. This prevents unwanted behaviors that can stem from boredom. Play fetch, teach a new trick, go for a walk, or give him a puzzle toy. Here’s one you can make at home: Take a muffin tin and put 1 treat in each cup. Place a toy like a tennis ball on top of each treat. Your dog will sniff out the treats under the toys. It’s fun to watch your pup put his problem-solving skills to work!

9.            No free lunch

  •  Once your pup has settled in, give him a job. This helps build healthy boundaries and mitigates annoying behaviors like demand barking or nipping at your heels for attention. There are lots of different jobs you could give him. Start out by asking him to sit before you give him his dinner bowl. As your dog learns more advanced cues, you can ask him to perform more jobs to earn his rewards. For example, if you have a distracted walker on the other end of the leash who also loves to carry things in his mouth, try having him carry a ball when you go out on walks. This fun job will shift his focus and prevent him from jumping on passersby, barking, or eating things off the ground

10.         Groom your dog

  • Give your dog a bath or brush his hair. These can all strengthen the bond between you. Additionally, regularly grooming your pup will also give you the chance to examine your pup for abnormalities you may not have noticed.
  • Many pups get anxious during baths or while being brushed. Try smearing peanut butter on the wall of the tub and have your pup enjoy licking it off as you bathe him. Freeze a bully stick into a peanut butter filled Kong and have your pup dig in as you brush him or clip his nails.

Remember, it can take up to 12 months for your rescue pup to show his true personality. Be patient. Be consistent. Be prepared by being proactive more than reactive. And ask for help!