Most people adopt rescue dogs because they love animals. Many people feel sorry for the poor dog who was left behind, or possibly even abused. A common mistake, when they take the dog home, is to think all the dog needs is love to become a happy and well-adjusted dog. That is a fallacy.
Dogs Need Rules
All dogs need to be given rules and boundaries. All dogs need to be trained. The more neglected or abused the dog, the more rules and structure he needs. The way to make a dog feel secure is by communicating with him effectively, ensuring he knows right from wrong as soon as possible. The most common issue with rescue dogs is a lack of confidence from lack of bonding and proper human leadership. The dog ends up exploring the world and getting sudden corrections for things he doesn’t understand. So, he ends up being timid and scared, wondering when “the hammer” will drop again.
Instead, if you set up an environment where the dog knows what you expect and gets rewarded for doing things right - and also learns that incorrect behavior brings unwanted results, then the dog will gain confidence in knowing what he should do. By providing structure for your new dog and training him right away, you show him that you are going to be a strong leader; you will protect him and keep him from harm. He can relax, be a dog, and allow you to take the lead.
Communicate with Your Pup
If a person coddles a newly adopted dog, he will not learn how to communicate and be left fearing what is around the corner each day. Loving the dog is great, but not enough. If he only receives affection, he will eventually see that you are not his leader, and therefore he will feel like he needs to fend for himself in the world. He will try to figure out his own way – what things to chew on in your home, what things to eat, what dogs to accept vs. growl or fight, what people to allow around him – and his owner.
In other words, behavior problems will occur. Possibly he will exhibit anxiety-induced destruction (your couch or remote control, his own paws, etc.), or he might express aggression towards new people or dogs. If instead, you let him know how you expect him to behave around new people, and that new people are “good” (they give him treats and pet him), then you are providing the leadership he needs. The more you teach him commands and rules, the more he will feel comfortable that you are in control and he can relax and be a great, happy, well-balanced dog.
Nature AND Nurture!
So, don’t make the mistake of thinking that a newly adopted rescue just needs to be nurtured and babied and loved. Nurturing and love are wonderful gifts to give, but in terms of the rescue dog’s needs, they’re actually secondary to proper obedience and training. In nature, a dog would be constantly guided and corrected by his mother and then his pack leader. So make sure you’re adhering to the dog’s natural needs and not just your instinct to love, and you’ll be creating the best possible environment for your new family member.
Written by Beverly Ulbrich, she has been seen regularly on TV, as well as working in movies and on stage, Beverly Ulbrich is an expert canine trainer and behaviorist. Her motto is “Any Dog. Any Problem.”