Integrating a Rescue Dog into Your Home with Puppy Coach
The primary focus for Puppy Coach is obviously the new puppy. We can all agree that prevention is better than cure and I wanted to ensure the advice I gave was put in place at the earliest opportunity to facilitate a positive result and to encourage new puppy owners to seek education and support at the earliest opportunity. That said; the direction and guidance is given with the dog-owner relationship in mind, techniques have been used that are simple and designed to create calm and build on the dog’s confidence and self-control, regardless of age.
Puppy Coach is based on my experience, knowledge and methods used over years of working with puppies and adult dogs alike. Many of the subjects discussed in the films and book relate to the situations I have faced with dogs when things go wrong. I have highlighted these areas for puppy owners so they are able to avoid situations occurring.
My ethos is always to ensure the dogs coping threshold isn’t breached in order to be able to build new positive associations with potential triggers. In short there is no reason why Puppy Coach couldn’t provide support for any dog owner whether they have a new puppy or an adult and similarly if they are integrating a new rescue dog into their home.
Rescue Dog Connection
A discussion with the Chairwoman of a dog rescue charity led me to consider that the Puppy Coach films could be of benefit to owners who take on a rescue dog.
In my work with Dogs Logic as a one to one behaviourist I have been privileged to work with some lovely rescue dogs. The common error new owners make is to hold on to the emotional aspect of the dog’s early life. Some of these dogs have been poorly treated, physically hurt, starved and/or experienced extreme suffering. It makes sense that a kind, caring owner would want to heal and nurture to make up for this. Unfortunately, it is invariably the wrong thing to do.
Introducing the Rescue Dog
The dog is a highly social animal, lives in the moment and follows a strict hierarchical code. It takes around 6 weeks for a dog to recognise that they have entered a new social dynamic and so owners have this window of opportunity to establish control and offer clear guidance and boundaries. Even the most challenging dogs may seem deferential during this time and owners are often caught unawares when behaviour issues creep in after this early honeymoon period.
It is absolutely essential that the dog follows a structured routine as soon as they arrive, owners should learn canine communication and visual stress indicators, and take care to set boundaries and control all resources during this time. Humans may perceive this to be a cold approach, but more harm is done when these points are not recognised. There is no reason why clear and firm guidance should be negative, especially when you are dog living in the unpredictable world of human beings, any support should be welcome!
This coupled with good basic ‘training’ with bundles of positive re-enforcement creates a calm, balanced relationship and avoids the dog becoming anxious, insecure and taking on too much responsibility.
The Role of Puppy Coach for the Adult or Rescue Dog
I was informed that many charities advise a new owner to go back to basics when they take a dog home and to treat the dog as if it were a puppy. After all, they have very little understanding of how the dog will behave in a domestic environment. The dog will need to learn where to go to the toilet, how to behave around friends and family, experience all the social situations in their new environment and respond to the owner and their natural behaviour. This can be a challenging time and building this relationship in a positive way can only be achieved if the dog’s basics needs and values are understood and respected.
With this in mind, the kind, clear and simple approach used to integrate a puppy is absolutely relevant, there is every reason a rescue dog owner would benefit from the advice and guidance given in the Puppy Coach films. Even the introduction of play can be something many rescue dogs just don’t understand. With time, care and patience it is always possible to teach an older dog new tricks, revisit their early learning and connect new positive associations with human interactions.
How to integrate a rescue dog into your home:
- Be calm and quiet when working with them.
- Don’t give them the freedom to occupy every room in your home, but do create a comfortable, quiet area that you can associate with positive activity (kitchens and utility areas are perfect).
- Plan for a structured routine with all family members taking a role around feeding, physical contact, exercising, play and training.
- Keep high energy social interaction short.
- Avoid lots of over emotional hugging, and overnight stays in the bedroom or up on sofas. If the dog is struggling with separation anxiety, then ensure attention is only delivered on your terms and refer to the procedure for bringing home a new puppy. This involves gradual detachment by sleeping downstairs nearby but having no physical contact.
- Be mindful of the dogs early learning but move on from it and provide stability and guidance.
- Choose a good, natural balanced diet and remember always make the dog work for food. This is a great way to earn trust and keep the dogs primitive brain busy.
- Set boundaries on your walks, off lead time should be carefully managed and ideally a long line should be attached while you build early associations with a recall whistle.
- Observe for early stress indicators and familiarise yourself with them. This will help you spot when the dog is uncomfortable and ensure you can act appropriately and remove them before they react.
Consider Stress and Anxiety
It is important to recognise that stress and anxiety are highly prevalent in the rescue dog and there are occasions where this may not be obvious. An understanding of the fight, flight, freeze response is required which is unfortunately too detailed for the scope of this article. Suffice to say the dog suffering from anxiety could be displaying signs of reactivity or may not be able to engage at all. A ‘shutdown’ dog may be one of the most difficult to crack.
These dogs have often experienced high levels of stress and succumbed to a catastrophic failure of their coping ability, the result is that they internalise their stress along with subsequent behaviours. This often requires extremely gentle handling and professional help may be required, particularly if an owner is quite inexperienced. Regardless, it is still important to keep things simple and structured with regards routines and providing them with what they need.
It is also beneficial to consider a supplement in conjunction with behaviour therapy for internal support. Solid clinical research exists to suggest YUCALM Dog from Lintbells is highly effective in easing anxiety internally.
This along with quality owner education will ensure the dog receives the best level of positive integration into a new family environment.
The Puppy Coach Omega Series and supporting book would provide and owner with a solid understanding of positive canine management, however the films are also available individually and I would recommend the following are particularly appropriate:
- Film 04 - Collecting your puppy
- Film 05 - Building a relationship with your puppy
- Film 07 - Recognising leadership skills through puppy development
- Film 08 - Crate or down time training
- Film 12 - Teaching self-control and establishing a routine
- Film 13 - Human-led play
- Film 16 - Keeping your puppy focused on you and problem behaviours
- Film 17 - Recall
- Film 19 - Discipline and Control
- Film 29 - First Aid
Ultimately the successful integration of a rescue dog is achieved when the human recognises the basic and primitive behaviours of the dog. Having a solid understanding of the importance of all major resources:
And having the ability to apply guidance, positive management and kindness around the delivery of all of these rewards, provides the basis for a good relationship.
Rescue dogs can be challenging but the dog as a whole is one of the most adaptive species on the planet. Making sure you are educated and have a clear plan of management will absolutely provide a dog and owner with the best possible start and a platform for productive communication which is the key to creating a positive relationship.
Jo Croft MA