How to Train Your Rescue Dog

The first thing you should know if you’ve recently rescued a dog, or are planning to, is that there’s no one-size-fits all training method. Like humans, every dog is different and training will depend on your dog’s background and personality. Is your rescue 12 weeks or 4 years old? Was your dog found on the street? Did he or she have a past owner? Rescue or not, there are things you need to consider prior to your dog’s arrival at their new home.

1. Learn about your dog’s background

Make sure to ask questions if possible at the shelter or rescue. Is your dog vaccinated? Has he or she been spayed or neutered? Is he or she house trained? Does this dog get along with others? Has your dog interacted with children in the past? If the answer is no (or I don’t know) to any or all of these questions, don’t fret. This just means you’ll have to shift expectations and know that it may take longer to train them.

By understanding your dog’s background, you’ll be equipped to handle all situations as they arise. It’ll also help you be a better, more patient training partner along the way.

2. Prep your home for arrival

Speak with your family and set ground rules

Speak with your family as to how you’d like to train your dog. For example, make sure that everyone is on the same page in terms of commands such as sit, stay, down. In a sense, make sure you’ve agreed upon the “house rules”; whether or not you want the dog to get up on the furniture, whether you’re going to allow your dog to have human food, whether jumping up on people is okay, etc.

When it comes to actual training, there are two things you need to focus on: consistency and patience. No two dogs are alike. Your neighbor down the street may have had the perfect rescue experience, whereas your sibling may have had a tough time training an adopted pet. With consistency and patience as your dog training tenets, the rest should fall into place.

Dog proof your home

As you’re just getting to know your dog, you understandably may not be familiar with their habits, both good and bad. Make sure for the first few weeks you have “dog-proofed” the area that you’ll be keeping them, making sure to move things you wouldn’t want getting chewed or eaten.

Crate training

Are you planning to crate train your new dog? Recognize that some dogs may have had a bad experience with a crate in the past that has left them traumatized when they see another cage. It will take longer but your dog can adjust once he or she recognizes that there is no negativity associated with the crate.

In crate training situations, try to avoid punishing your dog by putting him or her in the crate. If you start doing this, your dog might begin to recognize the crate as a bad thing which makes training all that much harder.

3. Create a pet routine

Considering your dog has moved into a new space, don’t be surprised if they initially act leery of their surroundings. To keep them at ease, make sure you’re putting a routine into place. This includes keeping schedules consistent for feeding times, letting them out to use the bathroom, and taking them on a walk. This being said, don’t worry if you need to occasionally sleep in or change things up, having a proper routine will keep all of your hard work from unraveling. And make sure to continue to remind yourself and your house members of the verbal and nonverbal commands and “house rules” mentioned above.

4. Be patient and set flexible expectations

Patience comes with setting the right expectations. For instance, you might not be sure whether your dog is house-trained. If so, expect accidents and don’t get angry. If you worry about ruining certain floors or rugs in the house, keep them in a certain room or rooms that are”puppy-proofed” in order to avoid any destruction.

With patience and consistency in mind, you’ll need to decide on the type of training method to take with your dog. Positive Reinforcement has been a technique that is very common and gaining increasing popularity over methods such as dominance or punishment. Go easy on yourself and your new housemate. It’s a big change for both of you but will be great!