Rescue centers and owners who are prepared to give rescued dogs a second chance do a wonderful job. However, rescued dogs can provide a challenge to any prospective trainer.
Planning and Preparation
In the unlikely event that the rescue center has any knowledge of the dog's history, this should be obtained if available. The center may also be able to provide clues to the new owner about behavioral traits they have noticed.
It is very important to note any health considerations and to examine the dog thoroughly for any signs of poor health, malnutrition being common in these cases.
Depending on the findings at this stage, balancing and if necessary supplementing the diet with vitamins or simply regular feeding will be required for the "new" dog.
First Steps for Training Rescued Dogs
Preliminary parts of the process will be based on building trust between dog and owner. Physical contact might need to be approached slowly. For example, it may be necessary to only reward the dog with a treat by putting it on the floor and letting the dog approach it when the owner has retreated.
These first steps must also retain the long-term goal of training and socializing the dog normally later, so the owner must establish the role of leader or alpha, in the dog's new pack. Although this might not be possible quickly, it must be an aim from day one in order to prevent problems at later stages.
Some of the simple forms of alpha techniques most relevant to introducing rescued dogs might include feeding the dog its meal following a break after the owner has eaten, discouraging the dog leading when out walking or preventing it approaching visitors first. There are many others that are more significant to dogs than many humans imagine.
Establishing the trainer in the alpha role may be difficult with some rescued dogs, in which case patience, time and experience will be needed.
Heading Towards Normal Dog Training
When physical contact has been attained, either immediately in some circumstances but often after the above stages, a further test to assess the temperament of the dog should be carried out.
The dog should be encouraged to sit down, then to lie down. The dog should then be rolled over and a hand placed on its chest. The reaction from the dog may signify too much resistance, which usually indicates aggressive traits. Most dogs will react a little and allowances should be made; experience with previous pet dogs is a good guide. At the other end of the scale, the dog may be completely submissive or even fearful.
Having reached this stage, the owner is able to start normal training but from an informed standpoint. Training techniques should then be adapted based on these early findings.