Transforming a Rescue Dog
14 May 2013
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One of my ex-colleagues is a big time dog lover. Every time we’d drop her home in the office cab, you could hear many dogs barking, wagging their tails, running towards her to welcome her. She would get down on her knees and greet all of her 6 dogs. I used to be amazed at the fact that she was a mother to so many dogs at such a young age, and more amazed at the fact that all of them were rescued dogs. She was the first person I knew who adopted and transformed rescued dogs. Today, I see several good Samaritans doing the same. Stray dogs who have no home to call their own, who feed on the mercy of a couple of people in a neighbourhood, who spend all their lives on the street without anyone ever caressing them or touching them, with no medical attention, are an unfortunate lot.
A lot many times, people dump their pets on the road if they are unable to take care of them. Once I spoke to the owner of a dog boarding and asked him what happens to the dog if his owner doesn’t come back to take away the dog from the dog hostel. He said, once they stop paying for the dog’s upkeep, we try and contact them to take away the dog, but if we don’t get a response even after several reminders, we are forced to leave the dog to fend for himself. He is either dropped around a temple, or anywhere he can get something to eat every day. It was a horrible revelation. But, it is worse to know some humans can be so heartless to do this to a creature who can’t speak for himself.
It is good to find people who take time out to help these little canines in need. However, you don’t know what all a poor rescued dog has been through. It may be frightened, may have been through an accident, may have been teased by neighbourhood kids to despair and what not. Adopting a rescued dog-whether from the street or a rescue centre-is easier but transforming a rescued dog to turn into a family dog, used to human presence around is a task easier said than done. Here’s what you need to know about transforming a rescue dog:
The rescue dog has had a hard life. He is not used to be in the company of humans. It is important for you to make him feel comfortable. Along with others, he should interact most with one member of the family who takes up the responsibility of caring for him and training him. He must trust you for you to be able to train him right. Develop a bond, caress him, cuddle him, speak to him often, make him feel at home, basically make him feel like a part of the family. Treat him like a new born puppy. He needs you to begin right from the scratch. (
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Dogs of any breed believe in the concept of pack leader. Show him who is the pack leader and whose authority he must submit to.
If you are his principal caregiver, see that you are the one feeding him every day so that he knows who he needs to depend upon for his food requirements. This will make him look forward to seeing you more.
Give him his own space at home. Set aside a corner which is his resting place. He must know where he would retire every night and where will he be fed. This way you can train him to not roam around the house when unsupervised. Even
potty training for your dog assumes greater importance at this time, lest you want your home to turn into a public garden.
Set aside a specific time to take him out every day, for a walk which you can use as a training session. Try training him out of the home so that he can breathe easy in the change of scene. He will feel fresh and you both will be away from any distraction.
use a leash for you are yet to understand the dog. He might be scared of humans, but he might also hate people. You would not know when the frightened thing would lurch at anyone trying to play with him as he may see it as a threat. And then, you don’t know if you can trust him to come back if he decides to wander away.
The dog you are trying to transform isn’t an ordinary dog. For you to make him feel secure, you need to ensure that you don’t raise your voice at him. That might undo all the effort you have been putting into training him. Be gentle, be patient. Let him take his time to understand you.
When training him, along with words also use your hands to signal at him. He may be able to understand you better if you do that. Try everything you think will work for him.
basic commands should remain the same every time or else the dog will get confused. That way he will better understand your commands.
Once the dog starts looking forward to the training session or his playtime with you, set a time limit to the same. So, you must stop immediately if you see your dog taking interest in a specific activity. This will ensure his interest is maintained every time you initiate the activity. Even when at home, make sure you initiate anything you want the dog to do. Don’t let him overpower you with his demands. Remember, you are the leader and should always be.
Reward him with a
dog treat when he does something right. This will reinforce the good behaviour in him.
Try and not leave the dog alone at home for a long period of time. You can gradually increase the time when you leave him alone. Think if you can you leave some soothing music behind so that it is not completely quiet in your absence. Leave his
favourite dog treat or a bone to chew on or a toy to play with so that he is busy while you are away. If you have to be away for a prolonged period of time, ask a friend to take care of him in the meantime.
If you decide to
train the dog at a dog training centre, you need to first see how the dog behaves with other humans and other dogs around. For all you know, he may be too shy or too aggressive with them. Based on this, you can take your decision.