There are many things we learn as professional dog trainers, but one of the most important, and one we share on a regular basis with clients, is how to safely bring home a rescue dog. Many of the dogs on the Suncoast have been adopted from rescue organizations, or are currently in foster homes waiting for their forever family. Whether introducing the new dog to a foster family, or to his forever home, it is important to follow certain, carefully planned out steps, to make a smooth transition.
Many of these dogs come with little history, and often, there is no information at all. In general, it is best to ignore the information completely and take steps to protect yourself, as well as your new family member. I hope to provide you with some simple, yet important steps to follow that will make the transition easier and more successful. By following a certain protocol you will ensure your dog is safe to bring around all types of people, especially children, and other dogs.
Socialization; or lack thereof
The one thing to know is that dog’s lives are very compressed and they age very quickly in the first year of their life. You’ve heard that one dog year is equivalent to seven human years. While this is true, it is a long term average, spread over the entire life of the dog. During the first year of her life, a dog will age the equivalent of 12-14 human years. Now, consider, a child locked in a house with no social experiences for the first 12 years of her life; then all of the sudden brought out into the world and expected to behave in socially acceptable manner. This is the reason why, as puppies, it is important to saturate them with social experiences. Dogs are generally very social beings, however, without the right experiences, fear may be a natural response. Sometimes, even with the right early exposure a puppy’s instinct will be fear of the things he does not know. Fear, most often, leads to “aggression,” as the dog tries to protect itself from the thing it fears. This is one reason why positive dog training is so much more effective, than dominance style training. It is scientifically proven in the field of canine behavior that dominance, force, and coercion, lead to fear, and fear most often leads to aggression.
Rescue dogs often come, at best, with a checkered history of socialization. These dogs come to rescues needing a great deal of attention. Most of these dogs were not given much attention - they were not trained or socialized and now they are thrown into a new situation and expected to adapt. In some cases, these poor creatures were treated badly or even abused in one way or another. For these dogs, it is critical to take the proper steps while attempting to provide remedial socializing.
Join me next week as begin discussing the proper steps for introducing your new rescue dog to the adults in the household. See you then!