How to Train a Rescue Dog – POSITIVE Reinforcement

If you recently adopted a dog from a shelter or rescue group, congratulations are in order!

But once you bring them home, the real work begins.

Wonderful pets can be found among the dogs rescued from animal shelters, but rescue dogs will need a little more patience and love.

In this post, we’re going to discuss how to train a rescue dog and how to make the transition to their forever home smooth.

How to Train a Rescue Dog

Shelter dogs can make wonderful companions and devoted family members with the right amount of love, attention, and training, regardless of how they ended up there.

Puppies, dogs prone to jumping up and biting, dogs with anxiety, and older dogs all have unique needs.

Your newly adopted dog may or may not have had any prior obedience training, or something in its past may also cause it to act erratically now.

This is why it will be crucial that you spend some time training and socializing with your new pet.

Watch this video for some first steps to take when training your rescue dog:

Read our related article on the Best Dog Training Books! These books are must-reads for new adopters!

Methods of Training

Always use positive reinforcement to train dogs.
Positive reinforcement is key to training any dog. It may take more time for a rescue, but it will pay off.

Reward-Based Training

You should make it a priority to train your new rescue dog using methods that are centered on reward-based training.

You will need to praise your dog for good behavior, and food is an excellent choice for a reward.

House Training

Housebreaking is a common issue for new dog owners, and it’s easy to mess up in the first few days and nights your rescue pup is home.

Even a dog that has been house-trained in the past will have accidents in its new home, whether it’s from excitement or just getting used to the routines.

Housebreaking your dog should be your main training priority.

One of the most important things you can do for your dog is to take it for frequent walks so that it becomes accustomed to going potty in the yard.

This puppy potty training schedule may be helpful in getting your dog into a routine.

Coming When Called By Name

Your rescue dog may not have been taught to come when called.

This should be trained first within the house, and then later in a fenced-in yard or other outdoor areas.

Never trust that your rescue dog will come when called if you let them run free.

Common Mistakes

Making false assumptions about a rescue dog’s background is a common pitfall for first-time owners.

Not every dog in a shelter has indeed endured terrible things, but it’s also true that not every dog in a shelter has been trained or socialized properly.

Consider your dog a blank slate in need of your guidance, teaching, and love in every aspect of its care.

Adopting a dog is a big decision, and it helps to know its background before committing, but that’s not the case every time.

An improved bond between you and your dog will be the result of starting from scratch.

The Period of Adjustment

Give your rescue dog time to get used to their new home.
When you bring your rescue dog home, it’s important to give it time to become accustomed to its new surroundings.

When you adopt a dog or puppy from a shelter, the animal will already have a background they are recovering from.

The anxiety associated with being surrendered to a shelter, and any other traumatic experiences the dog may have had in the past, may cause the dog to be less confident.

So it’s extremely important to be aware of a few ways to properly introduce a rescued dog into your house before you can begin training.

Patience Is Key

While you’re learning how to train a rescue dog, you should plan on giving your pet some time to acclimatize to its new home and family.

How long does it take a shelter dog to adjust?

It may take a dog anywhere from a few hours to several months before they are completely comfortable in its new environment.

Your dog will start to feel more secure once you exhibit patience and composure.

A Routine Matters

During the period of adjustment, it’s helpful to maintain as much consistency and predictability as possible.

Introducing your new dog to new routines can be stressful for them.

Slowly get your dog into a routine and stick with it so they know what to expect and when to expect it.

Keeping Your Rescue Comfortable

Create a stress free environment for your rescue.
Give your rescue a stress-free environment where they can wind down and explore their new home.

Create an environment that is as stress-free as possible for your new pet.

That will help your dog feel more secure in his environment.

Give your dog plenty of food and toys, and if you keep him in a crate, make sure it has a comfortable bed made of thick foam and several blankets to keep him warm.

Dog-Proofing For Safety

When it comes to developing a self-assured pet, one of the best things you can do is to ensure that your dog is safe and out of trouble as soon as it steps through the door.

Raise houseplants off the floor so the dog isn’t tempted to dig in the soil, and keep doors shut to rooms you don’t want your curious new pet to uncover.

Also, think about installing child-proof cabinet locks on doors that contain cleaning supplies.

Final Thoughts

The process of training a rescue dog is a little bit different from training a puppy, but the fundamentals of being compassionate, having patience, and basing training on rewards are still the same.

Remember to take into account your dog’s history, and always be ready to adjust your training techniques if they aren’t producing the desired results.

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Jesse Hopping, CCDT

Jesse is a natural-born dog-lover certified dog trainer (CCDT), dog foster, and former volunteer at Richmond SPCA and surrounding dog shelters for over 10 years. Her pack includes a Bernedoodle and 3 Boston Terriers. She’s sipping caramel coffee and watching her pack play in the sun when she’s not writing blogs. Jesse has her Certified Dog Trainer designation from CATCH Canine Trainers Academy since 2018 and and majored in English from the University of Virginia.

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