Getting a rescue dog is one of the best choices when it comes to adding a new member to your family, and even though your new dog definitely shares your happiness, that happiness will definitely not be shown in the same rhythm.
Indeed, when you arrive home with a rescue dog, your first reaction will be to smother him with love, so he understands the love, security, and stability you are willing and ready to offer—and this is why his reaction of curling up in a corner or freezing when you try to pet him might seem confusing.
It is important to understand the change your dog is going through and that the novelty of everything is scary, if not even terrifying. So, what can you do to make your rescue dog’s transition easy?
Give Your Rescue Dog Space
This step could be challenging. Refraining from affectionate gestures is, however, mandatory. Giving your dog space and time to accommodate to the new surroundings will help him discover your home is a safe place. You should, by no means, force him to accept petting or cuddling.
Attempts to escape or a frozen position are clear signs of nervousness. Instead, you should position yourself at the same level as the dog, somewhat lateral from him and avoid direct eye contact. A gradual approach is recommended, and letting the dog make the first steps and come closer to you is preferred.
Rescue dogs have faced scarcity. For most, their history is unknown. For those with a known background, it’s highly likely that a dog has gone through hardship you can’t imagine. Whether on the street or in the shelter, most dogs had to fight for food and affection. They are not used to anything for free.
This is why bribery (let’s call it what it is) will work like a charm in your bonding adventure. Treats can include food or toys such as sticks (only with supervision, of course). These treats will help with positive reinforcement when he does something good. It will also transform you into a welcoming figure that always cares for him.
Prepare to Face Food Aggression
Related to the topic above, you also need to prepare for possible signs of aggression from your dog. These could occur when you offer small treats, but most likely, they will appear when you are feeding him.
A rescue dog is often used to fight for food. So, when you fill his bowl, make sure you keep away from that area. Ensure family members do the same. Otherwise, your dog might see you as competition and charge to protect his food.
It’s a good idea is to have him in a different room or set some space when you lay down the bowl and call him once the food is ready. Although treats are recommended for positive reinforcement, allowing your dog to stand beside you or jump while you lower his bowl could lead to unwanted accidents.
Another successful bonding experience is taking short walks together. They will become a habit anyway, so start as early as you can. The secret is to both help the dog get acquainted with the collar/leash, but what is more important is that returning to the comfort of your (and now his) home will help him feel safe.
If you are working, it is likely your dog will need to spend time together. Taking time off to accommodate his arrival needs to be combined with short periods of absence. This is important, even if you have nowhere to go.
You can even simulate your morning routine so that your dog gets accustomed not only with the idea of your departure but also with the fact that it will not lead to long-term absence.
You should also make sure the space in which your dog remains alone is dog-proofed. When loneliness kicks in, a dog can manifest different anxiety symptoms and act accordingly. Some might include:
- Marking his territory by peeing
- Barking loudly
- Chewing on different objects (not his toys)
- Scratching different surfaces
- Breaking stuff
Remember that broken vase is not the responsibility of your dog; it’s yours. So even though you will need to take action against such behavior, in the end, you need to remember you failed to do your part.
Settling a rescue dog into your home might seem challenging, but that’s something you knew before you went to the shelter. It is something you are willing and dedicated to doing. Take your time, allow yourselves to know each other, and soon you might want to kick him off your lap because he’s taking your breath away with hugs!