How to Train a Rescue Dog that was Abused?

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Many of canines in animal shelters come from backgrounds of neglect and abuse. Even though they seem to be aggressive, in reality most of such dogs are just distrustful and fearful. 

Despite their difficult past, they can still become very loyal dogs and great family members, even though they require more love, attention, patience and proper training. In order to create a secure space for such pooch and make her feel needed, positive and consistent methods, as well as structural rules are needed. 

With the help of positive reinforcement methods, an abused dog will learn how to trust, which is the first and one of the main steps to dog’s adaptation and socialization.  If you have already decided to adopt a rescue canine, let’s look through three main steps of training:

·       Step 1:  Make yourself a center of a dog’s attention.

You should become the most important and interesting thing in the canine’s life.  This is important because if your dog learns to stay focused on you, she will not be distracted by other things, people and creatures around.

As a result, anxiety and fear will be decreased immediately.  The best method for training your dog to focus on you is to use a special method known as “watch”. Take a dog treat and hold it between your eyes.

When you notice that the dog is looking at the treat, say a positive reinforcing word (such as “yes” for example) and reward your puppy with the treat immediately.  If your canine keeps looking into your face consistently, use the cue “watch” to help the dog stay focused.

By using this method, you will notice soon that the dog looks into your eyes every time when you say the cue word. You should keep using this method until your dog reacts on your “watch” command, even when there are distractions around.

·       Step 2:  Teach your dog a command “leave it”

The cue “leave it” is very useful and helpful for abused dogs demonstrating aggressive behavior to other people and animals. 

Many rescue dogs have issues with self-control and rely too much on their instinctual impulses that help them to survive.  

By learning the command “leave it”, a dog begins to understand what an owner expects from her and trust him.

This cue might be used in many different situations, in which a dog demonstrates inappropriate and unwanted behavior, including barking at other people and animals, touch objects, or lunging toward another canine.

Teaching the cue “leave it” should be always started with holding a delicious treat that the dog is allowed to sniff. 

When you pooch looks away from your hand with a hope that you will give her the treat, you should say a positive word “yes” and give your canine a better treat than the one you were holding.

If the dog keeps looking away from your hand consistently, it is important to add the cue “leave it”. Eventually, you can also put a treat on the floor and train your dog the same way. 

When the cue is learned, you can start using it with other objects, people and animals.

·       Step 3:  Teach your canine socialization skills

Socialization is very important for dogs, especially for abused ones, since most of them came from a very negative and cruel environment. 

These pooches lack socialization skills, which leads to the lack of confidence and the ability to communicate properly with other dogs and people around.

As soon as you teach your new furry friend to trust you and convince him that you are able to protect him, it is time to begin training on socialization. 

The first steps of socialization include meeting new people and friends. In order to do this, start walking with your dog and let your canine to see and meet other dogs and people.

Let your friends approach the dog and communicate with her, but do not forget to keep her on a leash. 

If your dog remains calm and do not demonstrate aggressive or anxious behavior, treat her immediately and say a positive reinforcement word, such as “yes” for example. 

Meeting new people will help your dog to understand that not everyone is an enemy and not everyone wants to hurt her. 

You should continue with such socialization training until your canine becomes completely comfortable with new people and your friends, who come to your house.  If you notice though that the dog remains aggressive towards others, use the key word “leave it” and treat her. 

You should stay patient and be ready that it might take months for your new dog to learn a proper behavior and remain focused on you, rather than on other people and dogs around. Positive reinforcement and your patience are the keys to success.

Some other tips that help training your rescue dog

·       Set up the boundaries

Your dog should be aware of the boundaries and rules existing in your house from the very first day.  Make sure that you explain them to your canine and encourage other family members to reinforce them.

·         Get on the schedule

A dog is a creature of routine, so when you create a certain schedule for your dog,  you make training more successful and get positive results from it much faster. 

Begin providing stability for your new family member by establishing a routine for walking, feeding, sleeping and playtime.

·         Assume that the dog was not trained before

You should realize that adopting an abused dog from a shelter in most cases is similar to adopting a puppy.

It means that most likely such canine has never had training before, so you will have to start from the very beginning. 

Be ready to the fact that your dog might know nothing about proper behavior and life in a house with a family. Thus, you will not have excessive expectations and be more patient with the dog and training.

We hope that your recommendations will help you to create trustful and warm relations with your new canine and turn her from an abused dog into a happy canine that will become a great addition to your family and your new best friend.


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