How to settle and train your new rescue dog

Rescue Ranger

The news headlines are full of horror stories now about how many pets are being dumped as lockdown eases.  The RSPCA is receiving over 40 calls a day as people return to work and abandon their new puppy from the last few months.

Back in April as lockdown took hold the Kennel Club advised people not to get a puppy as a kneejerk reaction to finding a Covid companion. A dog is for life, not just coronavirus was the message they broadcast. 

Despite this warning, a new report from the Kennel Club on lockdown puppies found that 40% of the dog owners they surveyed said they did get a puppy to keep them company. 

Of these, terrifyingly, one in five ( that’s 20%) say they don’t know if the puppy will fit into life now as lockdown eases.  Even worse, on average a quarter of these new owners spent less than two hours researching the breed.

In hindsight, 15% of these new owners admitted they weren’t ready to get a puppy.  So what happens to all these unwanted lockdown pups now?

Some good news is that rescues, such as the Mayhew, have waiting lists of 1700+ new pawrents ready to adopt. But how many of these people are really ready now and will change their mind and fall off the list?  

Across the country numbers of abandoned and handed in dogs are rising as September arrives and owners are going back to work and their children back to school. Their new found furry companions no longer fit into the routine of normal life, and their owners don’t know what to do. 

Lockdown puppies have been spoilt, so now that life has changed they are exhibiting behaviour issues which are contributing to the decision by their owners to hand them in. These behaviour changes include separation anxiety, destructiveness, barking, biting and other issues. The puppies got used to their owners and families being on hand 24/7, lots of attention and walkies were on offer. Now they are not. Some puppies missed out on their crucial socialisation phase between 7-16 weeks so will have additional lifestyle changes to deal with which may lead to fear and aggression as they encounter a whole new world.

But if you are one of the wonderful people wishing to take on a lockdown pup and give them a loving home, then help is at hand.

Suzanne Headshot

Suzanne Gould, a dog trainer from Edinburgh has written a book to help rescue dog owners help settle and train their dogs.

As the owner of two rescue Old English Sheepdogs, Erick and Ally, Suzanne says she wanted to share everything she wishes she’d known when she first became a pet parent.

Suzanne, founder of Edinburgh Holistic Dogs, explained: “I have only ever adopted my dogs and particularly with my second dog Flash I ended going through a stressful learning curve. This was before I worked as a dog walker and trainer. Flash had several issues like separation anxiety and he was full of energy and never relaxed. It was hard and it took a lot of work to help him overcome his problems.”

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“When I became I trainer, that’s why I wanted to focus on rescue dogs. Often they had been mistreated, abandoned or were confused at having moved to a new home, leaving them anxious and reactive to other dogs. Owners just wanted to do their best, and I found there wasn’t really a dedicated book for rescue dogs to help them, so I wrote one myself.”

The Rescue Dog Rangers Road Map aims to prevent this and to cover every problem they might encounter. It includes everything from lunging and barking to recall problems and anxiety, with simple steps to follow to overcome any issues and keep dogs in their forever homes. 

What is the 3-3-3 rule for bringing home a rescue dog?

Here’s what you might be able to expect from your experience bringing a rescue dog home at three days, three weeks, and three-month intervals. 

In the first three days at home with you, your dog may:

  • Feel overwhelmed by their surroundings
  • Not feel comfortable enough to be himself
  • Not want to eat their food or drink their water
  • Be scared and unsure of what’s going on
  • Shut down and curl up in their bed
  • Behave definitely and test your boundaries

In the first three weeks at home with you, your rescue dog may:

  • Start to settle in
  • Feel more comfortable
  • Figure out his environment
  • Get into the routine you’ve set
  • Let their guard down and start showing their real personality 
  • Start showing ingrained behavior issues
  • Figure out this is their new home

After three months at home with you, your dog may:

  • Feel comfortable at home
  • Have built trust and a true bond with you
  • Have gained a complete sense of security with their new family
  • Embrace their new routine wholeheartedly

Tell me your rescue dog stories in the comments below, I’d love to hear them.