Top Tips For Training
Rescue Dogs

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Training rescue dogs can be much more challenging than training a new puppy, as rescue dogs may have picked up bad dog behaviors from their past owners. Also, rescue dogs have often not been socialized properly by their old owners, so you will have to teach them how to behave around people and other animals. Following these tips will help make it easier to settle a rescue dog into her new home and maintain harmony in your household.

If you're trying to train a rescue dog, it's especially important to avoid the common pitfalls and mistakes. My free special report is a great place to start.

Preparing for Rescue Dog Training - The Pack Order

One of the first things you will need to do with an adopted dog, before you start training sessions, is figure out where she thinks she belongs in the pack order. Some dogs, for instance, will think of themselves as leaders and may display dominant and aggressive behaviors. Others will be submissive - this too may also lead to aggression, as a lot of aggression in dogs is fear-based.

If your rescue dog is overly protective of food and toys, there's a good chance she rates herself highly in the pack hierarchy. If she shies away from contact, bows her head and dips her tail between her legs, or rolls onto her back to expose her belly, she is submissive. Your dog should be submissive enough to know you are at the top of the pack order, but not so submissive that she is terrified of people. A dog that believes she is the pack leader will be very difficult to control.

As you begin your rescue dog training, you will start to establish yourself as the pack leader by becoming the source of food, entertainment, exercise and praise. For dogs that are extremely submissive, lay it on thick when it comes to praise and positive attention, as it's likely that they didn't get much of this kind of treatment from their former owners. For dominant dogs, be firm but fair. Remember that it's an animal, not a human baby - don't spoil it too much or it will never obey you. Either way, take the lead right from the beginning (pardon the pun).

How To Train Your Rescue Dog - Positive Training

Here are the absolute basics of training rescue dogs:

  • Train a little at a time - 3 to 5 minute sessions are best
  • Always be quick and consistent with rewards
  • Never end a training session with a confused dog. End with an easy command so your dog feels positive about training.
  • Be patient, especially if the dog has picked up many bad behaviors from a past owner. It takes time to change habits.
  • Rescue dog training should be done in a situation where you can keep your dog's full attention
  • Most importantly, make the most of positive training techniques

There is a recurring pattern that appears when people face the challenge of training rescue dogs. Bad dog behaviors generally appear for one of two main reasons. These are:

  1. They are natural instincts that were never properly trained out.
  2. The previous owner used negative training techniques that were centered around punishment, which can actually make a dog's behavior worse.

Number 1 is generally a matter of socialization. A previous owner may have kept the dog locked up for long periods, or never properly introduced her to other dogs in the puppy stage. She may view the world and other people and animals as frightening. This also relates to problems with toilet training.

Number 2 is the cause of a lot of fear and anxiety in dogs. Training techniques that focus on punishing bad dog behavior, rather than rewarding good behavior, are now widely seen as doing more harm than good. Why? Because often there is such a delay between punishment and the behavior being punished that the dog can't make an association between the two. So it thinks it may be punished at any time, for any reason. You can see how this can easily lead to aggression problems.

So, when training rescue dogs it's especially important to use positive training methods. Reward the dog for good behavior, and make sure your reward immediately after the good behavior so the dog associates the reward with the act.

My ebook, The Jack Russell Lover's Ultimate Guide To Training, is a complete guide built around positive training principles.

Training Rescue Dogs - Socialization Tips

There is a crucial stage in a puppy's development where she should be introduced to a variety of different people and animals, so that she understands where they fit into her world as she grows up. Many rescue dogs have not had this proper socialization. If this is the case with your dog, you will need to introduce her to new people, animals, and situations - but do it slowly, and be patient. Don't rush her into new environments.

Always introduce new environments or people under controlled conditions. Make sure the dog is safe. For instance, if you take your dog out for a walk, be ready to protect her in case another dog approaches off leash. This can be an intimidating experience for a poorly socialized dog - especially a small dog like a Jack Russell. Even if the other dog is not aggressive, it may seem frightening. If your dog shows signs of fear or fear-based aggression, remove it from the situation quickly.

In my ebook, I explain more about the process for desensitizing your dog to anything she fears.

More Information and Resources

For more tips on training Jack Russells, I recommend you sign up for a copy of my free special report on JRT training.

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