Why a happy, well-mannered dog makes for an enjoyable dog – Rescue Dogs

Why a happy, well-mannered dog makes for an enjoyable dog – Rescue Dogs

In my previous post on manners and puppies and on manners and adolescents, we said that dogs don’t come to our homes pre-programmed with polite social behaviour or habits.  It is down to us as guardians and caregivers to teach our dogs how to live in our homes and our world.

At On Kew Dog, we believe helping dogs learn and understand how to live successfully with us is key to having an enjoyable dog for life.  And frankly speaking, a well-mannered dog makes for an easier life for both you and your dog. Your dog will better understand what to expect and how to behave in and outside of the home.

Dogs are individuals.  And each dog needs to feel safe and happy to learn.

Before we undertake a training plan, we also need to remember that each dog is an individual with several factors playing roles in shaping your dog’s personality and behaviour.  These factors include genetics, breed traits, physical health, learning history, early life experiences, environment, and emotions.

Just like us, dogs need to feel safe and happy to understand what we’re asking, to learn what we’re teaching, and make good choices.  At a minimum, we need to ensure their safety and welfare needs are met. This is why an initial consultation should review medical history, nutrition, daily routine, and who else the dog interacts with in his/her life.

Have you adopted a dog recently? Have you rehomed a dog from another family into your home?

Rescue or Rehomed Dogs – Building Trust and Helping Your New Dog Feel Safe and Secure

We often don’t know the full history of a dog that has been rehomed with us: what was puppyhood like, what life was like in previous homes, what their learning history was.  In some ways, it doesn’t matter.  The dog we have in front of us is the individual we need to work with.  Some dogs settle in quickly within days or weeks to their new homes. Other dogs can take months longer. 

At the beginning of forming a relationship with your new dog, we shift our focus away from training for foundation skills and obedience.  Instead, we work to understand their individual needs. We ensure we build their trust. We help them feel safe and secure.

Shifting our focus away from training and obedience to building trust and helping our dogs feel safe and secure.

When we talk about manners at On Kew Dog for rescue and rehomed dogs, we’re really talking about how we best help settle the new dog into our home. We do this with consistency, patience, and getting to know each other.

Here is where we focus our training for rescue and rehomed dogs:

  • Building a predictable routine around housetraining, mealtimes, sleep, enrichment and participating in family activities
  • Understanding canine body language to help the humans learn more about what the dog may be communicating
  • How to build in consent into daily activities to further build trust in the new relationship
  • Using enrichment activities (activity feeding, sniffing on walks, trick training) to help build confidence and reduce anxiety

Foundation skills like loose lead walking, recall and obedience training come later once the dog has settled into its new home life with you.

Steffi’s Story as an Adopted Dog

We adopted Steffi at the age of 16 weeks. We knew very little background on her previous life, including what breed her parents were or what her socialisation history was as a puppy.  (Steffi was found as a stray in East London. She was picked up by the dog warden before she was transferred to a rescue organisation.)

What we got right:

When Steffi first got home, we showed her the back garden and where she could eliminate. Every day after that, we took her out on a regular schedule, never leaving her unattended. 

We established a consistent routine around mealtimes (breakfast, lunch, dinner), nap times and bedtime sleep so that she knew what to expect from us.

We were consistent with our ‘house rules’:

  • a bed for her on the sofa (we wanted our dog to be happy snuggling on the sofa with us)
  • keeping the cats’ food bowls well out of reach so there was no temptation to eat their food
  • gently interrupting her and guiding her away from chewing ‘illegal’ items (like furniture legs).

We slowly built up her time alone at home – starting with very small increments, gradually building up to 4 hours over a 6-month period.

What we didn’t get right:

We didn’t think much about how to build consent into everyday activities when she was young – particularly around grooming. 

It’s taken us a few years to build in cooperative care into bathing (see our blog on The Force-Free way of making bath time fun using choice) and taking care of her nails (we’ve since trained her to use a scratch board to file her nails).

We were a little late in the game in using enrichment feeding for her. Arange enrichment activities would’ve been very beneficial when she was going through her ‘tricky’ teenage phase and when she had her first hip operation!  By the time she had her second hip operation, we were more knowledgeable about lots of different ways to provide activity feeding. We also enrolled her in an on-line scent training class.

We’re grateful that Steffi has been as patient with us as we’ve been with her.  Adopting a dog can be a big decision to make, but without a doubt, Steffi has enriched our lives and we can’t imagine life without her!

Are you ready to enjoy a happy, well-mannered puppy or adolescent dog?  Then get in touch, we’d love to help.

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