Today’s Guest Post is brought to you by the awesome Karen Wild, Professional Dog Trainer and Behaviourist in the U.K. Enjoy!
How A New Family Can Give Rescue Dogs a New Life
It was nearly seventeen years ago that I spotted a little grey bundle in a rescue kennels. He was an odd looking thing, with a grizzled coat that stuck out all over the place, and a Jack Russell head with eyes that didn’t look terribly interested in me peering at him. He was only 2, but he looked ancient!
At the time I simply wanted a dog. Any dog. A dog of my own. I wanted a rescue dog. I took him for a walk and not much happened. That weekend I took him home. He was a very withdrawn little mutt.
As it turned out, he became the start of my career. After many struggles and a lot of work, he became Pepper, ‘The Flying Flea’ or his official working register Kennel Club name ‘Red Hot Chilli Pepper’. He did Agility, Obedience, Working Trials training and was the ‘small dog’ in the ‘Superdogs’ Display team.
Can every rescue dog be given a new lease of life? The success stories are many, and they are out there for everyone to see. It’s not easy, it’s not always cheap, but nothing worth having in life is a simple walk in the park.
Often in my work I get calls from owners asking if an older dog can be trained. The answer is, yes. Pepper learned to “wave” when he was 15 years old, and in the year before he died, he learned to bark to call me when he couldn’t manage to reach something.
It may be your rescue dog didn’t get the chance to learn about life and ‘normality’. It will take them a long time to adjust to what you take for granted as familiar. Often these are the dogs that need careful, long-term social experience. They need to go at their own pace – and you need to help them. You will learn about fear and stress signals and you will become your dog’s guardian.
Taking on an adult dog from a shelter is sometimes complex when that dog arrives in your home. It’s not always straightforward. Neither is getting a new puppy, so it’s not always the better choice! An adult rescue dog has probably learned an awful lot already, so part of the fun is finding out what they know – and what they never learned, and also teaching new habits that suit you.
I have seen several cases where the families called me the day they brought their rescue dog home. Perfect! This meant that any worries they had, they could ask me to assess what to do next. As months pass, they mould these dogs into good citizens. Sometimes, the dogs are just relieved to be somewhere where they can adapt and learn without fear.
Get yourself a good trainer – someone qualified, with proper credentials, with a code of practice, and no harsh methods or talk of old-fashioned dominance theory. Give your new dog the best chance you can. Keep notes of the early days so you can look back at how far you have come. You will be amazed!
With Pepper I learned a huge amount about training a terrier. About their determination, and about my own patience. About the benefit of silence and observation.
And the love, oh the fun and the feeling that I gave him a chance. I will never forget the day a lady came over after a dog display we had just completed, pulled a roast beef joint from her bicycle basket, and stuffed a wodge of it into Pepper’s mouth. He was extremely happy about that part of his career!
So folks, if you want to blame anyone for my presence on this site today (and on my own site www.karenwild.co.uk) then the fault lies with rescue dogs!
Karen Wild BA (Hons) Dip App Psy, is a full-time U.K. dog trainer and behaviour consultant with 17 years in the field. She has a degree and diploma in Psychology from the University of Nottingham, is a full member of the APBC and is an ABIPDT. Karen’s work has ranged from class teaching, obedience, flyball, agility and working trials competition to running a popular dog display team. When she started her own family Karen realised there was a genuine need for one-to-one help in the family environment. She formed her company Pawprint for behavioural consultations and training, and Intellidogs which specialises in online advice in this area. Her passion is to create and rebuild the ‘enjoyment factor’ that can come from family dog ownership. Karen strongly believes that there is ‘always a way’ and prides herself on her commitment to uniting families with their dogs in the gentlest way possible. Karen’s work with dogs and young people includes her current programme to bring more dogs into schools in the UK. Her writing has been published in Dogs Today Magazine and she is a regular blogger for Dr Ian Dunbar’s revolutionary website, Dog Star Daily. Karen’s family focused approach to dog training can be accessed via her site or why not link up on Twitter?
Filed under: Advice, Guest Blogs on May 18th, 2010 | No Comments »