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Rescue Dog: Best Dog Training

Updated: Jan 7, 2022

Rare, Behind the Scenes Look at Rescue Dogs

Have you recently been to an Adopt-a-dog event and brought home a new rescue dog? Congratulations, you are now the proud owner of an adopted dog. Dog training is the first thing you need to enrol in.

Find the right dog trainer to understand a rescue dog

What to look for in a dog trainer if you have an adopted dog? Experience, lots of experience. Here is some valuable information before you hire a dog trainer to help you understand and appreciate the rescue dog you now have as a family member. First, understand what you are looking for in a dog trainer knowledgeable for your dog’s needs.

2nd - Have they experience on the front-line rescuing dogs in another country?

3rd - In what capacity have they worked with rescue dogs?

4th - You need proof the trainer has experience in the field of training a rescue dog.

5th - Is the trainer a dog trainer or a dog behaviourist in the field of rescue dogs?

Fun Fact: The dog you brought into your home on day one will vastly change by day 15. It is imperative to set boundaries and rules immediately for the rescue dog. The dog’s environment, food, care, housing and climate has changed not to mention the dog was flown on a plane to your city. The adjustment period varies from dog to dog. The two-week window you have starts the day you receive the rescue dog. From this very moment the dog will be studying every movement, sound, how you speak, when you feed the dog, to the time you go to bed. This is a natural survival tactic dogs use when the environment or situation has changed. The dog may have had siblings, or dog friends. The world that this dog once knew is no longer. Tomorrow is what matters and the dog, depending on the life it led before, is now facing a very different environment, very different. A consideration many do not think about is language. Was the dog around Spanish, Turkish, French or another language and now required to learn English?

A few common mistakes people make when adopting a rescue dog

  • Give the dog treats out of guilt, feeling bad or to win approval

  • Allow the dog to sleep in the persons bed immediately

  • Baby talking to the dog

  • Minimal expectation

  • Making excuses as to why the dog can’t do something

My experience in the field in the dog rescue world

I was called in to assess a pack of 30-plus dogs on a remote fishing island. The fisherman on a small island south of Cancun, Mx. named him Captain Hook. He was in no pain and there was no infection present.

Veterinary care and a spay program were implemented for the female dogs. The cost to neuter a male dog is pointless when it comes to slowing the dog population. More on this at a later date. I will expand on this in another blog.

This feral dog in Mexico was named Captain Hook after the fishing hook caught in his mouth, spotted during a dog rescue mission.
This feral dog in Mexico was named Captain Hook after the fishing hook caught in his mouth, spotted during a dog rescue mission.

This is me, in the photograph below, in Mexico, educating school children about street dogs and caring for the family dog at a local school. The do’s and don’t's about how to treat a dog.

Brad Pattison, dog behaviourist, of Hustle Up Dog Training teaches school children in Mexico about how to treat dogs kindly.
Brad Pattison, dog behaviourist, of Hustle Up Dog Training teaches school children in Mexico about how to treat dogs kindly.

One method of communication to fellow animal rescuers whether a successful rescue happened, or if another team needs to attempt the rescue again. Our success message in black states the team name, date and location where the dog has been taken to for medical attention. If the owner makes it back, they know where to find the pet they were forced to leave behind.

A wall in an evacuation zone in New Orleans is spray painted with the words Rescued With Love from Canada to show other animal rescue groups that dogs or pets have been rescued from that location.
A wall in an evacuation zone in New Orleans is spray painted with the words Rescued With Love from Canada to show other animal rescue groups that dogs or pets have been rescued from that location.

Why dog training is so important for a rescued dog

Dog training your new friend is mostly important for these few reasons. To keep the dog safe, teach the dog to abide to our society rules, not to run away, and of course to keep you safe – we don’t know what the trauma has been for this dog. Therefore, it is vital to learn and pay attention to the social cues the dog will use to explain a little about themselves. I often guide my clients through this step in the first couple of weeks. This is where a dog will act and pretend it is a victim, when in reality they are deploying tactics to manipulate you to give in to the dog. This is a common tactic many dogs use to learn and manipulate people.

The psychology of a rescue dog

The psychology of a dog who has lived on the street is likely to be considerably different than a pup who came from a breeder. This does not mean they will be worse or better. They will be different. A skilled, experienced dog trainer is needed. The insight and experience from anecdotal learning is the asset they bring to the table. In many cases rescue dogs are smarter, wiser and better equipped to manage high-stress situations. Many come with street smarts, or a different background of education.

In Mexico I spent time with a gentleman by the name of Victor. He taught me the ways of the street dog and how best to understand them, learn from them and to be one with them. My first error was my movement. He said to me, “Walk like a Mexican, not a gringo.” He was telling me to relax and submit myself to the moment. My rigid body language communicated to the street dogs I was a threat, I was not part of the landscape. Humbling lessons which taught me more and more how little I understood about movement.

Trust is everything to a rescue dog. The one error Victor explained to me was that tourists want to love the dogs first and maybe trust later. I was compelled to learn more about what he was saying, and what this meant. Early observations uncovered an interesting fact about dogs and people, this is how he taught me.

The trust exercise Victor taught me

Firstly, feed the dog without speaking to the dog and walk away. This tells the dog you want nothing from the dog. Dogs need a leadership, if people are not willing or wanting to lead, the dog will not follow and respect the person, he goes on telling me the dog will use the person. We watched tourists talking in squeaky voices, baby talk and reaching out giving whatever food they had to the dogs. Evidently these dogs did not reciprocate. The dogs simply took what was given and left. This was a powerful eye opener for me. I was witnessing how people were submitting to the dogs without realizing what they were truly doing and how the dogs perceived us. One dimensional thinking and action from people immediately told the dog, we are useful for only food, so the dogs took the food. When you rescue a dog, the dog wants more than food!

Victor invited me out one night. It was well after 1:00 am when he picked me up, armed with two flashlights a number of dog beds and a bag of dog food. We drove for 20 minutes and parked the truck. Silence was powerful, the humid air still. Without a sound, one dog crossed the road, then two, then three and then the thirteenth dog crossed. The last dog moved swiftly across the road watching the rear of the pack. We waited a few minutes.

Victor wanted to show me a trust exercise he would do with some of the dogs. We grabbed the dog beds and blankets. But first Victor said we have to mark the bedding with our scent. Each bed or blanket was rubbed on our body, leg, back, chest, arms we placed them in an area the dogs frequent (a rest area the dogs use during the night). We left food in small piles and left the area.

Two nights later we repeated our travels, this time we approached the dogs from down-wind, our scent was not detectable. Once the dogs spotted us an alert was sent out from the spotter dog and they took formation and left the area immediately. Victor told me this will be the outcome. On the third night we repeated the greeting but this time we approached from upwind and the slight breeze carried our scents to the dogs. I could not believe my eyes. The alert went out to the pack. They did not go into flight and flee the area. They stood up and watched us, cautiously they observed our presence and observed what we did. Victors lesson taught me about trust and the power of trust. Our smells on the bedding was familiar to the smells drifting to the dogs. We were familiar, we had given a gift to the pack (beds, blankets). Victor told me we must not speak to the dogs they will speak to us first. When they speak to us, they will tell us they want or need something. My brain was exploding with excitement and the new learning. Within twenty minutes all but one dog had laid down. When we shone the flashlights towards the dogs we observed the dogs lay on or beside the beds. Tonight, the dogs did not flee, they stayed, a bit unsettled but they stayed. Victor told me about trust, saying, “Without trust a dog will not do as you want, they will control us, and they will make the decisions. Decisions are made by the alphas; dogs are not stupid. People are stupid, people treat dogs like they are broken.”

I took the many lessons I had learned that week and applied them to many situations. During my five-year study on urban coyote packs in Calgary, Alberta. I learned other interesting components about the way of life and how smart these animals are.

During my rescue operations in New Orleans after the devastating Hurricane Katrina. Many of the dogs had progressed to more habitual and instinctual behaviour. The previous lessons I had learned proved well in my rescue efforts in New Orleans.

A dog left behind would get two attempts to be captured by other rescue groups. The rule was three tries and if the dog is not captured it was left to starve. The knowledge I had learned from Victor proved successful. Every rescue attempt was a success. The lessons I learned from Victor and the dogs. I applied in New Orleans, Haiti, Cancun, Cozumel, San Luis Potosi’, Puerto Rico and other locations. Rescue dogs are different from domesticated dogs. They come with unique life skills, knowledge and history good and bad.

There are four categories that a rescue dog can fall under. Understanding the categories of where a rescue dog comes from, or its background, is one of the most important components to analyze. Understanding the category will help to navigate how to assess the dog. Making a mistake assessing which category your dog falls under (Domesticated - Owned dogs, Free-ranging owned dogs, Domesticated/Feral - Free-ranging unowned dogs, Feral dogs) can have consequences or at the very least an unclear understanding of who they are, what they need and how we should treat them. Every Rescue dog should be properly assessed so they truly live the best healthy life they can.

Four rescue dog categories

1. Domesticated - Owned Dogs

A man with a backpack smiles and poses with his border collie dog who is wearing a hat while on a hike on a boardwalk, dog trainers Vancouver
This is an example of a domesticated owned dog

Owned dogs are "family" dogs. They have an identifiable owner, are commonly socialized, and are not allowed to roam.[6][2] They are restricted to particular outdoor or indoor areas. They have little impact on wildlife unless going with humans into natural areas.[11]

2. Free-ranging - Owned Dogs

Two Free-ranging Owned dogs spotted on a beach in Mexico during a dog rescue mission.
Two Free-ranging Owned dogs spotted on a beach in Mexico during a dog rescue mission.

A free-ranging dog is a dog that is not confined to a yard or house.[1][2] Free-ranging owned dogs are cared for by one owner or a community of owners, and are able to roam freely.[6][2] This includes "village dogs", which live in rural areas and human habitations. These are not confined. However, they rarely leave the village vicinity. This also includes "rural free-ranging dogs", which also live in rural areas and human habitations. These are owned or are associated with homes, and they are not confined. These include farm and pastoral dogs that range over particular areas.[11]

Free-ranging dogs abide by territory rules and laws. They may have friendships and acquaintances. When instructed to leave a territory, they must abide by the rules or confrontation will occur.

3. Domesticated/Feral - Free-ranging Unowned Dogs

Two Domesticated/Feral Unowned Dogs
Two Domesticated/Feral Unowned Dogs

Free-ranging unowned dogs are stray dogs. They get their food and shelter from human environments, but they have not been socialized and so they avoid humans as much as possible.[6][2] Free-ranging unowned dogs include "urban free-ranging dogs", which live in cities and urban areas. These have no owner but are commensals, subsisting on leftover food from humans, garbage or other dogs' food as their primary food sources.[11] Free-ranging unowned dogs also include feral dogs.[6]

4. Feral Dogs

Two Feral Dogs spotted during a dog rescue mission.
Two Feral Dogs spotted during a dog rescue mission.

The term "feral" can be used to describe those animals that have been through the process of domestication but have returned to a wild state. Domesticated and socialized (tamed) do not mean the same. It is possible for a domestic form of an animal to be feral and not tame, and it is possible for a wild form of animal to be socialized to live with humans.[12]

Feral dogs differ from other dogs because they did not have close human contact early in their lives (socialization).[6] Feral dogs live in a wild state with no food and shelter intentionally provided by humans and show a continuous and strong avoidance of direct human contact. The distinction between feral, stray, and free ranging dogs is sometimes a matter of degree, and a dog may shift its status throughout its life. In some unlikely but observed cases, a feral dog that was not born wild but lived with a feral group can become rehabilitated to a domestic dog with an owner. A dog can become a stray when it escapes human control, by abandonment or being born to a stray mother. A stray dog can become feral when it is forced out of the human environment or when it is co-opted or socially accepted by a nearby feral group. Feralization occurs by the development of a fear response to humans. Feral dogs are not reproductively self-sustaining, suffer from high rates of juvenile mortality, and depend indirectly on humans for their food, their space, and the supply of co-optable individuals.[13]

Brad Pattison & Hustle Up Dog Training Specialize in Dog Training Rescue Dogs

As simple as it is to source a dog trainer, that does not mean you have found the right trainer. To know and understand about which category your dog originates from is vital to begin to best understand your dog. You need a proper professional to take on such a task. Rescue organizations rarely tell the full truth about the rescue dog you are about to take on. They more than likely will share a sad or horrific back story. I am here to help evaluate and learn who your new dog is and to educate you to find a great connection that works between you and your rescue dog. I specialize in training rescue dogs and can help you assess your dog and get them on the right training track. Many rescue dogs display unusual or unwanted behavioural issues such as anxiety, food aggression and not understanding new social cues. A lot of these dogs just want to be understood. For example, they may have come from a hot climate to the cold, snowy north. One of the things we specialize in is anxious dog training. My first-hand experience, knowledge and services can help you take the next step in creating a healthy, responsible, lasting bond between you and your new adopted dog.

Written by Brad Pattison, Dog Behaviourist, Vancouver Dog Trainer & Puppy Trainer

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For further information call CA +1 (250) 317-0274

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