Adopting a rescue dog is a thoroughly rewarding experience. And a huge number of people can testify to this: approximately 1.6 million dogs are adopted from US animal shelters each year. Whilst most dogs that end up in shelters come from happy, stable homes, some experience a difficult start in life and suffer neglect and even abuse. As a consequence, they may be mistrustful of people and demonstrate symptoms of anxiety. There’s no denying that these dogs demand a little extra effort from their new owners to build loving bonds. And whilst this may sound like hard work, the rewards are truly great: your pooch will be trusting, loyal and utterly devoted to you.
Time for play
Making time for play fetch and hide-and-seek games is key to developing a fun relationship with your dog. Ensure you establish that you are the pack leader in the activity; you choose the game and control the level of excitement. It’s also important to reward your dog with strokes and words of praise to help make him eager to please. If your new dog is struggling with dominance issues, it may be sensible to avoid games that involve aggressive play, such as biting and tugging.
Cuddles and snuggles
Dogs are social animals that love to give and receive affection. Snuggling with you on the sofa or next to your feet will help him to feel like a valued member of the household. Consider learning some dog massage techniques which reputedly confer the same benefits of relaxation as human massage. And the bonus is that you will feel relaxed too: research shows that cuddling your pet reduces stress levels as well as anxiety-related hormones.
You may like to let your dog sleep in your bedroom, so that you are close to him should he need you during the night. Make him a comfortable bed on the floor and don't allow him to sleep on your bed until he knows his position in the household pack. You are also more likely to have a disturbed night if you allow him that degree of closeness. Research by the CDC has also raised concern over the transmission of diseases from pet to owner when they share a bed. Whilst rescue dogs may be more vulnerable to health problems, reputable shelters will give animals a full health check on arrival together with any necessary vaccinations and treatments, so when they reach their new home they should be no more of a risk than any other new pet.
Knowing right from wrong
Dog training is key to help your hound develop trust. It's a good idea to use positive reinforcement behavior training, where good behavior is rewarded and bad behavior is ignored. Start on day one with basic commands, such as come, sit, stay and down. You may find that your dog is familiar with these, but if not, work slowly with one command at a time. Ensure you address any serious behavior issues immediately with professional help if needed.
Hopelessly devoted to you
By lavishing love and care on your hound in these simple ways, you can rest assured that you will eventually reap the rewards. Be prepared to be patient as your dog adjusts to his new life and comes to understand that it's a positive change. Over time he will lap up your love and return it with true devotion.