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  • Shannon Maguire

5 Essentials to Bonding With Your New Rescue Dog

Updated: Jul 30, 2019


(photo: Shannon Maguire)

Congratulations! You've given a dog a second chance. Whether you got yours from a local shelter or an independent rescue organization, you've done an amazing thing. You've saved a life. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

You've brought your furry stranger home and now starts the process of getting to know one another. Unlike puppies, adult rescues have perhaps seen some ugliness in this world by the time they've found you and their forever home.

This trauma can lead to unpredictable behavior from your dog and requires patience from you to break down your new friend's walls.

Here are some tips in gaining your rescue's trust and teaching them you're there to love them.

1. Food is Your Friend:

Tap into your dogs primal instincts with food. Let them know you're the hand that feeds. This will foster respect and associate you as a provider. Make sure you buy a quality brand for a healthy pup. Both Boots and Bear eat Taste of the Wild and love it! Reward your dog with treats and bones. This may be a completely foreign luxury to them, and they'll love you for it. Give your dog treats when you want them to have a positive association with a new person or activity.

2. Gentle but Firm:

It can be difficult to scold a dog who has been abused or is very fearful. The key here is gentle but firm. Never raise your voice to your dog. That only results in fear. You're trying to establish yourself as the alpha which they respect and obey, not fear. Be firm and consistent with your training, and use tons of positive reinforcements. This with strengthen your bond, provide stimulation and your dog will work extra hard to please you for those yummies! For more information on training a rescue, check out my post on How To Train a Rescue Dog With Trauma.

3. Home Base:

Create a space your dog feels safe and comfortable. Give them a bed, crate or area to call their own (even if you let them sleep with you). Dogs are den creatures and rescues have been without a consistent one for a very long time, perhaps their whole life. Giving them the regularity of a space thats just theirs is healthy. Add toys and treats to enforce the area as a positive and safe place.

4. TLC:

Tender, loving, care. Chances are high your rescue's life on the street was not easy. Show them that's all in the past through some good 'ole TLC. This can come in the form or pets, massages, play time or cuddles. A gentle touch can slowly warm your dog up to you and soon they'll be begging for more!

5. Have Compassion:

Understand there are parts of your dog's past that you'll never know. Events that have possibly changed their personality forever. Have compassion when they seem impossible to potty train or bark defensively at any stranger who comes to the house. Many times, these are signs of anxiety and confusion - not of misbehaving. Compassion is the key to patience, and you're going to need a lot of both to train and bond with an animal who's past has taught them only distrust. Please, never give up on a dog because they aren't what you thought they would be. Be consistent with your training and give them time - they will show you a loyalty beyond what you could have ever imagined.

Working with rescue animals that have experienced trauma can seem daunting. Sometimes you'll feel like you're making progress and then something will trigger them and you'll be back to where you started. But the experience of rehabilitating an animal can also be insanely rewarding. The reward is love and it will change both of your lives.


Boots coming home from the shelter; 2015 (photo: Shannon Maguire)

Boots today; 2019 (photo: Shannon Maguire)



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