Yesterday I met a beautiful rescue dog called Benson, who is very lucky to have new owners who are dedicated to giving him the best life possible, and to removing his stress and anxiety. Benson came to them with concerns about being touched, and with nervousness associated with other dogs – causing him to pant excessively and bark profusely whenever he went out for a walk. Some of this behaviour could be as a result of his previous situation, and some of it could be his natural personality, to be a worrier. Either way, Benson came to his new owners with needs. He needed to know that he could trust them not to hurt him, and he needed to know that what is a danger and what isn’t, and who’s job it is to look after the survival of pack – so he didn’t feel the need to do it himself. Benson’s family now know how to give him the best life, how to show him that they are looking after him and not the other way round (which is what dogs will do by default).
This caused me to feel the need to explain about the difference between getting puppies or rescue dogs when acquiring a pet for yourself. The main difference is that when you get a puppy, you will most likely mess it up yourself because humans by default don’t know the right way to interact with a canine, and many of them will either ‘train’ us into doing things their way, or develop fear and nervousness because they don’t appreciate that we are there to look after them. When you get a rescue dog, it’s already been messed up by someone else. That’s it, so you end up at the same place either way! My time as a dog listener, helping owners with all sorts of dog behaviour problems, is split equally between people who have acquired their dog as a puppy, and those who rescued their dog.
I wish to dispell the myth that if you get a rescue dog you’ll have problems, but if you get a puppy you won’t. Every dog is a canine. That canine comes with a set of instincts about boundaries, survival and pack hierarchy. It looks for pack hierarchy within your home. If there is no leadership in place (in a way that is clear to a canine) then it will naturally take the leadership role. The personality of that dog and your home circumstances will then affect what behaviour comes as a result. A dog which was a ‘nightmare’ for one owner, can be a gem for another if it gets the right information from that owner. So if you are considering giving rescue dogs a great forever home, then make sure you are ready to show leadership to them, and create an environment in which they feel safe. Equally, if you are getting a puppy! If you aren’t clear on how to do this, I can help. I am a trained, insured and accredited Dog Listener, and have taught hundreds of dog owners around the South East, in particular Essex, Kent, East London and Suffolk, how to care for their dogs, and prevent and resolve problem behaviour. Dogs are always happy for you to start getting it right with them, so it is never too late.