The adoption of a new four-legged companion is always a life-changing event. You thought long and hard and decided to adopt an older dog. You find the perfect one at your local animal shelter, sign the adoption papers, and a few days later your new life as a proud dog owner begins.
Lacey is a little over a year old and all you know is that she was found wandering the streets of the city. After a few days of letting your new friend acclimate to her home, you try a few basic training commands – Lacey doesn’t react to sitting or lying down. When you summon him, he slides forward on his stomach with his ears thrown back, obeying but very hesitant and afraid as if he were expecting a blow. That’s when you realize that he came from a previous bad situation, and facing you now is a training challenge you can’t imagine.
Many dog owners find themselves in this situation when adopting older dogs, and it can come as an unpleasant shock if you don’t prepare well in advance. Unlike adopting a small puppy, bringing home an older dog means you embrace his background as well. Most dogs who have had bad experiences before are fully capable of being loving, loyal and loyal companions. They require a little more work and understanding during the training process to grow and maintain the loving relationship you want.
Build Trust, Then Train
The first thing you want to do before you start disciplined training with shy dogs is to establish a bond of trust. Lacey’s previous experience with people has conditioned her to feel that even if she behaved well or responded well to a command, she would still be punished. That’s why it’s so important that we all have bad moments, no matter how angry you are in the early stages of your relationship! – that you do not exhibit similar negative behaviors. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t establish yourself as the alpha dog. Stay on the easy side for a week or two and then start getting tighter and tighter in your training sessions and obedience expectations.
Another important training component for the shy dog is building Lacey’s confidence. This is partly done through your educational efforts, but socialization and changes of environment are equally important. Take Lacey to the dog park, dog day camp, or flirt with other pets regularly, which is best for both of you. Use good judgment with socializing. Make sure you can control Lacey, that her entry status is secure, and that you have a pre-planned exit strategy if things don’t go according to plan. If possible, assign a dog-loving friend or family member to watch Lacey periodically during the day or to keep her on the weekend. The advantage is that it learns to be relaxed outside of your presence, which is an important component of having a well-rounded pet and helps keep it calm and relaxed when you ride it on a vacation or business trip.
What Can You Keep Waiting For?
As you progress in your training, you will likely encounter the following general scenario: Lacey understands basic commands very well, but only in certain positions and situations. Does he sit on first command at home but ignore you on a walk outside when occupied by something else? Note that you must set yourself as alpha; this means that whatever the case, it must obey you on the first command. Start giving commands in various situations that you usually do not, and don’t give up until Lacey obeys. Do not use excessive force, such as forcing Lacey to physically sit down – instead, make it clear that the walk will not continue until you are obeyed. This tactic will maintain the trust and affection you have built with the timid dog and will teach him the true meaning of sitting, namely to sit, stay or come, whatever the situation, when you say so.
With a little effort, commitment, and a high dose of love and understanding, you will soon find yourself with a loving canine companion. Older dogs from bad situations make the most loyal and protective pets you can hope for, once they have bonded with you through disciplined training and love.