How to Transform your Rescue Dog

How to Rescue a Dog from a Shelter or Pound
All the dog rescue centers, shelters and pounds are full of excellent, loving but often mistunderstood dogs. This does not mean that they are all well behaved and socialized dogs. Allthough some dogs might end up in shelters or pounds because of their behavioral issues in most cases the dogs are perfectly fine pets. When you ask people why they prefer getting a puppy in stead of adopting a dog, the number one reason is that they don’t want to adopt somebodies others problem or mistake. Getting a dog should be a happy and joyfull event and they don’t want to start with solving problems. On the other hand you might think, a puppy is not housebroken, might chew on your furniture and still has to learn everything (basic commands, walking on the leash etc.) while most dogs in shelters come from a home and are already housebroken, know basic commands, so will probably need more guidance than training. The most common reasons for a dog to develop behavioral problems is a lack of exercise or a lack of leadership. The good news is, since dogs live in the moment, it is absolutely possible to take an older dog and start over as if it is the first day of the rest of its life. If you do it right, you will see a totally different dog.



Important Decisions
In order to make your dog adoption a more informed and less of an emotional decision, certain requirements need to be listed before taking the trip to the shelter. The first thing you have to do when you are considering adopting a dog is to find the right dog for you. This part is very important but is often skipped by well intented but unknowing dogowners. So do this before you even think about visiting a rescue or shelter. Not every dog, not every breed is a right match for your family. Make a list of characteristics you would like your dog to have. Decide if you want a small or larger dogbreed. Choose a couple of breeds that you like and study their characters and their breed specific problems. Study the different breeds so when you get to the pound you have a general idea of what a wide variety of breeds are like. You also need to decide if you want a male or female dog, this is especially important when you already have a dog at home and adding a dog to the family. There are two important things you need to check when deciding a dogbreed for your family. You should look for: the dog’s energy level and the dog’s dominancy level. By studying a wide variety of breeds before you get to the pound or shelter, you should be able to make a more educated guess as to what type of dog will work for you, even with the mixed breeds. When you have a general idea of what types of dogs will work for you and everyone in the house is in agreement about adopting a dog, it is time to start looking for your new family member. Do not think that you need to come home with a dog on the first day. If you choose poorly and bring home a dog that does not match your family you may hurt the dog you are trying to save more than you are helping it. Dogs that are repeatedly returned to the pound have a higher rate of being killed! Take your time and choose wisely.

Size Large, medium, or small dog? Keep in mind size does not necessarily designate space required or energy level.
Breed Purebred? Mix? If a purebred is desired, make sure ALL breed traits are researched
Male or Female Think about spay or neutering your dog and if you have a preference for either a male or female dog.
When you already have a dog this choice is more important. With two dogs of the same sex the chance there will be dominance issues will be a little bigger. This is not a reason to not do take in a dog of the same sex but you will have to consider this when deciding this. In these cases always have a meet up with your dog and the dog that you want to adopt. Some shelters give you the opportunity to take a dog home for a few days so you can evaluate how the dogs will get along.
Activity Level A calm and maybe older dog, or a hig level energy dog to go hiking with?
Age Puppy, adult or senior dog? Most dogs find their way to shelters between the ages of 6 months and 1 year of age, their adolescence. At this time the dog will try to test the owners and its bounderies. they will misbehave more during that time period. Adult dogs can also come to you with excess baggage of behavior problems from their previous life, but usually they can be worked through. Seniors can sometimes have age related health or behavior problems, but can be a wonderful laidback companion.
Coat Long, short, one that will require grooming/shaving?


Going to the Pond/Shelter
When looking for your dog, remember, most of these animals were somebodies pet once and now are in a closed environment, with almost no human contact. Also there are dogs that were strays and never knew a loving home, a gentle touch or human. So a dog your passing by that is shiffering in the back of the cage might be that cuddly loyal dog you always wanted! Give a dog the chance to show its real character! A dog showing fear or agression in the cage between the barking dogs and people passing by might react totaly different when taken out for a walk or in another room. I suggest to sit in front of the cage for a while, facing sideways, not interacting with the dog just to evaluate the dog and also to give the dog a chance to smell you and to let him evaluate you aswell. You will find out that when you sit down with most fearfull or agressive dogs and you ignore and evaluate the behaviour that they will be starting to do the same, evaluating you and by doing that they are calming down and there is room for interaction. Even though you made the list and are pretty convident that you know what you are looking for take the list with you when you go! You might go there with the intention of a small or medium sized calm dog and come home with a large active dog just beacuse he had that cute spot on his eye and he wiggled his butt so cute. Don’t let your emotions take over but make the right decision for you, your family and the dog.

Give a Dog a Real Chance! See what a little time, patience and trust can do..


Questions to Ask
When at the shelter ask the people who work there for information about the dogs you like. Some questions you might ask;

  • what is the background of the dog (was it a stray or did the former owner gave the dog up, if so what was the reason?)
  • what can they tell you aout the interaction with other dogs
  • was the dog ever aggresive towards any of the employees
  • did the behaviour of the dog changed since it arrived at the shelter and if so, is it in a positive or negative way?
  • tell the employees what you are looking for in a dog and tell them which dogs you are considering for adoption
  • try to ask more than one employee, everybody has his or hers own insights and by asking some more this might fill in some blanks/doubts you might still have
  • most ponds and shelters do a general test for temperament, ask if the dog did a test, and if so, what kind of tests and how did he do?


Try to get some alone time with the dog your want to adopt. Most shelters and rescues will let you walk them on a nearby field or they will have a playroom where you can spend some quality time with your dog in a more calm environment. Let the whole family meet the dog, one by one.  When you have made your decision, bring the dog back and get the list you brought along. Now check al the items you summed up and evaluate how your dog scored. If your dog does not fit most of the items you listed as important you are making an emotional decision. Remember when you base your choice on looks (he’s so fluffy, he looked like the dog my parents had or those funny big ears) or on the moment (he licked my face, that funny walk or he was so playfull) you might end up hurting the dog in stead of helping it. So make a wise decision, be prepared and take your time.

Dog Adoption Rescue Myths and Facts

Save a Life and Adopt!
Don’t close your eyes or turn your head just learn, share and change!
This video is 18+


Bringing your Dog Home
Once you Bring your new Dog Home, assuming you made all the Home preparations:

  • the dog has a place for its own ( a pillow, a crate/bench)
  • you have a collar and leash
  • you have dogfood and bowls for water and food
  • you checked for dangers in and around the house (poiseness plants, escape proof home/garden)


It is now time to adopt your dog and bring it Home. A very important point to remember when adopting a rescue dog is not to feel sorry for the dog, not while you are standing there in the shelter and not after you bring the dog home. Dogs interpret the emotion of pity as weakness. When a dog is in need you help him by getting over it and the only way to do that is to not feel sorry for the animal and show leadership.
Do not go straight home with your new family member. You need to walk your dog before you bring it home to burn off some of that energy and establish yourself as the leader of the pack in your dog’s new life before you get to your house. If you want to know how to properly walk a dog on leash read this blog: How to teach your Dog not to Pull.

After your long walk, do not walk in your front door, unsnap the lead and allow the dog to investigate your home. If you unsnap the lead and allow the dog to investigate your home the dog will instinctually run from room to room and claim each room as his own. Remember that there is a good chance the dog was in the shelter because he believed he was leader over his prior family. In order for you to more easily correct his way of thinking, from day one you have to start with new rules and bounderies for his new life. In the dogworld the leader of the pack not only goes first, but he owns everything. The leader then allows the rest of his pack to use its things when the leader wishes, and tells them when to eat and where to sleep and where not to go. The rest of the subordinates in the pack happily follow the leaders wishes. Some humans may think this sounds harsh and mean, however we are not dealing with humans, we are dealing with animals, dogs and must think like them. Dogs that are not given clear structure and rules are not secure, happy dogs. In order for a dog to be secure it must clearly know who is running the show. It is either going to be you or him. Chances are that in your dog’s past life it was him; now it is time for it to be you. If you clearly communicate this to your dog he will be secure and happy in his new life.
When a dog shows signs of dominance, the dog should receive no affection until you are able to make him realize he is not the leader and he accepts it by acting calm and submissively. The more submissive and stableminded the dog gets, the more love you can give him. Dogs should not get any affection until the dominance is under control. Your affection will reinforce whatever mindframe the dog is in.


Tips for Transforming your Rescue Dog

  • One of the most important things to do with your new dog is to enroll in an obedience class. This class is important for many reasons: establishing a working relationship between owner and dog, socializing the dog to other people and other dogs, it helps to reinforce basic training (even if the dog seems to know the basics)
  • No matter how old the dog is when you adopt him, he should always be treated like a puppy and not trusted with anything until he earns it. Make sure your dog has a safe area, his own spot where he can sleep and relax. Make sure all the familymembers will respect his space and will not bother the dog when sleeping.
  • Do not make excuses for your new dog! You may observe he is shy around men or strangers, many people think the dog was abused before they got him. He may have had a scary experience, but generally, if you don’t know for a fact he was, he was probably just not socialized. To use the excuse, “Oh, be careful with him, he was abused as a puppy,” is an immobilizing thought. Instead of carefully avoiding things that frighten your dog, give that man/stranger an irresistible treat to give to your dog every time they meet; you may be able to work through the problem! What may have happened in your rescue dog’s past doesn’t need to cripple him for life!
  • Make sure to take your dog to the veterinarian in the first week and let them do a general health check. The dog should be evaluated healthwise before he establishes himself in your home.
  • In the first weeks go to as many places as possible with your dog so he learns the trust and follow you everywhere; a visit to the vet, visiting a friends home, trips to different dogparks, take him in the car/on public transport, etc.
  • Have Patience with your dog, don’t expect miracles in hours or days. Your dog might need some time to acclimate. Trust and leadership take time and so don’t be disappointed when for example your dog wants to hide under the couch the first days. Just keep calm and keep bringing him back
  • When in doubt, do not hesitate to engage the help of an experienced behaviorist or trainer to help ease the adoptee’s transition into your home and your life

I adopted all of my dogs except one. Most of them, female dogs that were used to breed and dumped when they were no longer of use to the breeders. In all those years and with all those dogs, most of them with behaviour or health problems,  there was Not One that couldnt be helped and there was No problem that couldn’t be fixed by training or a visit to the vet. Ive had dogs that were older dogs,  with behaviour problems like; unsocialized, not used to walking on a leash, not house broken, agressive towards other dogs or men, foodaggression you name it.  And also dogs with health problems, skinproblems, breathing/trachea problems, cancer. I am not saying it is  easy to solve these issues but.. When you have enough time, enough patience and enough love, It Will Work!

Related Blogs:
The story of one of my rescues Dozer
Raising a Bulldog Puppy
Preparing for your Puppy
B ulldog Rescues and Animal Shelters
How to Walk your Dog
Jumping Dogs

Check out the Stop Animal Cruelty section for news on animal cruelty, tips on how you can help, dogfighting, dogadoption and  information.

Please Share!

3 thoughts on “How to Transform your Rescue Dog

  1. Pingback: Do I Go Home Today? | BaggyBulldogs

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.