Getting a Rescue Dog

There are a lot of things to consider when getting a dog.  Getting a rescue dog can sometimes be a lot more work then you may have bargained for.  One thing is for sure, you should never jump into it whimsically.  Getting a dog is a big decision.  Getting a dog with ‘baggage’ can be overwhelming! Getting a Rescue Dog

What is a ‘rescue dog’?

Modern day definition of a rescue dog is a dog you acquire from a rescue organization.  Rescue organizations are organizations who take in dogs that have no home.  The reasons a dog may end up at a rescue can vary dramatically.  Honestly the huge majority of dogs at rescue’s were never in harms way as per se.  Most came from a home where the owners went out and got a puppy without thinking it through.  They never abused or mistreated their dog, they just had no time for them.  Left to their own devices too often, they became too much to handle.  Poor dog simply lacks proper training and structure due to owner irresponsibility.

Getting a Rescue DogOn the extreme opposite end of the spectrum there are dogs who were seriously abused or neglected.  And often in ways too awful for me to even get into in this blog.  Rehabilitating one of these poor dogs will usually require a lot of patience and skill.  It’s helpful to know your potential new family members history.  Unfortunately abusive owners often don’t pass on much information.  Taking on a dog with an extreme past is no easy task.  But is also probably one of the most rewarding things you will ever do.

What does it mean to own a ‘rescue dog’?

All dogs need love, structure, consistency and training.  Whether you get a rescue dog or a puppy straight from the loving arms of a breeder.  Yes, some rescue dogs come with emotional issues.  So when considering a dog that does need rehabilitating there’s a lot to consider.  For instance: You have young children at home.  You find a dog that comes from a background where they were terrorized by unruly children.  Can you safely take them in?  Another instance; You’re a big, strong man with a lot of patience.  You fall in love with a rescue dog who is scared of men.  Maybe you’re the perfect person to help this poor dog get over their fear of men.

Getting a Rescue DogHow do I rehabilitate a rescue dog?

There are no hard, fast rule’s on owning or rehabilitating a rescue dog.  Every dog and their backgrounds are so unique. One thing I can safely say, though, is dogs don’t live in the past.  The biggest favor you can offer your newly acquired friend is don’t treat them like they’ve been ‘rescued’.   Yes, some dogs have emotional issues.  Some are less trusting and will take longer to come around. But all of them live for today.  If your dog exhibits fears and anxieties, the worst thing you can do is coddle them.  Coddling fearful behaviors will only teach them to continue displaying those fears.

Here is an example of the way dogs think:

Let’s pretend you have a pre-school child and you’re at a playground.  That child gets hurt so you cuddle them and talk to them about what happened.  You make them feel better.  Now let’s pretend you have a dog who is fearful in a certain situation.  You coddle and cuddle the dog like you did the child.  Here is the difference.  A child is a young human, a dog is not.  A child speaks the same language you do, dogs do not.  The dog will see they got attention from you for displaying fears.  The dog will think to themselves; ‘this is a scary situation, my owner thinks so too.  I can tell because they seem so concerned.  I better keep it up’.  You will be continuing and encouraging the fears.

What’s the difference between getting a ‘rescue’ dog or a non-rescue dog?Getting a Rescue Dog

Again, every dog is so different, it’s impossible to say.  Majority of ‘rescue’ dogs just need structure, training and love.  Some need extensive rehabilitation.  Just because you get a dog from a reputable breeder or a loving home doesn’t mean they won’t come with issues.  Any dog placed in the wrong home will develop issues.

So what’s the difference?  The scale is huge, there may be no difference at all or there may be huge differences.  There are so many factors; what’s the dog’s history, what breed is the dog, what are YOUR issues, what’s your home life like, how much time are you willing to commit to this dog, how many other people are in your family that will commit time to this dog, what resources do you have, can you afford extreme training or vet care if your dog needs it?  It goes on and on.

The bottom line is all dogs need love.  If you find a rescue dog that melts your heart and you commit to that dog, the end result could be a love that is second to nothing.  That dog will likely weasel itself into your heart and you won’t regret one second of your time spent.


Author: Brenda McBurnie, Certified Dog Trainer and Natural Nutrition

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2 Responses to “Getting a Rescue Dog”

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  1. Tim says:

    Thanks for your article. This part especially struck me: “One thing I can safely say, though, is dogs do not live in the past. The biggest favor you can offer your newly acquired dog is do not treat them like they have been ‘rescued’.”
    My family just adopted a six year old male from a rescue organization that gets many dogs from a puppy mill. We believe he was probably a stud. We are aware he has been rescued and why he may be exhibiting certain behaviors, but we are approaching the way you are talking about. Which is encouraging to me that we are heading in the right direction.
    We, including our children (10 and 13) are ware of the patience required. We have decided to enjoy the journey and not have any unrealistic expectations, to discard any “dreams” we have of what a perfect dog is. We are going to enjoy the process and enjoy the uniqueness our boy Toby brings and love him for who he is, while we do our best to train him and acclimate him to life in a loving family and move on from his puppy mill past.
    Thanks again, I found this through the

    • Brenda says:

      Hi, thank-you for your comment, I love what you said about enjoying the journey. It sounds like Toby found an amazing family and I’m sure you’ve found an amazing dog!

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