Gently Re-Training Adopted Dogs
Posted on September 04, 2009 by WayCoolDogs
To retrain a shelter or newly adopted dog who has never had any training or very bad training requires a very special person. This person should be willing to recognize that the negative behaviors that require re-training of adopted dogs can easily be remedied over time with firmness and gentle patience.
BUT…this training has to be done by an owner/trainer who is kind and gentle inside, knows some basic techniques of dog training, and has some good ol’ common sense. Oh yes…and a tiny bit of human-turned-dog intelligence never hurts anybody.
We feel there is no such thing as a bad dog, only one who has either been trained badly or never trained at all. Dogs come here to Way Cool Dogs from all walks of late, and with all types of behaviors. None of them are bad because of it…only lonely, unloved, and lacking in some decent training and learning commands.
The majority of dogs who end up in shelters or abandoned will fall in one of these two categories–NO training or bad training—or they basically would not be there in the first place.
Many new dog adoptees have been so badly destroyed by life itself they cannot find a permanent home. They have left a long trail behind them of failures, unsuccessful relationships, and disappointed owners who simply could not re-train their newly adopted dogs.
When adopting a shelter dog or taking one from a home who does not want their dog anymore, there is a pretty good chance you will need to retrain your newly adopted pet somewhere along the line. But to start off, always make sure the dog you bring home will be one you yourself can offer unconditional love to—regardless what type of life they have lived before you.
TRAINING PRACTICES OF OLDER DOGS
As an older women, I can easily refer to myself as an ‘old dog, remembering very little what I was taught in my younger years. Because of this, I feel it would make sense to return to square one to properly begin retraining an adopted dog, especially if they have been taught to not trust humans or even recognize what a command is.
What I have learned to recognize within myself is what I am still needing to work on and learn: much more patience, being objective over the opinions of others, and looking at everyone as a whole instead of the “just me” syndrome. Older and adopted animals are no different. Their behavior problems which have never been worked on will have to be faced and dealt with.
And to top it off, they cannot remember if they have ever had any training before or not at all, by the time you receive them. Too much water has gone under the bridge. If they can remember things….that’s wonderful. But don’t be disappointed if they cannot.
RECOGNIZING BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS IN A DOG
Dog behavior problems may consist of LOTS of issues: barking, biting, fighting, growling, attacking, urinating in the home, digging, and chewing on anything in sight…including your brand new plastic water bottle.
The older the dog, the more normal negative behavior is that has developed in their lifetime. They simply do not feel as if they are doing anything wrong. Even an older puppy has already taught itself some pretty good survival techniques that could be viewed as behavioral issues by the time they are in your home.
Most repeat offenders at the shelters have not been able to pick up the correlation between their present behavior problems and ‘shelter-home-shelter-new home-shelter AGAIN! …and so on. It is up to you as their owner/trainer to show them how to get rid of these nasty ol’ behaviors and stay put somewhere in a loving home.
The barrier to get through is the incorrect ‘fuzz of normality stuck in their minds. Even people who have been stuck in bad behaviors throughout their entire lives will find them difficult to change as they are normal to them…with tough love sometimes needed to step in and crack the surface. How it is done makes a good trainer vs bad trainer practice.
The only training tools we use is to praise-praise-praise, while hugging and kissing our dogs if they do well and then offer them a favorite treat. If they don’t do the command, they don’t get the treat. That’s about as violent as we get.
If they don’t do well at first–its no biggie. We simply repeat the exercise in smaller increments or repeat it slower, depending on the dog. Repetition and lots of time combined with kindness do wonders for an older dog or older puppy that need this type of reinforcement to build up their personality and character. We don’t believe in negative punishment, which is where the belief in training tools–such as shock collars or chokers–never come in.
THE VERBAL COMMAND
How commands are given has a lot to do with getting the dog’s attention. Even though women basically offer praise better than men, the deep and firm commanding tone of the man will get a better response from a four-legged someone who is in a mindless cycle of giddy ecstasy at getting so much attention out of nowhere.
The basic command for all dogs to begin with is learning their name. They need to know who they are, then followed by a treat and being petted. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Once they know their name, teach them the command COME. We usually say, “Holly…COME.” When she came forward to us we would offer her the treat and give her lots of praise when we first started her training.
Once she ‘finally learned her name, and what the command COME meant, we began offering her the treat only sporadically. It was replaced with lots of loving and attention…which she was just as happy with once she got over the initial MAJOR disappointment of not getting the dog cookie. Now she never expects the treat but instead wants to be petted and loved when we call her.
Holly is secure she will receive affection and that she is loved…this is more important than anything else. She has become her own woman in her relationship with us. But once your dog learns their name and to come to you, follow it by teaching them other basic commands: (1) no, (2) sit, (3) walk, (4) lay down, or (5) stay. Each owner will have their own set of necessary commands to use in their favorite order of sequence. No law says it has to be one way or another. Do what makes you comfortable and feels right. Just love your dog.
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