Building Communication With Your Rescue Dog
Imagine you are relocating to another country. A country where you have no knowledge of the language, the rules, the culture or the etiquette. You are seeing everything for the first time – weird furniture, new terrain, new sounds and different smells. No one can tell you whats going on because you don’t understand their language. They get mad at you for something you wouldn’t have been told off for back where you came from, but you can’t work out what you have done wrong because you don’t understand what they are saying!
Sounds pretty stressful right? That is exactly what it is like for your new rescue dog. He has been launched head first into this new environment where suddenly there are rules like not going up on the kitchen counter (“whats a kitchen counter?!”), not jumping up at guests (“I was never told off for doing that before…”) and not eating food from the table (“but I don’t know when I am next going to get food – if ever!”) – just a few examples.
This is where communication is the key to success. By just using simple cues throughout the day, you are implementing a routine that will help the dog know how to behave at different times. This not only helps your dog to become a domesticated pooch, but helps him/her to understand this exciting new world. ‘Dinner time’ means food is on the way! ‘Bed time’ means its time to lay on my mat and sleep. ‘Walkies’ means we are going for a walk. Etc etc.
As well as communicating the routine that your dog can expect to follow, you can teach your dog cues that allow him/her to offer a behaviour that you like. These behaviours are then transferable skills that tell the dog how you want him/her to react in certain situations.
Lets use an example. Guests enter your home and the dog turns into an excitable Pogo stick, jumping and licking and barking with joy at meeting new humans. You get mad at the dog but he can’t understand what you’re so mad about because he doesn’t know any cues that tell him how you want him to behave in this situation. Now lets imagine you have taught your dog ‘sit’ and ‘stay’. Guests knock at the door and now you can ask the dog to sit on his mat, and then stay there until the guests have entered. He is still excited to see the guests, but he knows how he should be reacting upon their entrance because you have communicated to him how he should behave, instead of how he shouldn’t behave.
One more example is teaching your dog to ‘leave it’. A treat is placed on the floor and instead of immediately taking the treat, you have taught him to ‘leave it’ until you say so. This gives him the treat AND your praise. Its a double win and he is happy to learn this new trick. Now lets apply it to a situation. You are walking your dog and you see a hazard on the floor that you don’t want him to go near/touch/eat (eg. a poisonous caterpillar). Because he knows the cue for the behaviour, you ask him to ‘leave it’ and you have potentially saved him from danger.
Communication is key for so many reasons, its not all about turning your dog into a performing monkey. If your dog doesn’t understand what you are asking of him (because you haven’t taken the time to teach him), then you can’t expect his behaviour to get better. Give your new dog time and patience and he will show you his real domestic potential to become the best you could ask for.
Keep visiting my page for tips and guidelines on how to build communication with your rescue dog.