5 Common Mistakes Made By First Time Rescue Dog Owners

When you adopt your first ever rescue dog, its very exciting for both owner and dog alike. You can do all the research in the world in an effort to prepare yourself for your new member of the family, but sometimes different rules can apply to different types of personalities. 

In order to help make the transition a little more easy, I have compiled a list of some common mistakes made by first time rescue dog owners (based on my experiences working with dogs/owners). Every dog is different and what may apply for one dog can be different for another, so if you have any questions or queries about this post, just drop me a message and let me know what you think! 

1. Sleeping in your bed

This is at the top of the list because it is probably the most common first time rescue dog owner issue. Its perfectly understandable! This dog is basically your new baby and you want to keep an eye on him to make sure hes okay through the night, and equally your new pooch wants to spend every second with you because he loves you. However, when your dog sleeps in the same room and in the same bed as you, you are not allowing him to spend any time away from you. So suddenly you go to shower, and you hear scratching on the door or whining in the hallway. You may soon find that you try to leave the house without him and get complaints from your neighbours because the dog has been howling, or you come home to find furniture chewed, or any other obvious signs of distress. 

Bed time is the perfect time to allow the dog to relax in his/her own company. You then offer the dog his own safe place to retreat to when he is tired (a bed, a mat or a crate). By adding a cue at bed time such as ‘quiet now’ or ‘bed time’, you are telling the dog in any situation that its time to lay in his safe place and relax. My tip would be to lay a bed down for the dog somewhere in the house, make it cosy and implement a routine around bed time that your dog can begin to expect each night. 

2. Jumping on furniture

There is a big misconception around this point. I am not telling you to never allow your dog to join you for a cuddle on the sofa. I for one absolutely love to relax with my dog on the sofa with something good on TV while he snoozes on my lap. The difference is this: the dog jumps up on the sofa when its excitable, knocking your drink out of your hand and licking your guests faces making the whole ordeal of visiting you very chaotic as there’s no where they can go to get away from your jumpy licking dog, OR the dog knows he isn’t allowed on the sofa, unless you have invited him to join you on the sofa. 

By inviting your dog onto the sofa to join you, you are keeping it on your terms and putting some simple boundaries in place. If there are no boundaries as to which piece of furniture the dog is or isn’t allowed on, then you may find him on the table with his face in your dinner soon enough. 

Its not about ‘asserting authority’ or ‘being the pack leader’. It’s simply about manners and learning to respect each other’s space. It also adds to the first section of this post where I talk about the dog sleeping in the same bed as you, as you may find that he starts exhibiting other unwanted behaviours as a result of this blurred line. 

Implement a structure whereby the dog doesn’t jump on the sofa with you, until you pat the sofa to invite him to come up there with you. If you need some help with this, just let me know and I will be happy to advise! 

3. Feeding him from the table

This is a really simple one. If you don’t want your dog to beg at the dinner table, don’t feed him from the dinner table. This is where its really handy to have taught your dog ‘on your bed’. Every time dinner is served, ask your dog to go on his bed. With some persistence and some patience, you will find your dog will naturally retreat to his bed when food is served (human food!). Again, its about manners and respecting each other’s space. This, like all the other points in this post, promotes a healthy and balanced pooch with less unwanted habits. 

Photo: Figo from Apasa 

4. Over expectations

Fitting into this new world takes time for your dog. If he has come from a shelter, he is used to a place where there were basically no rules, so don’t expect him to understand everything straight away. It can take up to a year or more in some cases for a dog to fully adjust to your way of life. It takes time, love and dedication to show your dog the way and show him how you would like him to behave in any given situation. Whatever his background, please don’t expect him to already know how to behave in your home or on your lead. 

Your new rescue dog may not know any words, so when you get mad at him for chewing something he wasn’t supposed to or acting in a way you don’t want him to act, he won’t understand what you are trying to communicate with him unless you have built up a language with him that he can understand. You can read more about this on my blog post ‘Building Communication With Your Rescue Dog’.

Remember, if you aren’t sure, always seek advice from a professional who uses positive training techniques that put your dog’s wellbeing first. 

5. Using negative training techniques

There is a lot of conflicting information on dog training across the internet. Its no surprise that some dog owners use relatively disturbing or damaging training techniques. Things like spraying your dog in the face with water, pushing his bottom down to make him sit or even dragging him by the lead to make him walk through a doorway, can all be very damaging for a dog. 

When training, its important not to physically manipulate your dog in anyway. Allow the dog to offer the behaviour himself. Try teaching your dog how you want him to behave instead of scolding him when he acts in a way you don’t want him to behave. 

If you need any guidance with this, contact me and I can see if I can help in any way.

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