with the Adult Rescue Dog
© By Charlotte Mielziner
Professional Member, APDT
Certified in Canine Behavior, Purdue University
Certified Private Trainer, ABTA
Rally Judge, AKC and MBDC
Carolyn was frustrated.
The lovely 6 year old border collie she fell in love with and
brought to her home was not the affectionate,
loyal companion she had expected. In all fairness, he was housebroken,
gentle with the cat and walked nicely on lead, but it was something
else. He would come forward for a treat, take it and back away.
In the evenings, he would lay behind a rocker in the corner and
stare at her. He only approached her when he wanted her to throw
a tennis ball. He frankly seemed better friends with the cat
than her. Why didn’t he seem to like Carolyn?
The species from which
dogs descended, the wolf closes its socialization window around
the age of four to six months and rarely allows
anyone else in their circle of friends for the rest of its life.
Luckily, the dog remains pliable enough in its emotional makeup
to bond at any age, but it can take longer once they are an adult.
How long? It depends on many different factors. The age of the
dog, its prior experiences, temperament, the new caretaker’s
ability to provide leadership and consistent interaction. We
cannot predict how and when a dog will finally bond with their
new owner. Sometimes, they give their hearts with the first bowl
of kibble, or it may take a month or more. Be patient, there
are things you can do to assist this process.
the stable thing in your dog’s environment. Be the
person he can count on being there. Take him everywhere
you can. Walk in the park today, stroll down a nature trail
errands the next day. You must be the predictable thing he can
count on. You will become a pack of two, dedicated to each other
in all life’s adventures.
2. Take an obedience class. Even when your dog seems like he
pays good attention and obeys basic commands, an obedience class
is the single best method to help new owners learn to communicate
and bond with their dog. It is also the safest venue to begin
socializing your dog with other dogs. In just a few weeks, dogs
go from lunging, barking whirlwinds of energy to calmer, focused
partners with their handlers. An obedience trained dog is welcome
in more places and has greater freedom in the home. But, be careful
who you go to. Work only with dedicated, professional positive
3. Use a house lead
to keep in contact with your dog and he with you. Many rescue
dogs may spend a lot of time by themselves,
in a crate or under a chair. It is as if they don’t feel
welcome yet. A house lead is a six to ten foot lead that attaches
to a buckle collar, not a training or prong collar, you always
hold the other end. Keep the dog on lead as many hours as possible
and he is to go with you where ever you go in the house. If he
is napping and you want a drink of water, he is to go with you.
A house lead is also a wonderful tool for seeing to it the dog
stays out of trouble until he learns the house rules.
4. Touch your dog and speak to him as often as possible. The
need for touch is just now being recognized for its comfort and
as a method of unspoken reassurance. Stroke him as you put a
bowl of kibble down, as you put on the lead and before you give
him a treat. Bathe or brush him yourself, talking all the while
about what a great dog he is. Make physical contact from you
a pleasant thing by finding his favorite itchy spots and giving
them a good scratch. You may even sit on the floor with him for
a while each evening and give him a nice massage.
5. Play with your dog. This does not mean sitting in a lounge
chair and throwing a tennis ball for two minutes while you watch
TV. Get up and move, give the dog your full attention. You may
try having several tennis balls and as the dog goes for one,
turn and run a few steps and throw another. Playing means getting
a really good game of tug going, smiling, laughing and moving
around with it. Truly have a good time playing.
Carolyn wisely chose
to put all five of these tips into play. Some adopters can
tell the moment their dog realizes he is truly
in his forever home. She does not know when her dog finally bonded
with her, but he did. She does remember the first time she said
his name and he wagged his tail, “I knew we were on the
right track!” He looks to her for reassurance, leadership
and just plain fun. She thinks in this case, it was a process
that took place over time. She says, “We sort of bonded
with each other.” Trust grew and a real friendship between
the human and the dog evolved as they shared adventures.
Today, Carolyn proudly states she regularly takes her border
collie to a local nursing home as a therapy dog. Each morning,
he watches closely as she gets ready for the day and waits for
her gentle kiss on his nose. He dozes in the evenings with his
head on her foot, so that when his special human should move
he can be there, living life forever with his best friend.
are welcome to use this article but please give credit to
Mielziner and Mo-Kan Border Collie Rescue. Please let
us know by emailing us!