Training the newest fur-baby to join your family isn't an easy task, which goes double for rescue pups. Rescues are the "pawfect" dogs for adoption but can sometimes require a little extra attention to ensure they live their best life.
From anxiety to signs of aggression, there's lots to watch out for when training a rescue puppy. Unfortunately, some rescue puppies have had a hard start to their lives, causing them to be fearful of people and other animals. Luckily, with lots of love and persistence, your rescue puppy will grow up to be the "ultimutt" canine compadre.
One of the defining tasks of training a rescue puppy to socialize is to uncover the root of their behavior. Is your dog aggressive towards people they don't know? Do they shy away only when interacting with other dogs? Finding out what triggers your puppy's antisocial behavior will go a long way to helping properly socialize your puppy.
In some cases, especially with young dogs, it may be as simple as they're inexperienced when interacting with animals and people due to a sheltered upbringing. As a result, you shouldn't assume your dog's antisocial behavior is rooted in abuse or neglect. You'll no doubt be able to find out more about your dog's history and behavior from the adoption agency.
By providing controlled social situations with positive reinforcement, you'll be able to train your dog to interact with others calmly and confidently. Training a rescue puppy rather than an adult dog is generally easier. A puppy is still developing social skills and is less likely to have had as many negative social experiences. That being said, puppies are smaller and instinctively more vulnerable, so they may be frightened by large groups of people.
Before you start socializing your dog, ensure they've visited a vet to get their vaccinations and a microchip. While socializing your pup, they'll come in contact with lots of people and dogs, so vaccinations stop your puppy from catching or spreading any diseases.
Get a well-fitting collar and leash for your pup, and keep them on the leash whenever they socialize to begin with, so you have more control of your dog's reaction to different people and animals.
Whenever socializing a puppy, especially a rescue, never use negative reinforcement. Yelling at your dog will just make them more fearful and anxious, and they become untrusting of you. Try to be confident in your directions, as your dog will pick up that there's no reason to be nervous. Regardless of the outcome of a social interaction, don't scold your puppy and ignore any negative behavior so your pup knows right from wrong.
As a rescue puppy is likely to be extra skittish, start any social interaction in a quiet place they feel comfortable. This safe space can be somewhere they visit regularly or even your home, as long as they aren't protective of their territory.
Finally, it's essential you watch your dog's body language for signs of fear and anxiety. Walking backward, having their tail tucked between their legs, flattened ears, and shaking are all common signs your dog is unhappy. If you notice any negative body language, remove your dog from the social situation to avoid creating more stress for your pup.