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Rescue dogs are special pets. They come with a history that may affect their behavior and even their personality. But this is a history you may know nothing about. You may get some hints about your dog's past based on his behavior. Rescue dogs are special in your lives because you're choosing to give them a chance for a good home and a good life. Some rescues have been abused. Some have been neglected. Some have just been left behind without an understanding of why. Any or all of these things could cause your rescue dog to behave in ways you may not understand. Your rescue dog may have been abused with a leash. This might make walking on a leash extremely scary for your dog. Or your rescue may have never been on a leash before. He may be a bit apprehensive about trying something new.
Loving your rescue dog and giving him a chance to be an amazing pet and to learn and grow with boundaries and love are the best things you can offer your pup. Training your dog after rescue to walk on a leash will not only take some patience, love, and understanding, but it may also take some guesses as to why he behaves the way he does. If he's fearful of the leash, it may be because he was abused at one time. Take this training slow, let him lead the way and show you the pace he needs to go in order for him to be comfortable and willing to try something new with you, his new owner who loves him dearly. Introducing the leash and how to use it and what your expectations are with a rescue dog needs to happen in small phases. Have lots of patience and remember your dog’s stomach is a great path to his heart and building trust.
Because a rescue dog requires special kind of attention and training, be sure you are very patient and calm during your training sessions. You don't want to trigger any anxiety or trauma from your dog's past while training. Be sure you have a leash that is appropriate for your dog’s size and weight. If your dog is highly anxious or fearful, you may want to consider putting him in a harness instead of just a collar. This will help you have better control over him while on the leash. High-value treats are great for any pup, but for training rescue dogs you may need to consider using treats that are extremely tasty and offer more than you might a dog who doesn't have a past you're not aware of.
The Loose Leash Method
Your rescue dog might be apprehensive about everything and you might not know his triggers, so go slow with introducing new activities for you to do together. Make a big deal out of his leash. Let him sniff it and talk it up with a calm voice. Be sure to pair food with this introduction.
Once your dog has earned a treat or two sniffing and getting to know his leash, clip it onto his harness or collar. Consider a harness if he is fearful or anxious about a leash. A harness will give you more control over your pup while giving him the independence of a loose leash.
Start with a high value treat just for putting the leash on. Then take a few steps and encourage your rescue dog to follow you. If he needs coaxing, take a step or two away from him and encourage him to come to you for the treat.
Continue to take a few steps, offering your pup a treat for every few steps he takes with you.
If your rescue dog is eager to please and happy to be on a leash, take a short walk, encouraging him with treats. If he is bored or anxious, keep your first few times on the leash short and sweet with lots of treats. Be sure to practice again for several days until he’s eager or even excited to take a walk with you.
If your dog pulls you or even if you find yourself pulling your dog along, take a step back and stop walking. If your dog is pulling you. When you stop, he will stop as well. If you are dragging him along, he will be happy you stopped.
If you need to regroup with your pup because he’s pulling, stop walking and wait for him to stop. One he stops, give him a treat. Hold another treat over his nose while you take the next few steps. If you are pulling your dog on your walk together, you want to entice him to move with you using a treat on front of his nose.
Keep practicing with your rescue dog until he is eager to head out on a walk with you. Continue to use treats to entice and reward him as necessary.
The Around the House Method
Introduce a leash to your dog slowly. Leave it near his bed or in his crate or even near you so he can explore it without you at the other end. Leave this leash around in various places for a few days, letting your dog sniff it so he is used to seeing it around the house. If you are using a leash that came with your dog, get a new one. That old leash may harbor bad memories for your new pup.
Put leash on
Attach the leash to your dog’s collar and let him roam around the house without you holding the other end of the leash. This will give him time to get used to the leash while wearing it.
With the leash on, walk your dog outside. If you have a fenced in yard, you can try to walk him in the fenced in yard with the leash on but without holding the leash. If you do not have the ability to have the dog wear the leash without you holding it, walk him on the leash but only a bit. You can walk him up and down your driveway and then take him back inside.
Practice this several times a day for a week before extending the length of the walk. Once he’s ready to go further without anxiety about the leash, take your rescue pup for a longer walk.
Offer the dog treats along the way to reward him for a job well done. Be sure to offer him lots of verbal praise as well to reward him.
The Gentle Love Method
Spend some quality time with your dog, offering love and affection. Offer him lots of treats as you two bond.
Take your pup outside in a safe, quiet area and play with him. Your playtime can include toys like a rope for tug of war or you can sit on the ground and bond with him.
During a play session, put a leash on your dog and keep playing together. Ignore the leash while the dog gets used to the weight of it and watching it drag behind him.
With treats, get your dog to come over to you dragging the leash behind him. While he’s near you getting his well-deserved treat, grab ahold of his leash and take a step forward with it in your hand.
Sniff and explore
Hold the leash and let your rescue pup explore the leash. He will want to sniff it and look how it is connected to your hand.
Try to keep the leash loose and walk your pup while holding the leash.
Keep practicing these steps to get your dog used to the leash. Take him for short walks as long as he’s comfortable. If your rescue dog is skittish at all, try to keep the walks short and with few distractions or noises.
By Stephanie Plummer
Published: 12/07/2017, edited: 01/08/2021
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