Training a rescue dog is the second part of a small blog series following our journey and process of adopting a Bulgarian rescue dog, Buttercup.
THE ISSUE: One of the triggers with training a rescue dog is their environment and other animals or people in it. Buttercup was struggling with Marshall, as he can be completely over the top reactive when certain delivery people come to the door, we never managed this behaviour, just let him get on with it truthfully. Marshall’s behaviour made a big difference to Buttercup as she didn’t understand the perceived danger or what Marshall was getting so upset about, it made her feel insecure and nervous.
TRAINING TO HELP YOUR RESCUE DOG: Some of the games we were talked through (with a professional dog trainer) were to help Marshall as much as her. The introduction of one game, in particular, saw all of their behaviours change in just one session! Marshall was 90% less reactive and Buttercup was about 80% more confident, in just one very simple ‘game’. I say game loosely as it may not seem like a game to you or me, yet to the dogs, WOW!!!
SOCIALISING YOUR RESCUE DOG
As the training was going so well I felt it was time to meet up with a friend and her 2 little dogs, who are all very confident. We took Buttercup to the local beauty spot, in the woods where she felt so much more relaxed and the trees did their amazing restorative thing on all the animals and us too.
Buttercup was used to lots of dogs around her from her rescue days and the little pack of 4 really helped her relax and feel like a dog, she started to display more natural dog behaviours and put her tail up, with a wide-open smile on her face and relaxed eyes.
ADJUSTING YOUR RESCUE DOG TO TRAFFIC
We spent some time desensitizing Buttercup to the road over a period of time, on this occasion, it involved stomping through the woods to the top of a little hill where we could see the road below, the other dogs and Marshall were so busy sniffing around and watching the woodland she relaxed with the traffic nearby and watched with fascination from a safe distance. Your rescue dog may need days, weeks or months of this, let them set the pace of how much and don’t push them into being around traffic if they are not used to it, little and often really helps.
HELPING YOUR RESCUE DOG GET USED TO TRAVELLING IN THE CAR
Next was time for healing our rescue dog get used to travelling in the car, we laid out treats at first and just placed them on the footwell, let her take them and then walk away. The next time we repeated the same exercise and encouraged her to place her feet inside the car, then the third time we repeated laying out the treats and she took herself onto the backseat and curled up next to Marshall, with just a 10 min drive to the beach we opened the windows a crack so she could sniff the air and the change from town to sea air. She noticed it despite curling herself up into a ball her nose was certainly sniffing and just before we got to the beach she popped up to see what was occurring.
When we first got to the beach Buttercup first stopped to take it all in and then after a short time was running around playing, and interacting confidently with other dogs and humans, we had a long lunge line so she could run without us fearing her running away and she really did enjoy it. We went at low tide so there was a LOT of beach to explore and everyone was so relaxed on the beach, with so much space to move around, the sun and blue skies it was a dreamy day. She sure was tired when she got home too and found the car ride home much less stressful, she hopped in the car of her own doing and sat next to Marshall, it was lovely to see.
The next morning, I took her and Marshall across to the woods with no freezing, tail tucked or lip licking. She knew she could cross the road with confidence, it meant she had an amazing start to the day. So within a few days, we saw massive leaps in her confidence and behaviour, just from a little bit of time and taking it right back to what is sensitive for her now, and making adjustments accordingly at the pace she set. She definitely has a limit to how many new things she can process in a day (as do you!) so do bear in mind with your own rescue dog that there will be days like this too.
SIGNS TRAINING YOUR RESCUE DOG IS WORKING
What a joy to witness a soul gaining trust in her new family and growing in confidence and happiness. Our lifestyle has really improved as Buttercup has been on a few car trips to the local beach and woods, is much more relaxed around traffic and loves to go out for walks. She has learned the following ques:
- lay down
- get down
- come and more,
Buttercup loves to be brushed, play the box game, relax, goes to the toilet outside and sleeps through the night. It is incredible to see the difference as she has had a lot of deep sleep she is really learning to be relaxed and it shows in her character and the fact she is so much more confident, shows her belly and asks for scratches, hides behind me when she is fearful of new thing and asks me to hold her paw and smiles at me showing her teeth (not to be confused with anything else) are all great signs that the training is working and building her confidence.
Marshall is actually loving sharing his home with another dog, it’s perked him up and given him a new dynamic. We make sure he gets time with us one-to-one and lots of massage as he was an only dog for 4 years! I remember when he arrived, the time has flown by with him in our lives. Dogs really do give so much love to a home, they are a delight. We look forward to days out on the beach and new walks this summer!
PLAYING GAMES WITH YOUR RESCUE DOG
WOW what a difference a few weeks makes, with the change in energy from the spring equinox behind us, longer warmer days and consistent love, play, sleep, food and walks we have a girl growing in confidence day by day, she astounds us with her intelligence. I lay on the grass to look at the blue sky today it was so clear and she sat next to me pawing my face. Even when we are out she wants to be nearby.
We have started to let her off the lead and she is growing in strength, fitness and confidence. Her smile says it all really!
“The box” game has been significant in this increase in both of our dog’s confidence. Marshall was never interested in games apart from the 3 cup trick (laying down and involves a piece of food hidden under 1 of 3 beakers).
We are now up to 4 boxes and can extend the game to last at least 30 minutes. it is joyful to see them working it out, Buttercup taking the tiny inner boxes back to her den and building up a stash! Marshall takes longer to warm up and then goes for it, really getting into the boxes and trying different techniques to get the treats out.
The box game is flexible for ALL dogs and may well need your input. It really helps them relax, workout in a low impact way, sleep deeply and further enhance their recovery from a street life start and empty their ‘stress bucket’. It is wonderful to see her personality unfolding, and Marshall is loving having a doggy friend to go on adventures with each day!
If you have recently adopted a dog or looking for some help with your beloved animal, book an in-depth animal communication session and find out exactly what your animal needs and what it wants to reach optimum health and happiness.
The work that I do is heart centred and essential that we are the right fit to work together. I offer you a complimentary chat on the phone over a virtual cuppa before booking a session with me.
From the heart,
Ruthy D x x