Many people say rescue dogs make the best companions because they are grateful. That may or may not be true but rescue dogs certainly deserve a wonderful home and some training. Some have issues but usually it is easier to train a rescue dog than it is to train a puppy.
How to Train a Rescue Dog
Assess your new rescue dog. If you got your dog from a rescue where he spent time in a foster home, the foster owner will be able to tell you a lot about the dog. Usually they know how he is with other dogs, cats, children and his general level of training so you have a head start.
If your rescue dog came from a shelter, you will need to watch and learn what, if any, issues he has and what sort of training he needs.
Start teaching your dog that people are friendly. Many people think their rescue dog has been “abused” because he acts shy or barks at people. Usually these dogs have not been abused but have not been socialized well so they don’t trust people.
Get in the habit of carrying a small bag of yummy treats when your dog is meeting new people. Have people give him a treat and pet him gently under the chin or ears if he seems nervous. Don’t push him into situations he is not comfortable with, give him time to learn to trust.
Teach your rescue dog to sit on command if he doesn’t already know how. This is a very useful command for any dog to learn. He can sit while being petted by people instead of jumping up. He can sit at curbs when you’re on walks. Use a treat and lure him by moving it over his head until he sits. Once he has the idea, reinforce it by having him sit for meals, to go in and out the door and for treats. Not only will he be well-mannered but he will realize that you are in charge and he can make good things happen by sitting politely.
Get your rescue dog used to a crate. Not every dog needs to be crated while you are away from home of course. But until you know whether he gets anxious, destructive, or won’t potty in the house in your absence, a crate is a wonderful tool. Give him his meals in his crate. If he likes to play fetch or tug, throw the toy into the crate so he associates it with fun things.
Be consistent with all your commands and rewards. Use the same words for everything and before you know it your dog will have a big vocabulary. Have words for every action — going in and out, sitting, going to crate, play time, eating, going in the car, going for a walk. If you use the same word each time your dog will quickly make the association and you can then use that word as a command.
Take a basic obedience class. Dogs of any age can take basic obedience classes, they are not just for puppies. Group classes are fun and inexpensive and you and your new dog will both learn a lot. As a bonus your dog will learn to pay attention to you around distractions and if he has any issues with other dogs, the trainer will help you work through them.