When opening your home is not enough.

The #1 reason that dogs are returned to rescues and the shelter is because of lack of training. This is 100% preventable and inexcusable.

Dogs have issues, preferences and phobias. What one person finds cute could really annoy another person, but the one thing people appreciate across the board is obedience. Obedience, or lack of obedience, can make or break a dog-to- person relationship. If you are fostering, volunteering in shelters, or volunteering with rescues, take some time to teach them some basic obedience like heel, sit, down, and potty training. The basic commands can be used for chaining. For example, teaching the dog to sit will be used for teaching the dog not to bolt.

Some clients that I’ve talked with have the intention of adopting, but due to life changes, sometimes they get into a situation where they feel that it isn’t possible to take them or their family dynamic changes. The misconception is that they assume because they were in a home and the family tells the shelter “my dog is amazing” that they will not be put on the euthanasia list. But it happens, especially if the shelter feels that they are not adoptable. This is when a responsible pet owner must teach their dog some basic obedience.

When I ask clients why they haven’t taught their dogs things, most of the time I get the response that they don’t have time. When training is done right it doesn’t take the amount of time people would assume. I have included some tips about working with your dog at the end of this article.

Shelters and rescues have contact information for trainers and behaviorists if they are responsible, reputable or respectable. There are some rescues that will help give you a jumpstart with a behaviorist or trainer, but by being a foster parent, it is your responsibility to give your foster dog ample amounts of valuable learning experiences so they can have the lowest possible chance of being returned.

I currently have several certifications and years of experience with dogs so I have the utmost respect for them and I have seen what they are capable of. I offer thousands of dollars a year in discounts and free services to rescues here locally. I try my best to give advice on social media regarding basic training issues and I volunteer at events to give advice to fosters. I’m continually writing and posting educational articles and I donate to the rescues and shelters in my community. With all of this being said, it is up to the rescues or you to ask for some help. I occasionally get contacted when there is a problem, but unfortunately, 95% of the time,I am contacted when it is too late. In order to balance the dynamic of the relationship with your dog, it is imperative to express concerns and seek help when you start to see an issue. Another mistake I see is when people seek advice from unqualified people regarding behavior problems. If the problem is not addressed properly, the issue can escalate. It is a mistake to assume that your contact in a rescue or shelter has the best advice when it comes to dog behavior and behavior modification. When you do decide to open your home to a foster dog, please make sure that you get contact information for a behaviorist or trainer you can call directly before making the commitment. I have personally offered to be a contact person when it comes to time sensitive issues, but unfortunately not many people have used me for that due to outside controls. Please remember that there is no I in RESCUE, it is a group effort.

Training tips

After successfully working with clients, this list is the go to when working with your dog at home. This is taught in all of my obedience lessons and classes. Teaching your dog new things or even working with your dog on the things he already knows really enriches your bond and improves their self esteem.

1. Consistency: Remember to use the same command words and rules every time.

2. Short and sweet: Always remember to use the word only once. When you repeat the word and your dog ignores it, the dog thinks it’s ok to ignore the word.

3. Working on the come command: in the beginning, always work with the leash on your dog. Say the dog’s name with the word “Come”. If your dog hesitates, you can reel him in and treat him when he arrives.

4. Rewards: Always be generous with treats and verbal praise. Rewards let your dog know that what they are doing is what you want.

5. Timing: You want to reward your dog immediately when they do what you ask them to do. The same goes for correcting them. A delayed reaction from you will confuse the dog.

6. Commands: only use commands that your dog knows 100% unless you are in a position to help the dog to get it right.

7. Remember that dogs pick up on your tone of voice and your body language! If you don’t sound happy, you may confuse your dog!

8. Positivity: If your dog starts to lose interest, end the lesson on a positive note. Try and get one last positive exercise in then stop it right there. You can always start another session a few hours later.

Start working with your dog for sessions lasting 5-10 minutes 3 times a day. If your dog isn’t worn out, start increasing the time of your sessions. If your dog is food motivated, try working with them before their meals.

Sarah Gill

Owner of Total K9 Focus


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