Before you love him, train him!

Bound Angels Blog

It seems that every time I read a story about a rescue dog, the first thing people are compelled to do is take them home and make up for all the love they (the dog) has been denied. This is often times a recipe for disaster. There is plenty of time for love, but be fair to the dog first and foremost.

If we can step away from the selfish attitude of smothering this animal with love, we should allow the dog a little bit of time to decompress. I’ve written about this extensively in an article available as a free download at Black Belt Dog Training. And, as I always say, if you follow my advice you’ve got a good 90% chance of the dog working out. If you don’t it’s a 50/50 shot.

Remember, the dog you are bringing home doesn’t know you and is clueless as to what’s going on. You might understand that you saved him, and you might think that the dog is eternally grateful to you for saving his life, but step outside of the box for a minute and be fair to the dog. He is coming from a very emotionally stressful situational at the shelter to a home with lots of people who now want to hold, cuddle and kiss.

No matter what, the dog has a right to some time and space to get used to his new surroundings. Whether you feel sorry for this dog or not, be fair. Give him a crate and some space and some time. Allow him to see you as a leader so that he can look to you and respect you. Allow him to come to you and let him see you as someone who is not placing demands on him -such as affection.

I’ve counseled people who have brought dogs into their homes that they thought might never work out – and it worked by following the advice in the article above. Dogs seek structure over affection. Starting out with love is looking for trouble. Your dog should see you as a beacon of strength, not a wet rag full of love.

Affection and love is something that is earned in the dog, and if you want to be fair to his mindset, follow that protocol. In rescue we often think with our hearts first… big mistake. The dog is hard-wired for instinct. If you want your dog to have a happy life, and a safe life, give him what he needs – not what you think he needs. After all of the pain and anguish he’s been through, he deserves a fair shot at a happy life, not a set-back that could land him back in the shelter… or worse yet, dead.

There are several articles on canine behavior available as free downloads at
If you work in rescue, please make them available to your fosters and adopters. If you have recently adopted, or are considering bringing a new dog home, do some research and start out with the structure a dog needs. You’ll have him for a long time, taking the time to start the relationship out on a good foot (or paw) will pay off in the end. This advice is even more important if you are bringing a new dog into a home with a current dog.  The silly concept of introducing them on neutral ground and then letting them be at home is bad advice.

…and as a closing note, I would be cautious of trainers who claim to work miracles in solving problems with dog to dog introductions. The dog you bring home today will not be the same dog three months from now. He will become the dog you create. Create carefully.