Adopting a dog in need of a loving and safe home is a big decision, especially since some dogs may take some time to acclimate to their new owners. You want the introductory process to go smoothly, so we compiled a list of tips on how to get a rescue dog to trust you.
How to Get a Rescue Dog to Trust You
We want you to keep in mind that a lot of rescue dogs do not come from the best situations and can struggle with trauma that can affect the time frame of being able to build trust with their new owners.
If a rescue dog doesn’t get the training and safe socialization that they require, aggression-related behavioral issues have a possibility of arising in your rescue.
1. Positive Mindset & Interactions
When you bring home a rescue dog, it is important to ensure you enter the introductory process with a positive mindset. Dogs are a great judge of character, so if you are nervous or unsure about the process the rescue can begin to pick up on that and exhibit anxious behavior.
Keep in mind that all interactions with your new rescue should be positive, but you do not want to stress or overwhelm your rescue on the first day. We recommend allowing your rescue dog to explore outside of your home before bringing them inside to explore one room at a time.
Your home should be calm and quiet for the first few days while they grow comfortable with their new environment.
As we mentioned previously, building trust with your new rescue can take time, especially if they have endured traumatic experiences in the past.
It’s best to be patient with your rescue. We do not recommend rushing this process as your rescue may become overwhelmed and anxious, which would disrupt any progress you may have already made.
Depending on the dog, it can take from four weeks to multiple months for the rescue to settle completely. You want to ensure that you are making all interactions a positive experience for your rescue dog, but this is best done at a slow and steady pace.
3. Safe Spaces
Creating a safe place for your rescue is a great way to build trust with them. Dogs get anxious and overwhelmed just like humans do, and they appreciate having an area to relax and self-soothe that they feel is completely safe.
A safe space for your rescue is extremely easy to achieve because it can be a bed, an area that is secluded and quiet, a covered crate that has comfortable bedding, or even a specific room that is quiet and dark.
You can also get creative with this, we have seen some owners that have transformed under-stair storage areas into their rescue dog’s safe space.
4. Quality Time
Spending quality time with your new rescue is vital in forming a safe and loving bond. In the beginning, your rescue may have some nervousness, but this is completely normal. A great way to spend quality time with a nervous dog is by just sitting with them.
Let them explore their surroundings while you sit in their general area. This will get them used to seeing and hearing you, which will help with their ability to form a trusting relationship with them.
If your rescue dog does not seem anxious about the new surroundings we still recommend calm and quiet quality time in the beginning, as some dogs experience hyperactivity when they are overstimulated and anxious.
5. Training Sessions
Starting a training routine with your rescue dog is a great way for both of you to develop trust. Dogs enjoy having a routine and an owner that they know is reliable.
Simple obedience training is a great way to start this, and you want to make sure you reward and praise them every single time they perform a behavior correctly.
You can find informational videos about training new rescue dogs online that have a professional dog trainer explaining proper practices. Keep in mind that you should be as patient as possible with your rescue, and never respond to them with negative experiences.
6. Play Time
Playing with your new rescue dog is a great way for them to get comfortable with you and build a trusting relationship. You can engage in play with your rescue easily with activities like playing tug o’ war with a rope and fetch with tennis balls.
We do recommend getting to know your dog and the activities they enjoy to encourage positive experiences. If your rescue dog has a history of aggression, we recommend taking precautions with them.
You should slowly work up to playing, and if your rescue exhibits aggressive behavior consistently you should reach out to a professional trainer or canine behaviorist.
You can get your new rescue dog to trust and respect you, but you must show them first that you are someone they can trust and respect.
You can show your new rescue respect by not invading their personal space during their rest periods, speaking calmly to them, not getting frustrated with them, or lashing out because they displeased you.
If you aren’t respectful of your rescue’s boundaries, they may begin to act out due to stress or anxiousness.
8. Scent Associations
Associating your scent with positive experiences is a great way to build trust with your rescue. You can do this by giving them a treat when they come up to sniff you, which helps them to build a positive association with the action of coming up to sniff you.
Placing one of your shirts, blankets, or pillows in the area where your rescue sleeps is another great way to encourage your dog to form a trusting bond with you.
9. Bring Them for a Walk
Bringing your rescue for a leashed walk around your area is a great way to allow them to get comfortable with your presence. If your dog can understand that you are a safe person who can protect and guide them, they will be able to start trusting you.
However, if your rescue has aggression issues with humans and other animals, we do not recommend bringing them for a walk in areas that are highly populated with people and other pets.
You can walk an aggressive dog safely around others only with a proper fitting basket muzzle. We urge you to begin training with a basket muzzle as soon as possible, and only show your dog positive experiences associated with the muzzle.
10. Let Them Come to You
You can get a rescue dog to trust you easily with a little bit of patience.
Allowing your rescue to come to you when they are ready shows them that you are respectful of their boundaries and allows your rescue to make the decision when they feel comfortable and feel safe enough to introduce themselves.
When they do decide to come up to you, be calm and gentle so you do not scare them away. We recommend keeping treats on your person so you can reward them greatly.
We hope you can successfully use these tips on how to get your rescue dog to trust you. Rescue dogs have the ability to be extremely loving and companionable if they are allowed to feel safe and comfortable in their new environments, and make a great addition to a lot of loving homes.