Working With Rescue Dogs – Dog Training – Dog Trainer – Behaviorist

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Sam Basso
PHOENIX , AZ AREA: (602) 708-4531
OR, if you are out of this area, inquire about a telephone or e-Lesson
Email: [email protected]

"B" was rescued off an Arizona Indian reservation at a year old. He was fearful and dangerous, untrained and had never been in a home

Giving Back: I have always worked with rescue dogs, ever since I started dog training. I feel that when you are a professional, in any field, you should also give back. So, for me, that has meant volunteering a lot of hours to help a lot of dogs. I also have a general policy regarding rescue dogs. If the dog is owned by a reputable rescue organization, and they ask for help, and if I feel I can be of use, I WILL VOLUNTEER MY SERVICES AT NO CHARGE. Once the dog is owned by someone, then I charge my normal rates. Obviously, I can’t work with every rescue dog, or I couldn’t pay the bills, but I have continued to fit in rescue work for the past 15 years, and will continue to do so.

This is where it is important to be a good dog behaviorist. Many of these dogs need a lot of kind care, medical treatment, and a lot of sorting out. I am able to help these dogs, because many come to me with a number of behavioral problems. The idea is to make them adoptable, not to fully train them. If we can get them to the point where they’d make good pets, then the remainder can be finished by the new family.

Meet “B”: One dog comes to mind as an example of a rescue dog. I was asked to work with a couple that had adopted a 1 year old Australian Shepherd mix that had been found on a local Indian reservation. There are lots of loose dogs on these reservations, and they either get rescued or they live a wild life… or they die in the desert. So, a rescue organization found this dog, this couple brought him into their home, they hired me, and we got to work.

At first, he immediately bonded to the husband. The wife, who had only had cats before, was interested in helping the dog, but really had no feelings for him, and didn’t know what to do.

All Rescue Dogs Have Issues: The first thing you notice about a dog like this is that it is fearful of everything. It hasn’t been properly socialized, handled or anything else. No one had worked with him before, but, at least he was healthy, so that was a start.

Dangerous Dog: On the other hand, he was dangerous for strangers, both in public and in the home. And he was definitely dangerous for me to be working with. Even so, I have worked with dogs like this before, and laid out a plan for him and his owners.

The Program: We spent several weeks working on teaching him everything, as if he was once again an 8 week old puppy. He wasn’t house trained. He had no manners. He had never been in a home before. He didn’t know any commands. And he was afraid and defensively aggressive towards strangers. In addition to that, the owners had high expectations for him, to turn out to be like the dogs their friends had, dogs that didn’t start out like this. That was a pretty tall order.

Several times, he tried to bite me along the way. But, we kept at it. And along the way another funny thing happened… the wife developed deep feelings of affection for him. She became a dog person! And I was able to open her eyes to what a cool dog he could be.

By putting "B" through a Behavioral Modification plan, he has become a good pet, safe with strangers and guests, and is now living a happy life

We worked on house training, manners, basic obedience, and worked a program to reduce his fearfulness and aggressiveness. When we finished the lessons, he was mostly complete in what he needed to know… but he wasn’t 100%. I counselled them that we now needed to let all that soak in, and they’d see him improve over the coming months, and to stay in touch with me along the way.

A Year Later: It has now been a year since we finished the lessons. He has turned out to be a great dog. Yes, he has some occasional fearful moments, but they are manageable and he is still improving. I followed up with them last week, and gave them additional homework, which should continue to keep them busy, and to make further improvements in his confidence.

Instead of being put to sleep, which happens a lot to abandoned or loose dogs like this, he’s turned into a great dog. He is safe with guests and strangers, he is super obedient, and he is getting better over time. He has a home, and a family that loves him. And this story has a happy ending.