Rescue Dog: Are You Tip-toeing Around Your Dog’s Behavior?

Sally, a little 5 year old Maltese rescue dog, finally got the break she needed. Well, she really didn’t know she needed a break. In fact the only life she knew before she became   a rescue dog was being crated her entire life, and producing litter-after-litter of puppies as a puppy mill puppy.

Life as she knew it was about to change forever

I say puppy because even at the ripe old age of 5 years, she still has a puppy face, even as stressed as she was having to pee and poop in her crate day after day. But little did she know life as she knew it was about to change and, change for the better forever.

As it turned out little Sally was adopted shortly after the “Puppy Mill Bust.” And, as her life began to change for the better, Linda, her angel adopter’s life was about to change forever as well.  They needed to get a grip on all the issues created for Sally by going from life in a 3 x 5 crate to life in her new dream castle. If any of you have had a puppy mill puppy, you know what I’m talking about.

Rescue Dog: Are You Tip-toeing Around Your Dog’s Behavior?

Her issues

Constant barking: Sally barks at everything including any family member’s sudden movement. They are literally “tip-toeing” around the house to avoid a flurry of barking episodes. On walks she barks at leaves blown by a gust of wind and other dogs and people out with their dogs.

House soiling: Since she has only experienced peeing/pooping in her crate, hard smooth surfaces in the house (hardwoods and tile flooring) are her preference. Even on walks she won’t go on grass. Instead, she goes in motion on the concrete street as she does her daily walks.

She was being let out in the back yard with their other dog Hugo in hopes he would “show her the ropes” while mom got the kids ready for school. But she chooses to go potty on the back patio instead of the grass.

Fearful: Not having spent any time around people, little Sally has only warmed up to Linda the Mom and the housekeeper.  She is afraid of Linda’s husband and runs away when she hears his car pull in the driveway. She is afraid of all men and especially lawn and maintenance men. She startles at delivery trucks and garbage trucks as well.

Her weakness: Lamb Loaf for food treats. Lucky me!

I usually have pretty good luck with dogs, even the fearful ones. Some do take much longer to warm up to than others. But I especially like the small dogs like Sally that are just waiting to blossom! When I first arrived, I got the royal treatment, constant barking and running away to a safe place behind the kitchen table.

Linda met me talking loudly over the barking saying, “I’m glad you’re finally here. You’ve got your work cut out for you!”

I reached into my training bag and retrieved an appropriately sized 6’ leash for Sally and asked Linda to attach the leash and bring her to me which she did.

I took a seat on the second step of the steps leading to the second floor from the breakfast room. Now part of my plan was to immediately ignore Sally and start giving Hugo food treats which he gobbled up quickly. It’s as if somehow he knew Sally would be right behind him trying to hog the treats. My angle was that if Hugo liked me then Sally might think I would be an “okay guy” as well. She cautiously took a few treats from the floor in front of my feet then between my feet and finally from my hand.

I eventually got up and walked her around the house on leash leaving Linda and Hugo in the kitchen. Sally followed obediently like a little soldier with no hesitation.

Next was obedience training on simple sits and downs. Doing repetitive sits and downs began to change Sally’s mindset. By that I mean doing these repetitive exercises taught her that she does sits or downs when it is requested.  This begins the communication between dog and owner – owners asks, Sally does command. In Sally’s case it would also begin to build trust and much needed confidence as well.

When we finally returned to the kitchen, I placed her on my Yoga mat on the kitchen counter top. The mat was warm and provided Sally with confident footing and a soft surface.

Even with the mat she was noticeably shaking. I cooed her and gently began to just praise and treat her with my Lamb loaf and she stopped shaking.

Before the lesson was over she was doing her sits and down even though we were physically shaping the behaviors. She would not be lured into a sit or down with a food treat like most puppies and dogs. But after some gentle, repetitive physical handling, she began to trust me.

After 20 minutes of training, she slept curled up next to my feet as I finished the lesson with Linda. Repetitive dog training, even if done for a short while can create mental fatigue.

Obedience training began to clear her mind of any problem dog behaviors beginning to surface so we could make room for the many good things to come in her new life.

Takeaways for Linda

1.    Instruct her husband to do the same exact thing I did and in the same way and he will win her over. I left them some Lamb loaf. She emailed that it had worked. She slept in his lap before retiring for bed.
2.    Keep her on a leash in the house to keep her close and this will minimize the barking and prevent her from going potty in the house.
3.    Be with her outside in the mornings to immediately praise and treat her for a good potty in the appropriate area. And, keeping her on a leash outside for her first potty break after sleeping all night would give Linda the best chance of getting her to go on “very short grass” in the back yard. Hugo demanded his fair share for his job well done too.
4.    Sally was made very comfortable in an exercise pen when she couldn’t be kept on leash and watched by Linda or the housekeeper. We are accident free thus far.

Sally, like most rescue dogs, is a work-in-progress. She will require lots of patience.  And, while most feel that this little bundle of fur needs lots of doting and love and affection, what she truly needs is more structure, rules and expectations. With this level of commitment from Linda and family, Sally will make a great little family addition.

Thanks for letting me share my dog training knowledge with you.   Don’t be a stranger.  I’d love to hear what you think. 

Remember:  “Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”

Jim Burwell, Houston dog trainer for 25+ years, serving over 9000 clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad.  Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.   

His Ground Rules for Great Dogs is your must have, easy step-by-step process to helping your dog. Be the dog owner your dog needs to be a great dog.  Ground Rules gets you there. Grab them now.

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