Second Hand Dog

If You Have a Second Hand Dog

He comes with a “heart string” history of being shuffled from one owner to another; losing bits and pieces of his confidence, trust and self-esteem with every shuffle.  He comes to you with an unknown history, starting life perpetuated by bad or uneducated owners who left him abandoned, troubled and neglected.

Your second hand dog probably came “primed” with the idea that since his previous owner(s) walked away and never returned you will do that too.

Helping you Second Hand Dog


Set the Right Course for Him

If you’ve just gotten your dog, you might want to sit tight and think about things from your dog’s perspective. As much as you want to meet your own personal needs, “think dog” first.
It may just be the best decision you will make for your dog.

Everything you do from this day forward builds confidence in your dog that he can trust you.

You may immediately begin to think:

  • How do I deal with his fear, anxiety or depression? 
  • How do I correct him without scaring him? 
  • How do I get him to accept affection? 
  • How do we make him feel comfortable and safe in his new home?”

Let’s Start with Some Very Basic Routines

It might surprise you that setting routines based on your “normal” departures and arrivals is better for your second hand dog than his expectation of you being there 24/7.
Building a daily schedule of predictable routines or activities “is” his comfort and safety net. Setting routines for: 
sleeping as well as
your normal departure and arrival times will begin to relieve his stress and anxiety.

Now he can PREDICT when it will happen every single day from now on. His sense of security begins to grow.

This is important: Taking too much time off to be with your new rescue dog 24/7 sets them up to feel abandoned on the day you go back to work. Since he may already be feeling insecure, you will want to avoid any further feelings of insecurity. This may cause him to become so over-attached to you it’s difficult to leave him by himself even for a few minutes.

Build Confidence

Now this is going to sound strange to you but, leaving your dog in a room for a few minutes several times a day will begin to build confidence in being alone. You do not want him to shadow you as this can, (not always), build up a bond so obsessive that you might feel you just can’t get away even for a little while.
During your honeymoon period (first few weeks) with him, begin leaving many times during the day. By doing many departures and arrivals you will teach him you always come back. Then begin to extend your time away.

If you do these things you will have a great chance of changing all the problems the previous owner created.

Your secondhand dog will now understand that your rules are different and better and that life with you will be “comfortable and forever.”

Love to hear a short story about  how you’ve helped your second hand dog.  Oh, by the way, the dog in the picture is our Cooper – he was a eight or ninth generation “second hand dog”

Together We Can Raise A Happy and Obedient Dog

Jim Burwell is Houston’s most respected dog trainer for 30 years, serving over 11,000 clients. Jim takes the science of dog training and shows you how to make it work with your family and dog. Together you learn to get the same great behavior from your dog.

11 replies
  1. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Tobi: without seeing your dog and your cat I can’t answer that. I can tell you that when my wife and I got married not only did she bring 2 greyhounds into the
    mix but she also brought Petie Cat. My dog Boo saw “LUNCH” the first time he met Petie. Long story short, with work and structure they became best friends. It
    ALL depends on a lot of variable

  2. Tobi Troxell
    Tobi Troxell says:

    I have a 2 year old terrier mix rescue dog that still chases my cats. Today he chased one of my cats and was so determined to get it, I think he would have tried to kill it if he caught it. It seems like the chase fuels him. Do you think he has too high a prey drive to be with cats?

  3. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Barbara: thank you for commenting. I strongly suggest you get a behaviorist to help you with your dog’s fear issues. It will be the best thing you can do. Jim

  4. Barbara
    Barbara says:

    Hi Jim,
    We adopted female Blue Heeler mix, (probab. w/ catahoula) when she was 11 weeks old. At the shelter she would not accept anyone near her, except two women, and bit one care giver. She was very fearful when any one approached her. She warmed up to us very quickly, so we took her in, but her fearful behavior persists. She was afraid of many things, terrified to walk on streets, especially at night. This changed hugely after going out with me to many places. But, She is showing aggression in two kinds of ways, when she sees people or animals moving near her, she runs after in growly style, often getting close to nip. that seems like herding. Plays w/ big dogs only by herding them. The other kind is when people want to pet her; she either avoids, or barks. If they pursue petting she might accept it hesitatingly, but then at some point may snap at them very expressively. This is clearly her fearful personality. She avoids most people, and feels tense when they want to come close to her. I use the ‘touch’ and treat command with her, when in dog park, to make her willing to come up to strangers. She is getting better at that, will go and touch other peoples hands, to accept a treat, but so far that is all. However, there is another kind of aggressive behaviors, with which i don’t know how to deal with. She seems to be turning somewhat aggressive in moments when she is with me alone, away from the crowd in a dog park or on a hike. With some people only, she wants to go off to chase them away, it seems, by barking at them, and if they continue walking near by, she will try to get near them, ready to nip. Her back hair raised up. One time she happened to be loose by accident in a yard in a community center, and before i had a chance to restrain her she was aggressively running towards and barking at three people who suddenly appeared in the yard, as though wanting to chase them away. She ran after one woman who was nearest, who was simply going toward her car.. She jumped after her and bit her at the thigh. she didn’t break the skin, but left a bruise. Luckily the women knew me and the dog’s history and was understanding, but I am very concerned. Now I am attending obedience classes with Maya, and intend to get consultation for the behavioral issue if she doesn’t grow out of it. I want her to be non-threatening to people and wonder if it will be possible (considering breed). She is incredibly smart and good dog otherwise, and making great progress in overcoming much of her fears. She is now 6 months old and became more confident since we got her. Do u have any advice or comments on this situation? How to discourage her from using her mouth so quickly in self defense? How to expand her trust to people? etc.

  5. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Rhonda: a dog being on its back is a very submissive, vulnerable position. He might get anxious with you doing this and just because you assume he is rolling over to have you pet him – that might not be the message. He might be rolling over to show his submissive side but does not particularly want you in his space. Growling at you when you correct??? How do you correct? A good correction is simply ” no off” and immediately redirect to a behavior he can do, you want and for which you can praise him. The more energy you put on the behavior you don’t want, that’s the behavior that will grow. Dogs are sensitive to personal space. In reading your comments I would said this dog is definitely sensitive to his personal space. I would respect that and not be in his face and don’t cuddle with him. You can love you dog – but in a way your dog is comfortable with.

  6. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Stacey: If your dog is fearful is just takes times. And with a lot of fearful dogs, it’s a “one person at a time” kind of exercise. We have a stranger fearful
    dog and I do “not” require him to be okay with everyone. I respect that some people he is just not comfortable with. Don’t set him up to fail.

    I am not sure what you’re talking about with “a garden tub” and not sure how you’re trying to get him in the tub.

  7. Rhonda
    Rhonda says:

    I am fostering a rescue Basset Hound. This is my third Basset and he is totally different than my others. He rolls over like he wants you to rub his belly and you start to and it’s OK for a while then he growls and snaps at you. He growls at me when I try to correct him. Now I’m scared he is going to bite me and I know he smells my fear. I love Bassets and my other two I could cuddle with on the floor, and get in their face and talk to them with no fear. I will pet this one but totally afraid of his regression now.

  8. Stacey Hopkins
    Stacey Hopkins says:

    Jim, I adopted a pound dog (lab mix, 3-4 years old, 75lbs.) about a month ago…He was a very nervous dog when I first brought him home…He is doing much better but still runs behind me (tail between the legs) if a human tries to pet him. He’s not aggressive, never growls. It just takes forever to be around in order for them to be able to pet him. I usually have people ignore him with a treat in their hand and let him eventually come to get the treat. But, this takes several times and even sometimes a few visits before he’ll let them pet him with out crouching down and backing away. He’s such a sweetie! I want everyone to be able to pet him and him not be afraid anymore. Also…any ideas about getting him into the tub? I live in a townhouse with no yard and a garden tub. I’ve tried high value treats, but he just stands there looking at me like “you’re right there! why aren’t you just giving me my treat?!” Thanks for any help you can give! Stacey in Houston

  9. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Alexa – thanks for sharing your story and you’re correct, not enough training information out there and how to set rescue dogs up to succeed. Hope you’ll
    stop by often—Jim

  10. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Sandra: thanks for your comment. For STARTERS: don’t let her out in the yard unattended. If you are out with her, she must be on a leash or long line with you
    holding the end of either one. Look at getting her more exercise and getting better at obedience commands. Hire a trainer over where you are, is going to be the
    best thing you can do.

  11. sandra
    sandra says:

    Jim, Please show me how to teach my 1 year old Jack Russell bitch to stay home and not escape through the tiniest hole to run about on the road where the traffic is, her sibling is not a problem, she just stays at my heels when we are outside and doesn’t want to go exploring.

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