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Rescue Dogs

Michael Chill
Animal Services Dog Training

People adopt rescue dogs for a variety of reasons, one of which is the ability to "know what you are getting." Knowing if the dog is housebroken, not destructive, or good with kids is one of the benefits of adopting an adult dog, and an honest assessment of the dog's training, behavior, and temperament is very important in deciding which dog is right for you.

Be aware that there are some behaviors that are simply not possible to assess in a kennel or foster environment and that there are other behavior problems that may only show up after a period of time in the new home.


In most cases, how a dog interacts with volunteers, visitors, and other dogs is an excellent indication of how friendly a dog is:

HOWEVER, it is not uncommon for a dog to begin to exhibit territorial or protective behavior once he or she has settled in and bonded with the new family. And, since kennels are innately "neutral" territory, sometimes a dog may start to exhibit aggressive behavior towards other dogs after several months of being an "only" dog and having a territory of his own.


Many rescuers and shelter workers can indicate whether or not a dog "holds it" in his or her kennel as long as possible before eliminating. If a dog immediately eliminates when taken out of his run, or has an outdoor area where he eliminates regularly, this is a good indication that the dog may have been previously housebroken. These tendencies can lead a rescuer to conclude that the dog is housebroken or will be easy to housebreak, which is true in most cases:

HOWEVER, all dogs will still need to be supervised and oriented to the new home and routine for awhile (usually a few weeks) to ensure that the housebreaking is dependable.


If a dog has a dog bed or cloth pad in his or her run and hasn't destroyed it, this suggests that the dog is not overly destructive. How a dog plays with his or her toys can also indicate whether or not the dog is destructive. If he plays with plush toys, yet keeps them in good condition for a week or longer, that indicates that the dog may not be destructive;

HOWEVER, the lack of opportunity for destructive chewing may not necessarily mean that the dog is not destructive. Also, remember that most dogs go through a teething stage at 3 to 8 months old, and many go through an adolescent chewing stage from 8 months to 1-1/2 years old. Every dog, especially those under 2 years, should be supervised as much as possible, and confined to a "puppy proofed" area when left alone while he or she is acclimating to the new home.


Barking is a normal response to stimulation, particularly when there is a group of dogs in a kennel or a foster home. Although some dogs' barking is so excessive that it indicates a problem, a normal amount of barking when people or other dogs walk by, when kennel chores are started, etc, is to be expected: HOWEVER, some dogs actually inhibit barking when surrounded by other, more vocal dogs. Also, sometimes the motivation for barking, i.e. protection, territoriality, etc, is simply not exhibited in a kennel environment or a temporary foster home.


Without having access to a landscaped yard, it would be difficult to determine whether or not the dog has a digging problem. Also, since most digging is a result of boredom and since most foster homes have multiple dogs, it would be unlikely for a rescuer to be able to assess digging or escaping tendencies.

A vast majority of these dogs can be helped with proper training and patience. A simple phone call to the rescue group for guidance or a referral to a local trainer is well worth the effort!

And, remember, most ethical rescuers give as candid an assessment as possible and would never intentionally misrepresent a dog's behavior to a prospective home. They know that they will simply get the dog returned to them should he or she not work.


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Copyright ©2012 Michael Chill, Animal Services Dog Training.

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