Guild of Shepherds & Collies

5 Tips for Helping Your Rescue Dog Overcome Behavioral Issues

Overcome Behavioral Issues 

Adopting a new, four-legged companion from a shelter is a rewarding experience that will change the lives of both you and the dog. Many people, however, get caught up in the excitement and overlook the fact that shelter dogs are often vulnerable, anxious, and lack training. When those characteristics are combined with the personality traits of a herding breed dog, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by what seems to be an immense challenge. To overcome behavioral issues, you must first understand how your herding breed dog is feeling and why they're feeling that way. 

Being abandoned and passed around between owners will take an emotional toll on any dog, but Border Collies, German Shepherds, Australian Shepherds, and every other kind of herding breed dog are fiercely loyal, and that abandonment can be especially difficult to overcome. These issues manifest in a number of behavioral problems that could include anxiety, fearfulness, resource guarding, food aggression, and destructive behaviors.

No matter what the behavior, here are a few steps you can take to help your rescued herding breed dog overcome his personal obstacles and become a valuable part of your family:

Create A Safe Space

Whatever your dog’s personal experience, if he wound up at a shelter, his life has been hard and emotionally devastating. Herding breeds are known for their loyalty and enthusiasm, but being brought to a new place with new people is a scary experience. Many rescues show signs of fear and anxiety when they are first brought home, and those two emotions often lead to aggression. Avoid any overwhelming situations when you first bring him home by offering him a safe space that is 100% his. Most herding breed dogs respond well to crate training, and their own personal crate will be a welcomed escape from the overpowering “newness” of his situation.

Earn Their Trust

Most rescues come to the shelter abused, abandoned, neglected, and misunderstood. It doesn’t matter why they were given up or taken away from their old owners. In the dog’s perspective, all that matters is that it happened. Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, and other herding breeds were all bred to work closely with their human shepherds, and as a result, they are now known for the intense relationships that they build with their owners. This makes being abandoned especially difficult for them. Your dog needs to feel safe in your care, and you need to prove to your dog that you’re different - that you won’t disappoint him. This will take time more than anything else. If you’re kind, affectionate, and reliable, your rescued herding breed dog will soon be your most loyal friend.

Be Consistent

Believe it or not, most dogs like rules. Rules mean structure, structure means predictability, and predictability means that your dog can be confident in his actions. Herding breed dogs were bred to work, and they thrive when they are given a specific job with a set of well-founded rules. But deciding the rules is only half your battle. You need to be 100% consistent to ensure that your dog understands what is acceptable and what isn’t. If your dog is scolded, put in time out, or denied affection every time he jumps on the counter, he will soon connect the two actions. If he only gets in trouble some of the time, however, he will never understand why he is being punished. Your rescued Border Collie may be smart, but you can’t expect him to put the puzzle together without all of the pieces. Those seemingly random and unpredictable punishments will make earning a rescue dog’s trust much harder.

Adjust Your Actions

If your dog’s training seems to be stalled, consider the possibility that it isn’t because he is unwilling or unable to learn. The herding breed dog world includes some of the most intelligent dog breeds out there, but that intelligence is often paired with extreme stubbornness. Instead of waiting for your pooch to do something wrong so you can correct him, teach yourself to encourage and recognize good behavior. Herding breeds take their work seriously, and by redirecting their behavior toward a specific job—like a puzzle, game, or learning a new trick—you’ll not only improve your dog’s behavior, but also earn valuable bonding time. Herding breed dogs, especially young ones, usually only have two settings: full of energy and deep sleep. It can be easy to take those calm moments for granted, but if you see your dog relaxing by himself or resisting what you know is a tempting situation, take that opportunity to praise him, toss him a treat, or even invite him to play a fun game. Eventually, he will learn what behavior gets him that positive attention.

Be Patient

The most important thing to remember when training a rescued herding breed is to be patient. You will never be able to understand what kind of emotional or physical trauma he has to overcome. Be patient with him as he adjusts to his new life and learns your way of doing things. You should also do your best to be conscious of your tone and body language. Emotions are contagious. The more time you spend together, the more in-tune to your mood your dog will be. If you’re angry or upset, your dog will mimic your behavior. If you feel yourself becoming overly frustrated, don’t lash out. Your frustration, mixed with a herding dog’s stubbornness, will only make the situation worse. Take a deep breath, stay calm, and encourage your dog to follow suit.

If you’ve noticed serious behavioral issues in your recently adopted herding breed dog, consider the fact that those behaviors are defense mechanisms that he has developed to deal with all of the pain or loss he has experienced in the past. He’s doing those things as an attempt to feel safe during a new, intimidating life change, and he’s relying on you to help him overcome those issues. Every herding breed dog has the potential to be a loyal, well-behaved companion ... if given the opportunity. Be persistent, patient, and kind, but most importantly, don’t give up—he’s counting on you.

Article By:
Amber King

<< Back