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Navigating Dog Training: Prioritizing Trauma-Informed Care for Rescue Dogs

Navigating Dog Training: Prioritizing Trauma-Informed Care for Rescue Dogs

Navigating the world of dog training, especially online, can be overwhelming. With so much conflicting information it can be hard to know where to turn for help with your dog. The industry is unregulated which means literally anyone can call themselves a “dog trainer," no formal training required, no governing body watching over anyone. As caregivers we have a responsibility to be more discerning about who we allow to interact with our dogs, the wrong type of training can have lasting detrimental impacts on a dog’s physical and mental wellbeing. 

Rescue dogs, particularly those that have just arrived from far flung places, are incredibly vulnerable. It’s crucial to collaborate with individuals who comprehend the level of trauma that is often associated with such a significant transition and who recognize its psychological impact on the dogs. Many of these foreign dogs have endured life on the streets, enjoying their freedom, choice, and autonomy. Some have never experienced a connection with a human or the comforts of an indoor environment until they find their new homes. The abrupt shift to a foreign country and the sudden confinement within a stranger's home can overwhelm them beyond their coping abilities. 

The priority for these dogs is ensuring their safety, both physically and emotionally. But you can’t train them to feel safe; the focus lies in creating an environment that fosters their sense of security so they eventually feel safe. This underscores the critical importance of thoroughly screening potential trainers and professionals, ensuring that the dog is never subjected to fear or unnecessary stress.

What they most need:

  • A trauma-informed approach to care
  • To be understood
  • To feel safe
  • To be listened to and respected
  • To be reassured
  • To have easy, regular access to good food and fresh water
  • To have a safe area with comfortable bedding
  • To have choice and freedom to engage, or not
  • Enrichment to encourage curiosity 
  • A safe, predictable social group
  • Patience, compassion and love

What they absolutely do not need:

  • Leash pops or “corrections”
  • To be picked up
  • To be forced out of their safe space
  • To have their personal space invaded
  • To be intentionally put in situations they find stressful

Letting go of our desire for specific outcomes is vital in the healing journey with dogs. Every dog is unique and we need to work with the one in front of us. Our duty as their caregiver is to approach this process with compassion, kindness and empathy, to invest in the relationship by creating a safe environment for them to heal, to build trust and feel secure. Learning who they are, understanding their specific needs and allowing them to move at their own pace are the keys to success in these cases.

When seeking guidance, be sure to ask lots of questions. Here are some suggestions:

  • Can you describe your training methods/philosophy
  • What formal education have you undertaken?
  • How many years experience do you have training dogs?
  • Who are some of the people in the industry that you admire?
  • What sort of equipment do you use to walk your dogs?
  • What does a rescue dog need most in those early weeks/months?
  • Can you provide recent references?

At Wholesome Canine, we take great pride in our commitment to lifelong learning. If you require assistance with your dog, rest assured we possess the knowledge and expertise to guide you through the journey. We’re well-educated, trauma-informed, and deeply comprehend the requirements for these dogs to heal and flourish. You can trust us to provide the necessary support and resources for your beloved companion's well-being and transformation.

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