Dog Coach Francis promotes adopting dogs from shelters and advocates force free training in rehabilitating dogs. Today the dog coach responds to a letter asking help about rehabilitating a rescue.

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Hi Dog Coach Francis,

My name is A. We met at the Doggie Fun Fair. I’m a huge fan of yours. So I’m planning to adopt a rescue dog. I went for a visit today at his foster home to see if I’d be really interested in adopting. Everything went well except that when I was making my way out of the their house, he tried to bite me. He just got a bit of my shirt. I knew that I should not be scared so I was still relaxed and smiled after everything that happened. I want to give this dog a chance to be loved and taken care of. What should I do when he comes over my house for a visit?

Please help me rehabilitate this dog. He’s gone through a lot. A few months ago, his throat was cut.He was set to butchered by drug addicts but luckily, he was saved.He was adopted by 3 weeks ago and was returned because they couldn’t handle him. I believe this dog still has hope. Please please please help me!




Hi A, 

It was nice to meet you at the Doggie Fun Fair; I really appreciate you following my work with dogs.

It is always nice to hear positive remarks from people and it truly fuels me to continue helping dog owners and dog lovers. 

Adopting a dog is a noble thing to do and I understand you intend to do just that. There are thousands of dogs being euthanized all over the world every day, a sad truth but sometimes it has to be done. I do however dream of a time that no dog should ever be put to sleep because of irresponsible people.  There are a few things to remember before a adopting a dog and I am assuming you have done your homework before deciding to adopt a rescued dog.

 Rescued dogs need special attention for medical treatment and behavior training. These dogs have been through so much stress and trauma that they need rehabilitation. I highly recommend people to undergo training / briefing before the actual adoption. Training will make you ready for possible emergency and will teach you how to handle unwanted behavior.

I do have questions though:

1. You mentioned that you visited a foster home of the rescue, how was the dog towards the foster family? 

2. What breed or mix and possible age of the dog?

3. Have you had prior training/experience in handling misbehaving dogs?

4. Did you coordinate with an animal shelter and did they provide an assessment or recommendation?

5. Are you confident that you can provide the time to train the dog?

6. Do you have sufficient resources and space for the dog?

7. Have you considered adopting a less aggressive dog?

8. Have you considered the other dogs in your house if there are any?

9. Are you adopting just because you are taking pity of the dog? Most people say yes on this part and end up in disaster because some are just not ready.

There are other questions that need answers but let’s assume you are really ready to adopt this dog and have no other alternative, that this dog has only one chance to life but with you.

Visiting the dog with the foster family gives you a quick insight of the behavior; the dog biting you could be a sign that you are not welcome, that it is very reactive and will need to undergo a lot of process for behavior adjustment. I suggest letting yourself be familiar to the dog, visit the dog often and provide tasty liver treats or hotdogs. Ignore bad behavior and reward good behavior. Using clicker training is also a great way to reinforce the good behavior.

I always tell my clients that most dogs readily open to people, but some needs time, so be patient and make sure you continue to reinforce the good behavior and not the other way around.

Let me know how it works out for you. Should I be needed to be there personally to assess and address the situation, let me know so we can set a schedule for the visit.

Thank you and have a great pAwsome day!

Dog Coach Francis