Two lab puppies on a white background.

You walked into your local shelter, locked eyes with a labrador mix, and immediately knew it was meant to be. Rescuing a shelter animal is immensely rewarding, and while most shelter pets are eager for stability and affection, some come with emotional issues that delay their ability to bond with new people and adapt to new surroundings.

But there is good news! You can help your precious pooch acclimate to her new environment with plenty of patience, love, and sometimes a little help from a professional trainer. 

At Beverly Hills Veterinary Associates, we want to help you bond with your rescue dog. Let’s take a look at some common behavioral issues and how to handle them.

How to Help a Rescue Dog With Anxiety

Rescue dogs that have been neglected or abused may already have anxiety when they arrive at the shelter, which makes it difficult for them to simply relax once they’re adopted. 

Try this: Your rescue dog won’t know right away that she’s in a safe place, so give her plenty of space and let her come to you. Place a comfortable bed (you may want to use a crate covered with a blanket) with food and water nearby in a location where she can observe her new family at a safe distance. 

If your new dog becomes destructive or has potty accidents when she’s alone for long periods, she may have separation anxiety, which is very common for shelter animals.

Try this: Stick to a regular routine, make sure she gets plenty of exercise, and consider crate training. Other strategies include enlisting the help of a dog trainer, hiring a dog sitter/walker, or asking a friend to check on her while you’re gone. 

How to Help a Rescue Dog That is Territorial

It’s not at all unusual for rescue dogs to guard their food, toys, or even people. This is completely understandable considering that she has had to share resources in the shelter. Leg lifting to “mark her territory” is another sign of possessive behavior in dogs. 

Try this: Never physically punish your dog for unwanted territorial behavior. Give her space when she eats and stick to a feeding schedule. As your bond with her gradually strengthens, she will learn to trust you and know that she’s not in competition with others for food or affection.

My Rescue Dog is Aggressive

When a rescue dog shows signs of aggression—typically toward people or other pets—it’s important to act swiftly by limiting the dog’s exposure to whatever it was that set off the aggressive behavior. Because canine aggression poses a legitimate risk to others, the best thing to do is contact us to discuss appropriate treatment and training options.

With time and understanding, many unwanted behaviors can be corrected, and we’re here to help! Contact us for rescue dog care tips and to schedule a wellness visit for your new pet.