5 Ways to Strengthen Bonds With a Rescue Dog

By James Woller, October 2019, Updated April 2021
Bonding with dogs

According to the ASPCA, there are 1.6 million dogs adopted every year in the United States. These canines can range from puppies to seniors, from purebred to a variety of mixed breeds, and have all sorts of different backgrounds, experiences, and temperaments.

When you decide to welcome one of these dogs into your home and have them become a part of your family it’s essential that you do everything you can to make her feel at ease and look for ways to make a true and unbreakable bond. It may be challenging at times, but it’ll be completely worth it in the end. Here are five ways we recommend connecting with your canine and making a friend for life.

Talk and Touch Is Everything

More often than not, rescue dogs are coming from some unfortunate situations. Whether they’ve been surrendered by a family who was inadequately prepared for them, or removed from unsafe or unsanitary conditions, their trust in humans can be severely compromised. Make sure you go above and beyond to make them feel safe with you by talking to and touching them. You may need to start slow and work your way up, but experts say it will strengthen your relationship and make them feel reassured about the new world they’re living in.



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Obedience Training Is Essential

Let’s face it: when welcoming a rescue dog into your home it can be daunting at times, especially if you’re unsure of whether or not that pup has had any formal training. Obedience training doesn’t just ensure that your favorite pair of shoes don’t get chewed up, it challenges your dog to truly learn how to listen and respect you. Consistency is key, and a little bit can go a long way, so once your rescue masters the basics, see how far you can challenge him mentally.


Positive Reinforcement Is Key

Dogs learn through association, so it’s important that they tie positive experiences with you so that they can learn to trust you and are more willing to do what’s asked of them. One of the best ways to do this is to reward them for behavior you want them to do. Some dogs respond extremely well to treats, while others thrive on praise. Find what works best for your specific pet and shower them with it when they’re displaying behavior you deem acceptable and want to encourage.

Get Exercise Involved

Just like mental stimulation is imperative to building a bond and keeping dogs (especially a rescue) on their toes, physical activity is something that when done together has incredible benefits—for both of you. Not only will it keep your dog healthy, it’ll also reduce anxiety and curb problematic behavior. You can tailor your exercises to both of your abilities, switch it up to keep it interesting, and most importantly: have fun with it!

Be As Patient As Possible

Be understanding that every dog is different and it may take your rescue dog a little longer than others to come around. As mentioned before, depending on their situation, they may be a little shy and fearful and unsure about their new surroundings and family. Have faith that by investing a bit of time, effort, and lots of love that they’ll realize their new home and people are pawsitively perfect for them.

Photo by Lisa Fotios / Pexels

James Woller is a dog enthusiast and co-owner of Release the Hounds, a dog walking company based in Vancouver, Canada. He is also the executive director of Thrive For Good, a non-profit initiative to establish natural medicine and organic food within impoverished countries.