What is “Rescue”?

libby and james
A question I often ask myself is…
Why doesn’t anyone ADOPT dogs anymore?
  Of course it isn’t that they don’t adopt. It’s that they don’t really call it that anymore. They say they “rescued” their dog. No matter how long they have owned that dog. They got him at 6 months of age and he is their rescue dog. But he is now 8 years old. And any behavioral problems he has are because he is a “rescue”. I think this is a problem.
I prefer to reserve the term “rescue” to describe the rescue organization, a foster dog who has not yet found his forever home, or to describe the incident from which an animal was saved, from drowning in a frozen river or burning to death in a fire.
  I find it unfortunate that any animal that was acquired from nearly any situation other than being purchased as a puppy from a breeder, is described, and identified as “A RESCUE”.
  This has become not just a description, but an identity, for so many dogs I find it sad. Very few animals that are adopted or acquired with an unknown history were ever actually abused in any way. Perhaps they found themselves without a home. This was unfortunate. And MANY wonderful people choose to adopt homeless animals. If they want to say that they rescued them from the streets, or from being euthanized at a shelter… that is a wonderful thing.
  What I take exception to is, when someone tells me about the pet they obviously love, they identify that animal as “my rescue dog”. And it isn’t because they are trained to do Search and Rescue. That is hard.
  I find this is word used to excuse or explain all types of behavior. Often assuming many types of nervousness, fear or aggression, or other types of unwanted behavior, are a direct result of their unknown history. Most often assumed to be abuse of some type.
  I need to tell you from experience… when comparing all of these “rescued” dogs’ behavior to the behavior of puppies and adult dogs, with known history, owned from puppy-hood, there is nearly no increased incidence or severity of behavioral problems. They are nearly exactly the same.
What does this come from?
Nearly all of the less-than-perfect dogs I see are due to lack of appropriate training and socialization. They also have a common denominator of a sensitive temperament (that they were born with) and are affected by their experience, or lack there of.
Why do I call it less-than-perfect dogs?
Because people are hesitant to call something a behavioral problem. If they are willing to live with it, apparently its not really a problem. And if the dog is smart and loving and doesn’t present these issues in all contexts, many believe it isn’t a behavioral problem.
  Sometimes people feel that because the dog has made improvements over time that this is as good as he is going to get.
And because they have tried training and socializing and were unsuccessful, they may believe there is no hope. “This is how he is” or “always has been” is something I hear often. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Socializing means … “to fit for companionship with others, especially in attitude or manners.”
 This does not mean randomly expose to people, places or things that he or she will come in contact with. It means to expose so they experience these things the way you want them to. This is especially important if the subject is sensitive to new people or environments. Socializing has to be gone about very methodically (i.e. control the environment). Otherwise, even with good intent, you can cause the wrong social experience for a sensitive individual,  thus being a negative experience.
If I were to ask you if “is your dog perfect?” and you can answer a resounding “YES” with no ifs, ands or buts… fantastic! If your answer is yes, except for… Let me help you.
 PLEASE… seek help for your dog. Regardless of age, history or experience. You can save him form a lifetime of stress and anxiety if you learn how to train and socialize him appropriate to his temperament and environment.
Learn what he needs from you and how you can help him be everything you ever wanted for him. He is your companion. Not your “rescue” case. Stop feeling sorry for him and help him. Change the way he experiences life, if any of that is less than you would want it, in order for him to be truly as good as he can be.

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