How to add a rescue dog to your walking group (Tips for pro dog walkers)

a sad dog in the style of roy lichtenstein

It’s a common occurrence that as soon as an owner takes on a rescue dog they also book a dog walker. In fact, sometimes this can be mandatory as part of their adoption agreement (due to the owners working hours and the length of time that the dog will be left alone)

Let’s take a look at any special adjustments needed when bringing in a rescue dog to your group walks.

Entering the home of a rescue dog

Rescue dogs and newly adopted dogs come from a variety of backgrounds.

Some are well-adjusted dogs who have found themselves rehomed through no fault of their own.

Other rehomed dogs may have unknown backgrounds or have been rescued from abroad off the streets.

It’s important to gather as much information at the meet and greet as you can, and keep it in mind when you collect the dog for their first walk with you.

Romanian rescues may not be familiar with household sounds yet so may be anxious when they hear the front door and you walk in.

Dogs with unknown backgrounds may react badly when you, a stranger that they’ve only met once at the meet and greet, walk into their new home.

How to make your arrival easier for the dog

Entering the home of a newly adopted dog requires a gentle and cautious approach to ensure that the dog feels safe and comfortable in their new surroundings. Here are some steps you can take when entering the home of a newly adopted dog:

Give the dog space:

When you first arrive, give the dog space to observe and approach you on their terms. Avoid overwhelming them by giving them too much attention or invading their personal space.

Speak calmly:

Speak in a soft and soothing tone to help the dog feel calm and relaxed. Avoid sudden movements or loud noises that might startle them.

Use treats:

Use treats to build a positive association with your presence. Offer a treat if the dog approaches you. This will help them associate your presence with something positive. Be careful not to use the treat to encourage them to come to you. You want them to choose to approach you and be rewarded for doing so, not to be bribed to come over and then find themselves uncomfortably close.

Putting a lead or harness on a rescue dog

Popping a lead onto the dogs we collect can be automatic for us but for an anxious dog having you hold their collar or even approaching them too fast can make them even more nervous.

But with the right approach, you can do it without causing any stress or discomfort to the dog.

  1. Approach the dog calmly: When approaching a nervous dog, it’s important to remain calm and avoid sudden movements. Speak in a soft and soothing tone to help the dog feel at ease.
  2. Get down to their level: Getting down to the dog’s level can help them feel more comfortable with your presence. Kneel down or sit on the ground and allow the dog to approach you.
  3. Let the dog sniff the lead: Before attempting to clip the lead onto the dog’s collar, allow them to sniff it and become familiar with it. This can help them feel more comfortable with the lead.
  4. Use positive reinforcement: Use treats and positive reinforcement to encourage the dog to allow you to clip the lead onto their collar. Offer a treat and allow the dog to sniff it while you clip the lead onto their collar.
  5. Clip the lead gently: When clipping the lead onto the dog’s collar, do so gently and avoid pulling or tugging on the lead. This can cause discomfort and anxiety for the dog.

Travel with a rescue dog.

Many rescue dogs have a negative association with travel in vehicles.

They may have been caught using a trap that looks similar to a crate, they may have travelled many miles in the back of a van if they’ve come from another country or they may just associate travel with being taken somewhere new and scary.

I like to introduce anxious dogs to my vehicle the same way I would with a puppy.

Firstly letting them choose to jump in and explore, reward them for exploring and being brave then, if they’re comfortable, close the doors, run the engine etc. making sure they’re comfortable and not too stressed at each step.

Dog introductions with a rescue dog

After spending some time with the dog on solo walks, I’d start small and introduce them to one of my other group dogs to see how they get along.

This process is basically the same as adding any new dog to a group except that the owners will know about as much as we do about the dog, so it pays to be cautious.

The 3/3/3 rule

Taking on a rescue dog for group walks is usually a painless process and will go just as well as taking on any other dog which is unknown to you.

But on occasion, the dog’s background can be unknown, or they can be more anxious than usual, and for these reasons, it pays to be overly cautious until both you and the new owners, know the dog a little better.

Remember the 3/3/3 rule can apply to your group walks too.

The 3/3/3 rule is a guideline for introducing a newly rescued dog to their new home environment.

First 3 days:

The first three days are critical for the newly rescued dog as they will be feeling scared and overwhelmed in their new environment. During this time, it’s essential to keep things as calm and low-key as possible.

The same goes for your walks. Keep them calm, relaxing, sniffy walks on their own. You’re looking to get to know the dog and start to bond.

Next 3 weeks:

The next three weeks are all about establishing routines and building trust with the dog.

So they’ll start to get to know you, your vehicle and you can start introducing them to the group walks.

Next 3 months:

By the end of the first three months, the dog should be starting to feel more comfortable and secure in their new environment.

For you that means they should have integrated nicely into your group walks without any dramas or upset.

If this isn’t the case, and the dog prefers or is better suited to a solo walk, then this should be a relaxing walk for the both of you. Take a look at our other article about where to do solo walks for more ideas.


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