Posted 2 months ago ago
Adopting a rescue dog is such a special experience, not only do you get to bring home your own furry bundle of joy to love, you’ll also be giving an unwanted dog a second chance at happiness.
And while they’re usually a lot less work than a puppy in terms of toilet training, rescue dogs can instead come with some emotional challenges.
Not the case in all circumstances, but many rescue dogs have had a bad start in life - they’ve been abandoned, unwanted, or may have lived through some traumatic abuse.
While staff at rescue centres do all they can to help prepare their residents for a new home, there may be some work required by would-be adopters.
Depending on their past, some dogs could experience a fear of men, something owner Derek Marsh knows only too well.
A member of TeamDogs, he got in touch asking for advice after adopting his own rescue.
He asked: “We have a rescue dog which is rehabilitating gradually with success but the fear of men including me is troubling. Can you suggest anything? We know it can take a long time but we are making no headway.”
Although we’re huge dog lovers ourselves, we don’t claim to be experts, which is why we asked someone who is, nutrition and behaviour expert Anna Webb, from London. She also has her own podcast called A Dog’s Life.
She said: “One of the blessings of taking on a puppy is that you’re in charge of his socialising from the get go.
"However some re-homes and rescues may not have had this golden opportunity. And certain anxieties, reservations about situations and certain people can be attributed to inadequate early socialisation.
“Some dogs are a bit apprehensive around men.”
Anna told us how she has even known some dogs to dislike men with beards and people wearing hats, and of course now, dogs are confused by masks.
On why dogs might be scared of men, Anna said: “Men will smell very different to women for dogs, they also sound different with deeper voices, and generally they are taller than women, and for some dogs this is all intimidating.
“A dog may have had a bad ‘man’ experience too, but with gradual positive reinforcement these opinions can be changed.”
So what was her advice?
On how owners can tackle this irrational fear, the behaviourist advised: “The aim would be to select some make friends and train them to approach your dog appropriately by crouching down holding out a hand with a really tasty treat and looking away from the dog.
“No speech, and just wait for the dog to approach and take the treat.”
She also added: “De-sensitising works if it is conducted in very small increments over a long period of time. It’s about positive association, building trust and a line of communication once more.”
Does your dog have issues you need a behaviourist’s advice on? Or are you worried about their health and need some veterinary guidance? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and we can put your questions to the experts.