Dogs are good learners and they love to serve when they know that good behaviour will be rewarded. But like us humans, dogs often have a personal history, a set of past experiences, some good and some bad. Memories only they will know and remember.
These memories will affect their behaviour when you try to train them. But you may not be aware of them and therefore you may find it difficult to understand why the dog behaves the way it does. Age and breed are important elements of your dog’s life and you need to pay attention to them too during your training program.
Don’t expect your dog to like all your exercises immediately. As always, when training dogs for any reason, you need first to take time to build a relationship with your dog: build trust, mutual respect and with your dog you need to agree on a set of commands and instructions your dog understands and is not afraid of. When getting a new dog this is always necessary as the very first step, no matter what the dog later will specialise on.
The Past Life Matters
You may not be aware of the dog’s bad experiences in it prior life. The dog may have been hit with long sticks, he may be afraid of men, strong voices or of certain spaces. He may be afraid of some types of children’s toys because he was hit with them or, simply, he did not understand why the toy moved around on its own, etc.
When you notice these types of things prohibiting you dog from making progress, you need to go a little slower. You may even need to offer your dog a little healing therapy, relevant to whatever it is, that scares him or makes him excessively defensive or aggressive. It may take a some time but ultimately he will trust you and enjoy your company.
Sadly, the dog may have spent the first few years of his life in a cage, backyard, or shut away in a bathroom being ignored. Many dogs which later become service dogs may have been saved just because they were maltreated by their prior owners. Even if they have a better life now with you the memory of the bad times remains with them.
Removing the Sources of Stress will Help
In this case they may initially experience the training environment as scary or distracting. If you normally train somewhere in a busy place like the park, a pet store, or even in a group class, you may find that your dog does not listen to you. If your dog appears to be stressed or distracted, then that is the time to move back home, to a quiet room, and ease him into his new life.
Take your time and let your dog take his time. Dogs are wonderful learners and they will go for it at full speed when they know that they are doing what you, their master, want them to do and that they will be rewarded by you. They enjoy being rescue dogs and you will enjoy it too!