Is being a ‘rescue’ an excuse?

I think this is an interesting thought, debate, whatever, so am gonna talk about what *I* think 😉

I’ve read quite a bit that people should not use the term “rescue dog”. Usually the reason is that ‘rescue dog’ is used as an excuse for a dog behaving badly. People argue that it gives rescue dogs a bad name (ie. all rescue dogs have behavioural problems) and also that it isn’t a valid reason fora dog to behave poorly.

Me personally, I think it’s valid not as an excuse, but as an explanation.

I think it becomes an ‘excuse’ when you stop trying to work on what the problem behaviour is. I know someone who has three extremely reactive Chihuahuas; they go crazy when dogs or children go past, lunging on lead, snapping and screaming their little heads off. The owner stands and laughs and says “Oh, they’re rescues!”

That’s not okay.

Similarly, Kasper was scared of people. On walks I would move him out of the way and do training with him as they passed. If people asked to stroke him, I would say “No sorry, he’s a rescue and is scared of people” – that’s not an excuse, it’s an explanation, and I was working to help him overcome the fear.

Sure I could have just left it at “no he’s scared of people”, but I’ve found people are more sympathetic when they’re aware the dog is a rescue. Kasper’s fear is a result of his first home and not a personality trait, so I see no need to hide that.

I should add, I am not saying that puppies / dogs from breeders don’t and will never have behavioural problems. That’s stoopid. I am just specifically talking about older rescue dogs here 😉

Rescue dogs come as fully formed little beings with likes, dislikes, fears and problems. It’s not like getting a breeder puppy where you can control socilalisation and experiences, and you can generally see when, how and why behavioural issues developed. With a rescue dog you’re thrown in at the deep end with whatever problems they have.

Charley for example has the following ‘issues’ that are explained by the fact he is a rescue: he isn’t house trained, he pulls like a steam train on lead, he wants to chase cars (Collie genetics play a huge part here, but training as a puppy would have been a huge help), he has very very little training, he’s nervous of other dogs and he’s unruly with people.


Kasper’s issues were: he was terrified of strangers, the vacuum, grooming, handling, he had separation anxiety, he had terrible recall off lead, he resource guarded, he had very very little training, he was extremely bouncy with other dogs.

For years I worked on Kasper’s issues, and we’ve conquered so many of them…but they were all there because of his first home.

He was fearful of people because he was a rescue dog and had been treated badly in the past. He was scared of the vacuum because he was a rescue dog and nobody had taught him it was okay. His recall was atrocious because he was a rescue dog, and nobody had put effort into training him a solid recall despite the fact that he was a breed mix that would want to run and chase.

It’s not an excuse to leave him with those issues – I worked hard to try and improve all of them . But around 95% of Kasper’s problems were created in his first home.

Every dog is different, with their own likes, dislikes and personality. You can get fearful, shy puppies from breeders. I acknowledge that, I understand that (oh hi Sasha! 😉 ), but the point I am making is that rescue dogs do come with baggage.

If someone says “oh my dog is scared of dogs because in her last home she lived with a dog that attacked her constantly,” that is a valid explanation. It’s not a cop out, it’s not someone making excuses…it’s just fact!

When people tell me “oh she’s a rescue dog so she’s scared of this and that”, I have zero problem with that as long as they are working to help the dog overcome the issue.

I thought this was an interesting topic anywho, although I may have rambled. My head has been awful for seizures today so I’m living in a world of my own 🙂


5 thoughts on “Is being a ‘rescue’ an excuse?

  1. Completely agree. It isn’t an excuse but seems to get used as one for the new owners to be ‘lazy’ with the training or just not admit maybe their own training techniques aren’t quite up to scratch. A rescue (and to me that means a neglected/abused animal) will almost always take longer to pick up new behaviours. Which leads to my second point of just because it’s a rehome doesn’t mean it’s a rescue in the same sense. Some people will make the excuse of it being a rescue when actually the first home did really good training but just had to give up the animal for some reason and they’ve either picked up bad habits at the rescue centre or from their new owners. But again it’s an easy excuse to say they’re a rescue rather than admit you maybe haven’t fully succeeded as the new owner yet. It is definitely a good thing to say though if you do own one as like you say, more people are more likely to back off if you say it’s a rescue than if you just say “he’s scared”.

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