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How to Train an Aggressive Rescue Dog in Three Weeks

You can learn how to train an aggressive rescue dog!

Everybody wants a well-behaved dog that interacts well with family, friends, and other animals. Sometimes, however, there are circumstances blocking your dog’s ability to understand what’s expected of him.

Dog owners often go looking for certified dog trainers for assistance, when all the help they need is right here.

Are you trying to calm aggressive behaviour in your dog? You’ve come to the right place because this post will give you some techniques you will never forget. They take practice and self-assurance, but it’s something you can definitely manage.

How to Train an Aggressive Dog

Dog owners sometimes report their dog to be aggressive when, in fact, the dog is just scared.

Fear and aggression go hand-in-hand; however, if you can eliminate the fear and show the dog that he/she can trust you, there’s a good chance those “aggressive” reactions will stop.

Rescuing dogs from a shelter is an exciting, worthwhile cause. These are all dogs that, for one reason or another, ended up at a shelter.

Sometimes it’s because the owners haven’t taken the time to socialize or exercise their dogs. When the dog becomes too much, the owners lose interest.

In some cases, dogs simply become separated from their owners. They roam and get lost, stolen, or dropped off at a shelter with no explanation.

Shelter dogs come in all sizes, breeds, ages, and sex. Visually, you can see what you’re getting. Behaviourally, however, you can’t be 100% sure until the dog is in your home.

The Adjustment Period Can Last a Long Time

If you’ve brought a new dog into your home, remember that the adjustment period may take a very long time.

This is especially true if your new pooch pal spent a long time at the shelter. There’s a good chance your dog is going to be afraid when he/she first gets into your home. Remember that fear can look a lot like aggression and it can also lead to aggression.

Important For You To Know

Only attempt these tactics if you feel safe and confident. Your dog needs to see you as calm and and assertive. Before getting started with the training plan explained below, take some time to calm yourself first.

Deep Breathing

It might sound silly but we all come to the table with a set of expectations and energy that doesn’t always serve a dog well. You can say you’re not nervous, but you probably are. It’s important to calm yourself any way you can in order to project the right type of energy for the dog.

For some people, a few moments of deep breathing are all that’s needed. Get comfortable somewhere in your house where it’s quiet and take five to ten deep breaths. Close your eyes and visualize yourself standing tall and confident for your pooch.

Breath very slowly in through the nose and out through the mouth. Make a point of pulling air down into the belly until the air overflows back up and into your ribs and back. Exhale.

When you’re ready to begin the at-home training you can consult with this guide. Please note: This guide isn’t about dominating or punishing a dog. Dog behaviour specialists would rather see you

Aggression in dogs can occur for a number of reasons.
If your dog is at risk of injuring you or another animal, it’s often best to seek an experienced dog trainer.

WEEK ONE – Comfort, Trust, and Positive Energy

Don’t Set the Dog Up for Failure!

Getting a new dog who happens to be fearful doesn’t mean letting him/her get away with everything. However, there are some things you can do right off the bat to prevent mishaps from happening in the first place.

Bringing a rescue dog home with no consideration to his/her new environment might be a recipe for disaster!

Give Your Dog a Safe Spot


Your dog just spent weeks or maybe even months in a shelter. You’re his hero now and you’re going to let him have total run of the house, right? WRONG. Giving your new rescue dog too much freedom in an unfamiliar territory may set him up for fear and – ultimately – failure.

Have an appropriately sized crate set-up in the room where you want the dog to spend the majority of time. This isn’t a permanent fix, but it’s a good way to gradually introduce your dog into your home and family.

If the dog had a toy at the shelter, make sure to put it in the crate. Use any familiar toy or blanket for security.


Invest in a good quality gate to keep your dog safe and sound in one area of the house. A puppy might be okay in a well-constructed playpen. An older dog may need a little more room but not so much that he has full run of the house.

Even if a gate doesn’t completely keep your new dog contained, it at least slows him down. Of course, the best situation is to keep the dog safe in your house.


Create a calm and positive atmosphere for your new dog. Try to get your dog focused on something right away, from day one. This is where positive play comes in handy.

It’s okay to use small treats as rewards! Engage the dog’s prey drive with a toy on a rope or stick. Inexpensive teddy bears work great as well, just be sure they don’t have button eyes or other items that your dog could choke on.

Wave the toy in the air and say your dog’s name. Wave it in his face or drag it on the floor. When he grabs it, say GOOD JOB! and give him a treat. This is one way to establish trust.

Watch the video to help you understand the concepts discussed above.

A Lesson in Aggression | Dog Whisperer

Wrap-Up Tips for Week One

When we talk about how to train an aggressive rescue dog, it’s more about getting ahead of any aggressive behaviour. Do not beat yourself up if your dog suddenly exhibits behaviour that seems out of your comfort zone.

It’s much better to bring in an expert at that point. Never risk your physical safety or that of your family.

Let’s take a minute to summarize the lessons for week one and add a few more to think about:


The safer your dog feels, the calmer he/she will be. It’s probably not going to happen overnight, but you can set the tone by limiting space, offering some familiar toys or blankets, and engaging in positive play.

TIP: If your dog becomes too excited during play (his/her energy becomes too rough for example), calmly stop playing. Only reward the dog after his/her energy level comes down as well.

Easy on the Socialization

Socialization will come, but it doesn’t have to happen the first day. It’s probably enough to allow your dog interaction between your immediate family the first few days. Friends and family are all going to want to come and visit the new dog, but set limits.

An already fearful dog suddenly surrounded by high-pitched (excited energy) voices may feel threatened. That’s when a fearful dog can become an aggressive dog.

Don’t set your dog up for failure.

WEEK TWO: Commands & Consistency

There’s a pretty good chance that your rescue dog already knows some basic commands. In fact, the shelter may have provided you with some information on what they witnessed in terms of listening to commands, fear aggression, signs of dog depression, separation anxiety, etc.

It’s really important to keep up with those commands. There’s a right way to give a command and a wrong way.

Wishy Washy Commands

WRONG WAY: “Sit pretty boy! Come on now, I asked you to sit, why aren’t you listening to me you little rascal!”


See the difference? It’s a little hard to tell in text, but the idea is to be clear and confident. Baby talk only excites your dog to react. The reason for doing it this way is to gain your dog’s trust. He/she will know that they can trust you by the sound of your voice and by the direct expectation.

Walking Your Dog

How is the dog walking going? If your dog is pulling on the leash and dragging you through the streets, it’s time to change things up. Some of the best tips for dog walking come directly from Cesar Milan.

The tips found in the following books WORK. The trick is doing them consistently and with positive intention. READ THESE BOOKS to learn what to do when approaching other dogs on the street, keeping your dog from leash lunging, and learning how to walk your dog – not the other way around.


Wrap-Up Tips for Week Two

The goal is to take it slow the first couple of weeks. Give your dog a chance to get comfortable in his surroundings. By using the resources mentioned above (Cesar Milan dog training books, etc.) you’ll immediately be on the right track.

WEEK THREE: Calm Assertive Energy from EVERYONE

Are you still wondering how to train an aggressive rescue dog or do you feel as if maybe your dog wasn’t all that aggressive in the first place? As mentioned above, it’s important not to overwhelm your dog but to welcome him. Give him some space, but not the whole house. Crate training is a must and protecting your dog from running outside and into the street is vital.

The important thing to remember going forward is CALM ASSERTIVE ENERGY. Not sure what that means? Well, it means a lot of things. Start by watching the pitch and tone of your voice when you’re around your dog. It’s important to share that information with family and friends as well. If they love dogs as much as you do, they’re probably going to be pretty excited to meet him for the first time!

Remind everyone that in order to keep on track with your training, it’s important for everyone to play along. There’s a time and place for a little excited play, but it’s always best to be calm when meeting the dog for the first time.

As the weeks go by, you’ll find yourself getting more and more confident with your dog. Spending time with your dog and working to gain his/her trust is magical. Once you have that, your dog will be looking to you for the answers to everything. Where do you want me to go? Where should I sit? What are we going to do now?

Final Words

Of course it can take a lot longer than a few weeks to train an aggressive rescue dog. The trick is to rethink the word “aggressive”, especially if what your dog is really experiencing is fear. As you move forward in your new doggy-human relationship, remember that there are all kinds of reasons for dog aggression including pain, anxiety, fear, separation anxiety, feeling overwhelming or feeling trapped.

The more you research, read, and practice what you learn, the better you’ll become at conveying trust and safety to your dog. It works! It takes time and consistency, but I promise you it will work.

If you feel good about this post, please take a minute to share with someone. There are a lot of people out there who need help with their rescue dogs. Instead of letting them down, why not share the post? It might prevent the dog from needing to be brought back to the shelter or rehomed.


National Geographic

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