How long does it take a rescue dog to bond?
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Thread: How long does it take a rescue dog to bond?

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    Senior Member EagleRiverDee's Avatar
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    How long does it take a rescue dog to bond?

    This is probably completely subjective, but in general how long should it take a rescue dog to bond with their primary caregiver? I adopted a rescue 3 weeks ago and while she's friendly she seems almost indifferent to me. I am the only person who walks her, I feed her and work with her on training. My fiance and his son live with me, but they don't spend a lot of time with her.

    Sometimes she actually seems to regress and goes to almost being aloof. She did that last night. Like, all of a sudden she wouldn't obey the most basic command. She knows "sit" like the back of her paw, but last night refused to do it.

    It's kind of weird but I almost feel like she doesn't like me.

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    Senior Member Shell's Avatar
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    Re: How long does it take a rescue dog to bond?

    I think 3-4 months to really settle in is common. 3 weeks is a pretty short time for all the adjustments and new people and new training concepts and even more so if the dog is a "teen" where they would naturally be testing the waters more or forgetting all their training

    She may just be a naturally aloof dog, my dog is very bonded to me but he also doesn't feel any need to follow me around and some days seems almost indifferent but it's really just him. He enjoys attention on his terms. Whereas some of the really needy "velcro" fosters have been attached to me from the first day and don't want to be more feet away from me ever.... (like, will push open the bathroom door if it isn't latched)

    what's her breed/breed mix (best guess)?

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    Senior Member EagleRiverDee's Avatar
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    Re: How long does it take a rescue dog to bond?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shell View Post
    what's her breed/breed mix (best guess)?
    We believe her to be a black lab/pitbull terrier mix. She's approximately 16 months old. She's had 2 homes prior to me and was kenneled long term during her rescue stay (about 6 months).

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    Senior Member Shell's Avatar
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    Re: How long does it take a rescue dog to bond?

    Give her time then. Long term kenneling is really stressful and it is also not at all like being in a home situation. Different caregivers, minimal interaction with people and lots of noise (barking, talking, people going about etc) is hard on the senses.

    My current foster had been kenneled for about 6 months before I got her, and while she was (overly) clingy right away, it took about 3 months before she started to blossom with independence and confidence and such. I think it was probably 2 months before she played with my dog.

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    Re: How long does it take a rescue dog to bond?

    I agree with Shell, 3-4 months is a good guestimate.
    However, lots of factors can come into play, like the personality of the dog, and also how much training (or lack thereof) she received in her previous homes, and how she was treated in her previous homes, etc.

    Our middle dog (in age) was rescued after being abandoned at a very young age. She had to fend for herself quite a bit, and ended up become the "defender" of her more timid littermates. So, she tends (out of all our dogs) to be more aloof. She can be ok with affection and cuddles, but, most of the time she prefers to sit next or near us, rather than cuddle on our laps (like our other dogs).

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    Re: How long does it take a rescue dog to bond?

    I adopted a Rat Terrier mix who was at the kennel for two or three months before I adopted her. I had her for over a year and never bonded with her whatsoever.

    I adopted a pit from animal control who was there for 60 days... I've had him for 7 months now... and I would say a month or two ago we finally started really bonding.

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    Senior Member ThoseWordsAtBest's Avatar
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    Re: How long does it take a rescue dog to bond?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shell View Post
    Give her time then. Long term kenneling is really stressful and it is also not at all like being in a home situation. Different caregivers, minimal interaction with people and lots of noise (barking, talking, people going about etc) is hard on the senses.

    My current foster had been kenneled for about 6 months before I got her, and while she was (overly) clingy right away, it took about 3 months before she started to blossom with independence and confidence and such. I think it was probably 2 months before she played with my dog.
    Shell is spot on per usual. It'll take some time especially with the poor souls that are bounced around so much. My foster was completely terrified of people when she got here, within a couple weeks she was fine with me but obviously uninterested in the fact I existed, and by about 4 months in we were solid together.

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    Re: How long does it take a rescue dog to bond?

    My experience has been much different. I have adopted 6 dogs. I bonded with 5 of them in about 15 minutes. Maybe I just selected clingy dogs. The other dog and I bonded in about 2 weeks. The first week or two, I would have done anything to get rid of her. Then all of a sudden, we were best friends.

    I bet it has a lot to do with how we select dogs.

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    Re: How long does it take a rescue dog to bond?

    My dog was like that when he got home. A needy, clingy, monster. I don't consider it real bonding personally because there was no trust or comfort, it was complete dependency. It took Pete about 7 months to settle in and trust that leaving the house wasn't abandonment. We're very closely bonded now, but its not dependent. So it can take a while, but it was totally worth it to wait out the adjustment period. Its a bond thats going to last many years, 3 weeks is too early to expect it to be fully formed. Patience pays off.

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    Re: How long does it take a rescue dog to bond?

    Quote Originally Posted by EagleRiverDee View Post
    We believe her to be a black lab/pitbull terrier mix. She's approximately 16 months old. She's had 2 homes prior to me and was kenneled long term during her rescue stay (about 6 months).
    Sounds a lot like my male dog. Black pit mix, about a year old when we got him. He was an owner surrender. Then had a stint at the shelter. Then was in a foster home for about a month before we finally got him.

    He was, understandably, a nervous wreck when we brought him home. He was very cautious and just seemed to be waiting to be scooped up and hauled off to the next spot. While I never felt he "didn't like me", it did take a few months for him to really warm up to me and then maybe another month or so after that to be completely trusting. So in my experience the 3-4 month estimate is right on the money.

    Most of the time with rescues, you don't know a whole lot about the history of the dog. So it's important to give them ample time to adjust to their new home and new life. Three weeks is definitely not enough time in many cases.

    As for the randomly not listening part, that could have a lot to do with her age (the so-called "teenage years").

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    Senior Member dagwall's Avatar
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    Re: How long does it take a rescue dog to bond?

    With my own dog the bond was there right from the start and I'd say a large part of that is just his personality, he loves everyone. Within the first week tops he seemed to get he was MY dog, though he did have what is call the honeymoon period. For the first 3 months he was basically an angel (excluding the need for a bit of potty training refresher and a mouthing issue), right at 3 months he started testing the waters and pushing some limits. Basically some of his bratty personality, that I actually love, started to come out more when he completely relaxed. Jubel ended up at the pound at about 1.5 years old when his owner lost their home to foreclosure, got pulled to the rescue's shelter and spent 10 months there until I came along.

    My foster dog was an owner surrender to the same pound Jubel came from at about 1.5 years old, pulled by the same rescue and spent 2 years at the shelter before I started fostering him 7 months ago. Duncan didn't do well in the shelter environment and became increasingly fearful, ending up biting twice while at the shelter. The difference in him within the first week of being in my home and out of the shelter was a drastic improvement. After the 7 months he's been with me he's almost a completely different dog and he's VERY attached to me, but I'm not really bonded with him. Mostly because he doesn't mesh that well with us and partly because we don't want to bond with a dog we don't intend to keep.

    On the other hand I DID bond with a short term foster dog who only stayed with us for 5 days, she was a great dog. I saw her again about 5 months later at an event for the rescue and she flipped out with excitement to see me again so I think the bonding was mutual haha.

    Again a lot of it comes down to the individual dog and their history. Jubel is just a happy velcro dog who will quickly form a bond with a new person, Duncan is cautious and slow to warm up but will become strongly devoted to "his person". Then some dogs are just aloof and while they may bond to their person they aren't going to show it in the same way my cuddly, velcro boy Jubel does (very overtly).

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    Senior Member Amaryllis's Avatar
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    Re: How long does it take a rescue dog to bond?

    I'd say Kabota and I weren't truly bonded until recently, and I've had him 13 months now. He didn't start wagging his tail until 6 months in.

    As for "refusing" to sit: unless sitting hurts her in some way, she's not refusing. She's just not sure what you want, or something else is more rewarding to her at that moment. A dog needs to successfully complete a command at least 300 times in various places and situations to have it truly be learned, which certainly hasn't happened in 3 weeks. Just keep training it, keep making training rewarding, and then give it time. It'll come.
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    Re: How long does it take a rescue dog to bond?

    With each dog it's different. Charlie was really easy on us, but then again, he had switched owners 7 times, poor dog. So I guess he was used to it or something, but it took a mere hour for him to act like he had lived in our home forever and after about one week he showed his true personality.

    I realize now how amazing that was, seeing that Mike took three whole days just to get accustomed to our presence.

    So it may take time for the dog to feel at home and bond with you. Depending on the dog, it can happen in no-time or it may take months.

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    Senior Member Hambonez's Avatar
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    Re: How long does it take a rescue dog to bond?

    I think it took us about 3 months, though we adopted Hamilton from the shelter as a puppy... so some of that could have also been the fact that it's hard to bond with a vampire piranha. Now that dog is so bonded to me it's ridiculous. I wish he was less so. He doesn't have separation anxiety, but if my husband takes him out alone, or even comes home and lets him out of his crate when I'm not home, his primary objective is to search the ENTIRE HOUSE, hound nose snuff snuffing everywhere, trying desperately to find me... then he calms down and will settle for my husband (near the window, to watch for me).

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    Senior Member CptJack's Avatar
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    Re: How long does it take a rescue dog to bond?

    It's not just rescues or adults, either. Kylie and Thud were rescues - literal, off the street, rescues at 4, and between 6 and 8 weeks old.

    I didn't bond with Kylie for at least a couple of months, though she loved us, because I was losing my danged mine due to sleep deprivation and being overwhelmed with the sheer amount of work she was. She as a remarkably good puppy, but she was FOUR weeks old. All we did was take her out to potty, feed her, play with her for a few minutes, and put her down for a nap. Over, and over, and OVER, all day long for weeks. I don't think it's an accident that the two months it took us to really bond synched up when when she started to sleep through the night and have a personality. She is, at 8.5 months old my 'heart dog' (I hate that term, actually - sounds twee, but the bond with her is one of of those special, very few in a life time, bonds that goes both ways; we're just right for each other.)

    Thud I bonded with much faster. I ADORE HIM. He, however, took a little while to bond with us. I'm still not sure he entirely has. For one thing, his life sucked more for Kylie's. She was in a commercial dumpster, but only overnight. Thud was dumped off with his littermate, in the middle of a cold snap. We weren't told about him for at least a few days. When we found him, he was close to death from starvation and hypothermia. Then he got massively sick with tummy issues. He's now healthy, growing, goofy and friendly, but he's also a super... independent puppy. He wants pet a little, enjoys training, but he's been her for a month and he still wanders off to sleep or play in an out of the way corner or a room by himself. We'll see how it goes, but I suspect some of it's just his personality.

    Jack and Bug came in as adults, but they were not rescued. Their previous homes loved them, though Bug's was not great for her.

    Bug was an ill mannered, totally untrained and unsocialized dog who had spent her entire life as an outside dog, on a farm, running with Boxers. She didn't really have an adjustment period, but the humans sure did! She was...really badly mannered, but really smart. She figured out the rules and manners pretty fast. But she also HURT, had no idea of personal space, and gave me several bloody noses thanks to her exuberance. To be honest, it took me a while to LIKE her, much less bond with her. I can't say it took long, since we've only had her 5 months, but it took time for her to learn how not to hurt people she was trying to be affectionate to, and us a while to get used to the fact that she was just the most hyper-active, bouncy, energetic dog we'd ever owned. Also, she is deaf, which was another learning curve.

    Jack was a former show dog. He was well trained, well socialized, well loved. He has never misbehaved with us. He is a perfect, beautiful, angel. It took him an age (I don't remember exactly how long) to be willing to eat, drink, or get off our heels. It took him even longer to be willing to approach our children, play, or act like a dog. He was anxious about being in a new home and it showed. It was hard for him. If I hadn't known where he came from and met and seen him there, I would have thought he was horribly abused the first little wile he was here. He absolutely wasn't; he was just uprooted and didn't like it; Rat Terriers are not overly affectionate with strangers, and we WERE strangers, then, not his family. But he got there. Once he got there, he bonded and he bonded like VELCRO.

    Just give it time. You're both adjusting, your lives have both changed. Sometimes there's an instant connection... more often it takes time.
    Last edited by CptJack; 01-30-2013 at 03:33 PM.

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    Senior Member EagleRiverDee's Avatar
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    Re: How long does it take a rescue dog to bond?

    Thank you, everyone, for the replies.

    Mila is a sweet dog in many ways. But one person here mentioned "heart dog" and that's what I had with my last dog- if a human and a dog could be soul mates, we were. And I lost him very suddenly and very unexpectedly on Dec. 5. I don't expect Mila to be like him- in fact, she could not be more different if she tried- but I do hope to bond with her at some point. And right now I feel no dependency from her, and no bonding. Her one true love is food- I have never seen a dog more food motivated in my life. It's unreal. And she is stubborn. And she is being stubborn the past few days. I know she knows her commands- and she's ignoring me. For the first couple weeks I could say "sit" and hold my two fingers up (that's my sit sign) and she'd plop her butt down. Now she won't, and I have to push on her butt and push hard. She is just acting defiant. Won't come when she's called all of a sudden. Won't stay off the bed. Stuff like that. And I really do try with her. I walk her every day and I play fetch with her and work on training her on basic commands. I probably devote 2 hours a day directly to working with her. One hour just walking, the other hour broken up over the course of the day working on commands. And yet despite the fact that I'm working so much with her, she just seems indifferent. She's very interested in my fiancÚ and his son, and they spend little to no time with her at all. I suppose she just could be one of those dogs that prefers men.

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    Senior Member Darkmoon's Avatar
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    Re: How long does it take a rescue dog to bond?

    Nubs bonded with me in only a week or so. It might have been even less then a week. He knew I was his and he was never going to let me go. It was very fast and a very strong bond. Peanut it took a good 6 months to a year before she actually bonded with me. Before then everyone else was more important then I was. Then one day she just came up to me (which never happened) and while she always curled up in my chair with me from a pup, that time was different she actually relaxed and curled up with me. From that day on she was my hip dog.

    Every dog is different. Nubs loves everyone but I am his only owner and his one love. Peanut likes men better then females, but when push comes to shove, she is my dog and no one would be able to take her from me. Just give her time and space and just keep it up with the training. One day it will just click.

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    Senior Member hanksimon's Avatar
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    Re: How long does it take a rescue dog to bond?

    Putting on my psychology hat, I can propose a logical argument that sounds good, but is probably ridiculous... but if it helps....
    1. Mila is a Lab/Pit, two breeds that adore people and need lots of attention, not necessarily velcro.
    2. However, you punish these dogs, not by hitting with a 2x4 [they like that and think it's play :-) ], but by simply withdrawing attention. It's worse than hitting normal dogs with the 2x4!
    3. Mila has been in 2 -3 places for most of her life. She hasn't had much stability... except 6 mos in a kennel. Be gentle with her.
    4. Try not to re-train her by forcing, but by luring with food ... sounds like a typical Lab !
    5. Make sure she learns perfect Bite Inhibition, and sit on the floor, and feed her one kibble at a time for meals. Direct interaction is key.
    6. I think she has 'withdrawn,' b/c there's no reason to bond in yet another temporary home.... So she needs more interaction but on her terms. I dunno what that is, but Fetch and Tug [with well-defined and specific rules!] could be a start.
    7. These dogs are heavy chewers, so a Kong and a hard rubber bone may help to save your furniture.
    8. Since, she has never had a forever home, my prognosis is that she will 'relax' when she's been with you for more than 6 mos. So with gentle love, and rough play [if practical?], she might become another heart dog after 12 mos.... My opinion is free :-)

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    Senior Member Shell's Avatar
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    Re: How long does it take a rescue dog to bond?

    Her one true love is food- I have never seen a dog more food motivated in my life. It's unreal. And she is stubborn. And she is being stubborn the past few days. I know she knows her commands- and she's ignoring me. For the first couple weeks I could say "sit" and hold my two fingers up (that's my sit sign) and she'd plop her butt down. Now she won't, and I have to push on her butt and push hard. She is just acting defiant. Won't come when she's called all of a sudden. Won't stay off the bed. Stuff like that
    Food motivated dogs are easy- get that food out for training and reward, reward, reward. Later you will want to phase out the lure and randomize the reward (sometimes when she sits she gets praise, sometimes she gets a treat, she doesn't know which time she will get a treat so there is always hope so she obeys)

    Pushing on her butt isn't training and it isn't going to make her obey willingly, it will likely just make both of you frustrated. To me, "stubborn" in a dog means unmotivated; you just have to find that dog's motivation and work with it.

    Staying off the bed is hard- it is cozy and every pit I have met is the biggest cuddlebug and also generally not a fan of cold weather so the chance to snuggle someplace cozy is nearly irresistible. For now at least, setting her up for success by closing doors and limiting access to places you don't want her to be is probably your best bet. Otherwise you end up repeatedly telling her to get off the bed which isn't going to help bring her emotionally closer to you.

    She's very interested in my fiancÚ and his son, and they spend little to no time with her at all. I suppose she just could be one of those dogs that prefers men.
    She may prefer men or she may just like the novelty of a different person. If they don't spend much time with her, they are "new" all the time and also if you're the one doing ALL the training, she might think they're not going to make her do anything sort of like a kid wanting to spend time with an easy-going aunt who hands out candy.

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    Senior Member EagleRiverDee's Avatar
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    Re: How long does it take a rescue dog to bond?

    I'm relieved that there seems to be a general consensus that using food for training is good. I've been doing that. I reward, reward, reward with food. I had tried to work with a professional trainer and the guy, while obviously quite knowledgeable, was VERY down on me using food as a reward. I don't use food to lure her, only as a reward. So it's nice to see that this is not the consensus here, because she loves to work for food.

    But when I say she's gotten stubborn, I mean that even when she knows I've got treats in my pocket to reward her with, she is still refusing to sit. Not all the time. Like, last night we went for a walk as usual and she was especially good. She was ignoring other dogs, only briefly growled at one person (which is something I need to learn how to stop), and she was following all my commands of "come", "sit" and "stay".

    Then we got home and holy terror. She ran around the house like she was on a caffeine overdose, immediately peed on the carpet (after a 1 hour walk! Argh!), and wouldn't do anything I asked her to do. And I swear when she gets up on the bed it's like she's daring me to stop her. It's just something about the look on her face. If a dog could say, "Nyah, Nyah, Nyah" that's what it seems like she's doing to me.

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