woman hugging golden retriever - showing a rescue dog love

Dogs deserve love, and that’s a thought that’s commonly shared worldwide.

Sadly, however, some dogs have been mistreated or abandoned through no fault of their own. Families thinking of adopting a rescue dog may wonder how they can show these neglected pups the love they deserve.

If you’re one of those lucky families welcoming a rescue dog into your home, here are six ways to show your new rescue dog your love and care.

1. Be Patient With Your Rescue Dog

If you’re only used to friendly, confident, loves-everyone-on-earth dogs, you may be surprised or have your feelings hurt by how stand-offish some rescue dogs can seem to be.

However, it’s important to remember that many rescue dogs have had to go through some of the most terrible horrors ever seen. Even a few years or a few months in a bad situation represents a large portion of a dog’s lifetime, and that time makes a painfully lasting impression. It’s understandable then why many of them have difficulty trusting their new parents after being adopted — it may be love at first sight for you, but your new rescue dog has no idea who you are or what the future will hold.

Our canine companions naturally crave our friendship, but even though many rescue dogs want to trust their new parents, they simply can’t because of the pain they’ve endured before. At least, not right away.

Many parents of rescue dogs have discussed how much patience it takes to care for one. You can’t force your love on these dogs; however, with patience and comfort, you’ll be able to show them that they have nothing to fear and that you are there to love and care for them.

2. Be Affectionate (When They’re Comfortable)

Rescue dogs aren’t dogs you can easily force your love on; they’re going to need space. However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever show them physical affection.

Ways you can show your rescue dog affection include:

  • Petting them on their shoulders, necks, or back softly.
  • Giving them belly rubs.
  • Scratching them behind the ears.
  • Speaking softly with them, even if it’s about nothing in particular.

These are all ways to build a good bond between you and your rescue dog. If your dog has been physically abused, it may take some time before they’re comfortable with you touching them. However, when they communicate that they are comfortable, give them gentle and loving affection to show that you aren’t a threat.

Remember, although tight hugs and snuggles are common signs of human affection, most dogs don’t enjoy them. Gestures that restrict a dog’s movement can be seen as threatening to nervous dogs. If you do wish to hug or snuggle them, do so lightly in ways that make them feel as though they can easily leave if they wish.

3. Be a Positive Teacher

Teaching a dog new tricks is an easy way to bond with them. In many cases, most rescue dogs may not have been taught tricks or given obedience lessons in the first place, so this is a good way to establish structure in their lives.

Ensure you use many positive reinforcement methods when training with a rescue dog. Give them constant encouraging praise and reward them with high value treats when they correctly complete their tasks.

Be consistent in your training, with just-for-fun tricks and also in basic obedience lessons like greeting people politely, walking nicely on the leash and coming when called.

Teaching your dog tricks in an effective, non-forceful way will show that you are an effective leader that they can trust.

4. Be Conscientious of Their Health

Making your new rescue dog’s physical health a top priority is another way you can show you love them. This is especially true if you don’t fully know their background or medical history. Staying on top of the basics, like proper grooming and a healthy diet, goes a long way towards improving your rescue dog’s life and demonstrating that they are valued.

Many neglected dogs have never even known what being properly groomed is like since, in many cases, their previous owners will not have done it for them. You must show your dog that you care enough to ensure they’re clean and pampered like they should be.

Many rescue dogs may be fearful of this new experience, so go slow and don’t do anything they aren’t comfortable with. Reading your dog’s body language and verbal cues will be essential to know what they aren’t and are comfortable with. After they become comfortable with it, your dog will be grateful for the experience.

Feeding  your new rescue dog a healthy, protein-rich diet is another key way to support their overall wellbeing and health. Not only will your new pup appreciate the savory taste of real meat, they’ll also feel much better with a full stomach and proper nutrition!

5. Be Their Advocate

Many people think of dogs as protectors, meant to do any and everything to keep their owners safe. However, you should reciprocate that energy, especially when the dog in question is a rescue dog.

These dogs may have never had anyone to protect them until this point, nor to stop uncomfortable or dangerous situations from occurring. They crave that parent who makes them feel safe, and you should be it for them.

For example, if you’re taking your dog for a walk and someone asks to pet them, yet you can see that your dog is uncomfortable, politely decline and remove your dog from the situation. Even if this feels awkward or rude, it’s time to be assertive and stand up for your dog. It’s worth a random stranger thinking you’re rude if it shows your new rescue dog that you’ve got their back!

If your rescue dog shows open discomfort or fear in the face of any circumstance, comfort and help them through it or remove them from that situation completely. Showing your rescue dog that you’re there to protect them from things they perceive as dangerous gains their trust, and also makes it less likely that your pup will feel the need to defend themselves.

6. Be Engaged

Most of all, be engaged and active with your pup!

Your new rescue dog may be accustomed to being neglected or ignored. They may have been simply living in someone’s house or backyard without being given much attention.

Yet dogs naturally love our attention, and love to engage with and interact with us — that’s what we bred them to want to do! So by giving your new rescue pup your 100% undivided attention through games, walks and playtime, you’re showing them you value them and enjoy the new connection you share.

Walking, running, and playing with your rescue dog are great ways to show you care. This is important bonding time that requires you to be around your dog and can serve to build trust. (Once again, however, make sure to red your dog’s body language to learn what they enjoy and hate and never do anything they aren’t comfortable with.)

The more positive experiences you can have with your new best furiend, the better!


Adopting a rescue dog can be a difficult process. These dogs have often been abused, neglected, and mistreated by their previous owners. As a result, many may find it hard to immediately trust humans again. Therefore, it can be difficult to show these dogs that you care, love, and aren’t a threat to them.

However, with patience, care, empathy, and a gentle approach, you can earn their trust in time — and show your new best furiend that there’s only good days ahead!

You may also be interested in these tips on adopting a shelter dog.