Question: We have had dogs for years. We love purebreds and mixed breeds alike. But, I recently spoke with a friend who always has rescue dogs and claims they make the best pets of all. Is this true?

Answer: Oh boy, another loaded question! Honestly, the best pets in the world, no matter the breed, age, gender, or size is the TRAINED pet. Of course, I have to say that since I am a trainer, but it is true. Let me share some of what I see with rescue dogs, mine included.

A rescue dog comes into your home with all of her "baggage." In most cases, the dog does not show her true self until she's been with you several weeks. Remember, she had an unstable life which did not provide her with rules. Canines operate best with rules. So, give her two to four weeks to adjust to your routine and family. Begin teaching her the rules as soon as you get her.

Her true personality will slowly emerge.

A dog that was abused, mistreated, or just plain ignored will need time to learn trust, play, and how to receive and give affection. A dog that lived in a kennel from the time it was weaned until you adopted it will have NO social skills and will not have a clue what to do with bones, balls, toys of any kind, or other dogs. You must be patient, loving, and strong willed enough to set rules and expect your dog to follow them.

One of the first dogs I trained 25 years ago was an unsocialized German Shepherd. What I saw in her all of those years ago has been repeated several hundred times. Here are the top things I usually see in rescue dogs.

1. They do not know how to play with toys. As they acclimate to their new home they develop interest in toys.

2. A dog that missed a normal puppyhood will go through a second one. This means a 4-year-old dog could act like it is only 12 weeks old ... chewing included. Training helps.

3. Most rescues, once secure in their new home, are very affectionate and have a high need for touch.

4. They are insecure. The more you train and love them, and even correct disobedience, the more secure they become.

Many things are either/or:

5. They will never run away or they take off any chance they get. There's not much middle ground with that. Training helps.

6. They handle new things, places with joy or get anxious.

7. They either love new people or fear them.

Working with rescue dogs and watching them come out of their shells, adjust to their new homes, and become amazing pets takes a load of patience and work. But, it is by far one of the most rewarding experiences dog owners and trainers can have.

Chandra Lynn Smith owns Best Friend Dog Training. She holds a bachelor's degree in animal bioscience, has eight years' experience as a veterinary technician, and is a certified professional dog trainer from the National K9 School of Dog Trainers. She's been training dogs since 1984. You may address your questions to her via email at, or by mail to The Evening Sun, c/o Chandra Lynn Smith, 135 Baltimore St., Hanover, PA 17331.