6 min read


Can Rescue Dogs Feel Anguish?



6 min read


Can Rescue Dogs Feel Anguish?


Not every dog knows the joy of a warm pet bed, kibble in the food bowl, or a loving guardian. There are pooches who know the anguish of living with an uncaring owner that has no respect for creatures of this earth. For those pups, every day is a journey of pain as they endure unacceptable behavior from humans unfit to own a dog. 

Even when they are rescued and placed in a good-natured home, these troubled pups can feel anguish when their pet parents leave them on their own Their frenzied minds erupt in a flurry of destruction as they do battle with the sofa legs or carpet on the floor. It’s not their fault, but the fallout can lead them back to the shelter, often with no hope of being re-homed.


Signs a Dog is Distressed

Dogs are delightful divas that make us both laugh and cry. Watching them at play brings a smile to the most hardened and when they are sick, we feel their pain. If you’ve recently adopted a rescue dog, you’ve done a wonderful thing by passing a pet store and giving hope to a worthy cause.

Some rescue dogs adjust well, while others need patience and time. It's like fostering a child that may have come from a troubled background and needs love and plenty of reassurance. Dogs are the cognitive age of a 2-3-year-old, so their former life could also leave scars.

Get ready for a roller-coaster ride when your rescue pup starts venting while you are leaving for work. As you put on your coat, she’s shaking and the sight of her tears at your heart. It’s not your rescue dog's fault, she’s just scared of being alone.

We all have to work, so when you close the front door, the thought of what you might come back to plays on you your mind. Lily, on the other hand, is getting busy digging at the hardwood floors. If there’s a bone underneath, she’ll find it - until her attention is alerted to the magazine sitting on the chair. The ripping sound feels good as she pants profusely in fear.

Once that’s been dealt with, she heads for the open wardrobe door. A smorgasbord of shoes greets her as she chews your new leather boots. Lily starts barking and howling, inviting the neighbor to knock on the door. This sends her into a spin thinking her pet-mom has come home.

Whimpering and cowering, the doorbell starts to ring and it’s the local authorities come to check on the rowdy dog. Lily has separation anxiety and she can feel her sweaty paws. She’s urinated on the kitchen floor and spent the time pacing and looking to escape. Lily is obsessed with the pretty throw pillows that are now strewn throughout the home. 

Dogs suffer in silence from abuse and an unhappy past. Sooner or later, their feelings are triggered and the war-zone, is your living room rug

Body Language

Signs a dog can feel anxious include:<br/>

  • Barking
  • Shaking
  • Cowering
  • Chewing
  • Pacing
  • Sweaty Paws
  • Whimpering
  • Spinning

Other Signs

Signs a dog feels anguish are:<br/>

  • Seperation Anxiety
  • Destructive Behaviior
  • Urinating On The Floor
  • Trying To Escape

History of Humans Helping Dogs in Anguish


Some dogs may wish wolves had not taken a leap of faith and gotten to know a two-legged creature making their way in a new world. These complex creatures were pack orientated like the wolf, but saw supremacy in their future ahead.

Ancient mutts were companions and important enough to be esteemed as gods. The Aztecs worshipped canines while Chinese astrology features the year of the dog. In old-world Egypt, dogs were used for hunting and walked on leashes long before walks in the local park.

According to Smithsonian Mag, early Greeks gave puppies power-set names like Lurcher and Apollo while using them to hunt and safeguard their homes. Dogs have seen a ton of history from the time of the ancients to the present day.

They are our oldest friend, but that’s where the likeness ends as humans are a fickle breed that dishonors their close ties. Laws supporting the welfare of dogs have often been thin on the ground with the first being implemented in the United Kingdom. The year this happened was 1822, but in the US, it wasn’t until 1966 that an official Animal Welfare Act was passed. Once, our dogs were divine gods in the eyes of the ancients and now, the amazing organizations like the RSPCA, founded in 1824, followed on by the ASPCA - USA in 1866, look out for the children of wolves.

Without the support of these angelic humans, our dogs would be in a cold kennel with no voice. For many, they are the right side of humanity who see a need and dutifully answer it. Governments have still not come to the funding table for these volunteer charities that run on donations and compassionate people.

Some of our pooches have forgiving hearts, like Ellie, a victim of abuse who was luckily rescued by the ASPCA. The Daily Mail followed her story of hope after a good citizen videotaped her former owner’s mental torture and it went viral on You-Tube. This is when social media has real power; presenting evidence of dog abuse and helping police secure a prosecution. Thanks to the confidence-building work at the shelter, this elegant Dogue de Bordeaux was re-homed to a lovely couple who adore their new pooch.

The Science of a Dog's Anguish


The effect of dogs being mistreated can be seen in their empty eyes, and science has proven they are emotive and can feel verbal and physical harm. They have also noted injuries presented by dogs can be accidental or deliberate. Tufts tell us a controlling style person can use the family dog to terrorize their partner and kids, so a veterinary student at Cummings school created a forensic tool that will help vets know the difference.

If a dog presents with injuries, it could be an indicator of violence in the home. The Humane Society reported around one million pets are hurt or worse. These shocking stats are from homes where domestic violence is the norm. Broken teeth, wounded claws, and head injuries are often indicators of human abuse. This could make it possible for people who hurt a dog to be charged by the police, using the evidence from the vet.

Studies are enlightening people who care about their dogs, but there will always those who treat them with disdain. Pooches at shelters have seen a bleak side of life, so when they find their forever home, issues often arise. Separation anxiety can be a tough nut to crack as a dog gets so stressed, it's hard to calm them down. The trauma of being abandoned or surrendered to a shelter can cause psychological problems and they find it hard to cope. The result is mayhem in your home.

The Denver Post tells the story of Sparky a 13-year-old Dachshund who’d been placed in a shelter due to the death of his past owner. Older dogs are not always easily adopted, but Sparky found a new friend in an accountant who had lost her pooch some time before. It seemed a match made in heaven - until his new guardian had to leave him alone. Sparky lost the plot as he barked and howled, shaking like a leaf - traumatized with fear.

Not one to hand in the towel, his pet-mom called on Rea Dodd, a pet behaviorist and separation anxiety expert. A treatment program plus medication was organized to make Sparky a happier pooch.

Training Dogs in Anguish


The anguish a dog can feel when abused or given away can have lasting effects. One of the most common is separation anxiety, which can cost a new owner their home decor look - along with many, many pairs of shoes.

Rea Dodd has twenty years of experience helping dogs that can’t handle being left alone. She recalls a dog who ate drywall, while another smashed through a window trying to escape. In the case of Sparky, it was suggested they try exercises involving his pet-mom going in and out of the front door. While this was being acted out, Sparky went to work on a puzzle toy with treats and he was also administered medication to help him relax.

Changing your “leaving the house routine” can really help. Dogs can get used to the things we do that can start fear that leads to panic. Think about how you jingle your keys or bring your handbag out to the entryway. Your pooch is watching you studiously and knows you’re about to leave.

After a few sessions with the expert, Sparky was in a better place and perhaps was less worried about people leaving his life. It can be a bit harder with a woofer that’s been badly treated, as there’s a rage that can easily ignite.

Not all anguished dogs make it back from abuse. Their spirits are broken and healing can take a long while. Volunteers in the shelter see the anger in these mismanaged pups. To them, all humans are frightening, so fear aggression is likely to be played out.

Fear aggression comes from a dog lashing out because they are afraid. The impact can be devastating if they bite in their defense. If a person did the same, a judge may show leniency, as they were only protecting themselves. It is not so for a dog, who can’t talk about the reason they felt so mad.

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By a Japanese Chin lover Linda Cole

Published: 05/30/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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