How to Train Your Abused Dog to Trust

Hard
1-12 Months
General

Introduction

So you've decided that your house is missing the warmth of a canine companion. In efforts to do the right thing, you make a trip to your local shelter to see what pooches are in need of a home. As you're looking, you see the saddest pair of eyes you've ever seen staring out back at you. You know in your heart that you've found your fur-baby, but you still get a little twinge of anxiety when the worker tells you that this dog has been abused.

Defining Tasks

It takes a huge heart and plenty of patience to adopt a pet who is a victim of abuse. Those who have been able to take on the task can vouch that there are few things more rewarding than bringing the joy back into a dog's life. So rest assured, your efforts will not be in vain to gain the trust of one of these shattered souls.

Because every dog and every situation is different, the time it takes to win over an abused pup is really all over the map. Some victims bounce back surprisingly fast, while others never fully recover from their past experiences.

Unfortunately, abuse happens to dogs of all ages. Older pooches have a lower chance of being adopted, so more rehabilitation happens in young to middle-aged dogs. That being said, young dogs generally have a longer road to recovery than canines who were abused at older ages.

Getting Started

Before you bring one of these babies home, you're going to want to be prepared. Your success will depend on how comfortable you can make your new family member, so keep that in mind. It's good to come into this relationship with the following:

  • A Calm Temperament: Dogs feed off of their owner's emotions. If you are uptight and nervous, any interaction with an abused fur-buddy will be tense. Calm yourself down before picking up your new pooch, and practice speaking in a low, quiet tone of voice.
  • Some Alone Time: Many, if not most, abused dogs will only become more distressed if there are multiple people or animals in their new home. Allow your new family member to have a quiet space where you both can slowly get to know one another.

Lots and Lots of Treats: Especially during those first few interactions, you're going to want to reward any contact the dog is willing to initiate.

Top-Quality Food: A lot of abused dogs have never been fed an appropriate diet. Many are even malnourished or super deficient in certain nutrients. Invest in a high-quality dog food or look into feeding your furry friend a balanced raw diet to combat any damage that has been done by a poor diet.

Realistic Expectations and Tons of Patience: It's best not to get your hopes up when working with an abused animal. Recovery looks different on every dog. But also do your best not to get discouraged either. As long as you are providing the pup its best possible life, your efforts are worth it.

Below are a few different methods you can use to build trust with an abused dog. You may need to try a few before you find what works the best in your situation.

The Spend Time Alone Together Method

Effective
0 Votes
Spend Time Alone Together method for Trust
Step
1
Choose a spot
Pick a quiet room away from any commotion in your home. De-clutter the space, but leave a dog blanket or bed, a dish of water, and a chair so that you have somewhere to sit.
Step
2
Get together
Bring your new addition into the room with you and close the door. Sit in the seat and occupy yourself while the dog does his own thing.
Step
3
Reward!
Every now and then, place a dog treat near where the pooch is playing.
Step
4
Repeat
Repeat this daily until the dog is comfortable approaching you.
Recommend training method?

The Beat Their Fears Method

Effective
0 Votes
Beat Their Fears method for Trust
Step
1
Identify stressors
Pinpoint what bothers your new pooch the most. Do your best not to induce extra stress figuring this out; it's best to identify their fears through observation.
Step
2
Expose your dog
Come up with a way to expose the dog to their fear in a totally controlled manner. Allow the pup to face their fear in a small way. Do not force them into the situation or push them toward what is scaring them.
Step
3
Encourage
Give the dog treats and or praise throughout the experience so that they associate good things with what once scared them.
Step
4
Repeat
Repeat the exercise on a regular basis and consider increasing the amount of time that the dog is exposed to their fear if they begin to show improvement.
Recommend training method?

The Praise With Clicks Method

Effective
0 Votes
Praise With Clicks method for Trust
Step
1
Study up
Learn the ins and outs of clicker training. Read articles and talk to experts to get comfortable with the technique.
Step
2
Get equipped
Get yourself a “clicker” and some treats.
Step
3
Observe and click
Watch your pet closely, and hit the clicker as soon as you witness a good behavior.
Step
4
Reward!
Follow the click with a treat so that the dog knows that the clicker means “good job!”
Step
5
Repeat
Keep doing this! Clicker training is great for abuse victims because it helps build good behaviors without using harsh corrections.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Indigo
Boxer Pitbull Terrier
1 Year
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Indigo
Boxer Pitbull Terrier
1 Year

I've only had the dog for a week tomorrow (Monday). She's pretty skittish. It wasn't until yesterday Shes barked for the first time. Today when I took her for a walk near where I work I saw several interns from work and She started barking at people. It makes me nervous that she might become aggressive once she becomes comfortable around me. Is there anything I can do to help her not to bark when she meets people specifically Men?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
154 Dog owners recommended

Hello Bekah, She is likely barking out of fear. Many fearful dogs will act scary to keep people that they are afraid of away from them. The best way to prevent fear aggression is to deal with the fear. What you can begin to do is to make the presence of new people a very positive experience for her. Whenever she sees a new person, when she is still acting calmly while they are at a distance, praise her and offer her treats for looking at the person calmly and for looking at you for direction. As she begins to get more confident, then you can gradually decrease the distance between her and the strangers, keeping her far enough away still while you reward her, for her to feel safe and remain calm. Overtime that distance should gradually decrease. It is important to remain very confident, upbeat, and happy yourself while you interact with her and praise her. Do not baby talk or sound nervous or angry but simply confident and happy. If you can get friends or family to help you then you can also utilize their help to build her confidence. To do this, have them come over one at a time to your home or meet you in a public place, as if he or she is a stranger that you are meeting. Have your friend stand still and ignore your dog while talking to like normal in a calm and friendly voice. Allow your dog to approach him when she is ready, while your dog is investigating, have your friend toss treats onto the floor near her while ignoring her still. When your dog is acting very confident around that person then your friend can gradually increase giving her normal eye contact, talking to her, and eventually touching her gently. Allow her to initiate the interactions as she warms up though, so that she will feel safe. Have as many people as possible help with you, one at a time, focusing especially on men. If at any point you feel like she does have a true aggression problem, then I would contact a local trainer in your area with experience in dealing with fear aggressive dogs. Somewhere with multiple trainers might be the most helpful because they will be able to utilize lots of new people, who are all experienced in dealing with dogs. These new people will be strangers to your dog even though they are trainers, so can help with the socialization also. Best of luck in training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Emily
Great Dane
17 Weeks
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Emily
Great Dane
17 Weeks

We got Izzy on April 2nd. She was abused (kicked and hit is what we were told) in her past home. When Izzy is on a couch or bed and she doesn't want to get off, she will ignore you calling her and wag her tail. Then after many efforts, we will have to take her off and she as soon as we grab her, she will start peeing (still wagging her tail and staring). If she doesn't want to go in her kennel when we leave and ask her to go in, she runs to the couch and wags her tail while staring and we have to go through the process again. Same with going outside to go potty when it's raining (she hates the rain, but we live in WA so it is always raining). Some days she will go into her kennel no problem. But other days she won't. I have trained all my dogs I have had my self dealing with Separation anxiety, fearfulness, sassy dog syndrome (lol). But this one, I just don't know what to do.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
154 Dog owners recommended

Hello Emily, To avoid the peeing while still enforcing your rules, purchase a drag line and leave it attached to Izzy's collar whenever you are at home. A drag line is simply a four or six foot leash that does not have a loop or handle on the end, so it is less likely to get caught on things. If she is likely to chew on it, then you can purchase a chew proof one from VirChewLy or a similar company. You can also make your own by purchasing a thin metal tie out line, with rubber coating covering it, and then use wire cutters to cut the line into a six foot leash. If the end is sharp bend it against itself and use a metal clamp piece from a hardware store to keep it there and cover the rough end. Work on the "Off" command with her with treats, and the "Room" or "Kennel" command also with treats, and then after she knows those commands, when it is time to enforce them and she will not listen, quietly pick up the leash end without touching her and move her off of the couch or into the crate. If she obeys you when you tell her to move then give her a treat, if she does not and you have to move her, do not say anything to her, simply move her off of the couch and remain calm. With consistency and calmness Izzy should learn that she has to comply but because you are not touching her her anxiety and submissive peeing should decrease. You can use this same tactic for taking her outside. Simply grab the leash and tell her it's time to go, then take her out. If she pees in the rain, then praise her and give her five small treats, one at a time, to help her like it better in the future. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Freya
Staffordshire
1 Year
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Question
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Freya
Staffordshire
1 Year

So recently my husband and I adopted a dog. She was adopted as a stray so the shelter wasn't able to provide us any information of her past. We think she was abused or neglected as far as attention goes. She is skittish and quiet. She does not bark. Overall, she is a very good dog despite our lack of knowledge on her. Now, I am writing because I want to make sure I make her comfortable with us and I want to instill my authority. She has recently been ignoring my commands. Mainly at dinner time - she refuses to eat her food and insist on following us for table food. I want her to eat good, but I don't want to have to feed her nothing but table food or scraps. what can I do? Also, she will go to her bed and chew on it aggressivley, what could that be? I'm thinking a replacement technique for something, but I can't even imagine for what since there's no stimulus that causes her to do it - at least not that I know of. I read it could just be because she's bored or anxious? Do you have any tips that can help us gain her trust and respect for us as her "alphas" so that she listens to our commands and starts eating her own food??

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
154 Dog owners recommended

Hello Freya, I would recommend teaching Freya the "Place" command and enforcing it very consistently. Have her lay on her "Place" at meal times so that she never expects to be given people food. After you are finished eating your meal, then put her own food down and release her from the place command to go eat her food. By that point your food should be put away and her only option is to eat her own food. She will also be learning to patiently wait for you to finish your food before she is fed at the same time, which will be good for her self-control. She might protest being ignored by continually trying to get up or by barking at first. Expect that at first and be ready to firmly send her back to her own bed. You can also purchase a chew proof leash called VirChewyLy and attach one end of it to somewhere by the "Place" and then clip her to it so that she cannot get off of the place. Do this until she forms a habit of staying there during meal times and no longer tries to get off, then you can work on enforcing her staying on the bed out of respect for you without the leash when she is less resistant and has learned not to expect food from the table in general. Right now while you are feeding her her own food during your meal time, it is normal for her to resist eating her own food because she wants to keep room in her stomach to eat yours, just in case you give in and give her some or she is able to steal some. Feeding her after you eat, making her wait on her place during meal times, and never feeding her from the table should help her eat her own food when you do give it to her. If she continues to be picky even after that, then consider switching her to another dry dog food. Some dogs will be picky because their own food bothers them due to an allergy to an ingredient or a specific formulation that doesn't agree with their stomachs. Often switching to another food will help. Look for a food that is a decent quality and has a different recipe. Make the switch gradually to avoid upsetting her stomach however. It does not sound like this is Freya's issue, but if she continues to be a picky eater after you have added the place command and changed her feeding schedule, try switching foods then. For the bed chewing give her an interesting chew toy to concentrate on while she is on there. She is young enough that it is normal for her to have a need to chew still. You can also place some of her own dry dog food into a bowl with water, let it sit out until the food turns into mush, and then loosely stuff a medium or large classic Kong toy with it. This will get her more interested in her own dinner and give her something to alleviate boredom with while you eat your own food. You can also make several of these ahead of time with multiple Kongs, freeze all of them, and then simply pull them out of the freezer at meal times while she is on her place. The bed chewing could be anxiety related but it is more likely that she simply enjoys the chewing with her age, and it helps her to relieve boredom. Giving her good chew toys like food stuffed toys and deer antlers will help with the boredom. To help her break the habit that she thinks is great fun, look into purchasing a more chewproof bed while she is young. PrimoPads makes firm kennel pad beds that withstand chewing well. Cot type beds are also good options. Once she is older, has developed a habit of chewing toys and not other items, and is less likely to chew, then you can reintroduce stuffed beds and see how she does. https://www.primopads.com/ To work on her general respect toward you without being overly harsh with her check out the article that I have linked below and focus the most on the "Obedience" method. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you For her "Place" you can use anything visible that is large enough for her to lay on. Something like a cot or PrimoPad will be more comfortable, but a mat or towel that is a clearly defined area will work. You simply want something that is big enough for her to lay on, stand on, or sit on. She can be in any position but she cannot get off of that place until she is release when you tell her "Okay" or "Free". Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Finn
Spaniel mix
1 Year
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Finn
Spaniel mix
1 Year

The shelter I got Finn from told me that he has been abused and left to die in the house by his previous owner. Considering that this all happened no too long ago, he is very sweet and loving and willing to learn. Everyone at the shelter told me that once he stopped growling at people they were able to take him out on a walk and after that he was totally fine with the ladies at the shelter. While adopting him he was very happy saying hi to everyone, but as soon as we got home I started noticing some major issues. Despite him trusting me and being ok around me, he does not like anyone else. He is afraid of my mom and of strangers (especially men). He will not allow anyone else pet him or approach him. He even growls at them and runs away. This is obviously totally understandable because all he has known in his life is people are no good. But, this is also obviously a huge issue. We got Finn for my self to have as an emotional support animal/service dog, so he needs to be ok around strangers and open to meeting people. I know this problem can be fixed or at least maintained. Right now I am using a lot of treats to encourage him when something new or strange is ok and good. He takes treats out of my moms hand and that's it. He is very curious and often approaches her when her back is turned so this is good. Anyway, I want to teach him that all people are good and new places are good. I am looking for a dog trainer now for a couple of one on one sessions but I am hoping in the meantime i could do something to help him. I am planning on taking him back to school with me, so the sooner I can start effective training the better. Thank you! Hope to hear from you soon!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
154 Dog owners recommended

Hello Taylor, Recruit friends and family members that he is frightened of to help you. Have the people, working with just one person at a time, meet you inside your home or while you are on walks. Have the person stay far enough away for Finn to not growl or run away but still notice the person. Whenever Finn is acting calm around the person, or at least tolerating the person and not growling, have the person toss treats over to him without looking at him. Have them do this with his dog food or treats for at least an hour. Other than tossing treats they should ignore him. When he is ready to approach them, then they can toss him treats or let him eat treats out of their hand. Once Finn is totally comfortable being near the person and comes up to the person for treats, then they can carefully add touch by feeding him a treat with one hand while gently and briefly touching him on the shoulder with their other hand. They should remove their hand as soon as he finishes eating the treat. You want to pair the touch with the treat and to take the training slow. Don't push Finn to quickly. Let him make the choice to approach the person or be touched in order to get a treat. If he likes playing ball, then when he is comfortable enough to approach the person, you can have them play fetch with him to help him relax around them. You can also have that person go on a walk with you, with Finn between you and the other person. Gauge this carefully though. Make sure that Finn is willing to be around the person before you have him walk so close to them. He doesn't have to let them pet him before you do the walk though if you are holding the leash. Practice this training with as many different people as you can, but only practice this with one person at a time and not a group yet. By having your friends practice the training at your home and meeting you in your neighborhood or other public locations that won't overwhelm him, you are showing him that guest in your home and strangers outside can all be nice. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Buddy
Miniature Pinscher
2 Years
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Question
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Buddy
Miniature Pinscher
2 Years

Hello. I rescued Buddy almost 2 months ago. He came from a not so nice situation. He was abused by a male. So now I have a poor dog with so much fear and probably resentment towards Men. He doesnt like my father. He will bark and scream and go after him nip him on his pant leg. He is alright if my dad is sitting down but if he gets up and walk around or even moves its all over. Buddy starts barking his head off. He was practically starving when i brought him home the picture on the left is the day I brought him home. The one on the right is him now. I had him neutered. He loves me and my mother but its not fair to my dad he lives here too. I just dunno how to break him or if i could. He doesnt like ppl going in and out of the house either. I told dad he has to work with him to gain his trust and not get impatient with him.. I just dunno what to do.. Please Help..

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
154 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kimberley, First of all, get Buddy used to wearing a soft silicone basket muzzle (he should not mind if you introduce it slowly and correctly with lots of treats, rewarding him whenever he sniffs it, touches it, or lets you hold it against his face - take it slow over a week or two). Either have him wear the muzzle while he is loose in the house or keep him attached to yourself with a six-to-eight-foot leash. Being allowed to nip and rush at your dad needs to stop. There are two parts to dealing with aggression. The first is management - you would not let a German Shepherd bite or rush your dad so don't let a Miniature Pinscher. The second is dealing with the root cause - in this case fear, and treating the root cause - by building trust in this situation. While buddy is attached to you and cannot rush your dad, have your dad sit down - so that buddy is calmer, and have your dad toss Buddy his dinner kibble one piece at a time. Do this as often as your dad is willing. Keep enough distance between your dad and Buddy for Buddy to relax enough to eat the food. As he gets more comfortable, decrease the distance by tossing the treats slightly less far, so that Buddy has to come closer to your dad to eat them. When Buddy will come within a foot of your dad's chair to eat the food (while on leash so that he cannot bite if he gets nervous), have your dad start to practice this in other positions like standing up, sitting on the ground or laying down. When your dad changes positions, you will likely need to go back to tossing the treats further away again because the new position will probably make him nervous. Once Buddy will go up to your dad's chair when he is sitting or in one of the other positions (if he seems to need more time to adjust), put the muzzle and an escape-proof padded harness on Buddy. I suggest a harness that has a strap that goes under hid abdomen, behind his front legs and at his chest, with a chest piece in-between. Look for something like Ruffwear's Webmaster Harness (there are other less expensive harnesses out there that are even smaller - but you want something with three straps like that one, to make it secure). Clip his leash on the harness and go on a walk with Buddy and your dad. If Buddy is nervous, have your dad stay several feet away while walking in the same direction at first. As Buddy relaxes during the walk, gradually have your dad get closer until you can hand the leash off to your dad and let him walk Buddy alone - without you. This might take several sessions before you can do that without Buddy stopping when your dad gets close. Once Buddy will walk with your dad and get close to your dad to eat, have your dad hand-feed him the dog food and walk him regularly to develop trust. When you get that far, your dad can also teach him commands and tricks using positive reinforcement to further build trust. For the other people coming in your home, I suggest hiring a trainer to help you. Use a trainer who works with several other trainers also, so that they can all practice working with Buddy to help him get used to strangers. Make sure that they are experienced with fear aggression and have good recommendations in that area. You can also have friends and other family members practice the same type of training that your dad is going to practice - one person at a time, if you can find enough volunteers to stick with it long enough with you. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Cloie
Bichon Frise
6 Years
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Question
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Cloie
Bichon Frise
6 Years

I just adopted her 4 days ago.She came from a puppy mill,then a dog rescue,then a private home for 6 months.She is so scared of people,noise,and everything including me that I don't know what to do.I think she acts like she has been abuse.She lays in a dog bed I got from past owner.She also Will pave back and forth in my dining room.She runs from me if I go near her.Please help me gain her trust.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
154 Dog owners recommended

Hello Suzanne, What she needs most is patience and time. If she will eat food when you are in the room, then find some of her favorite treats (like freeze dried soft liver of real chicken) and whenever you enter the room, she looks your way, or you are simply hanging out in the room with her, occasionally toss her treats without forcing her to get too close. As she improves, toss the treats a bit less far so that she will come closer willingly as she warms up. Spend time quietly being in the room with her, giving her occasional breaks to be alone so that she will completely relax, and letting her come up to you. Take it one step at a time, and realize that you being relaxed, quiet, calm and happy will be the easiest for her to accept. You sitting on a couch or seemingly ignoring her will probably help her warm up the fastest. You may want to hire a professional trainer with a calm demeanor around dogs to come to your home to help you longer-term with different areas of fear. Initially this person can help you with the process of getting her used to you, then getting her used to walking on a leash, being groomed, and finally being around other people and going places. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Nala
Border Collie/Blue Heeler mix
8 Months
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Nala
Border Collie/Blue Heeler mix
8 Months

Hello! I recently was given Nala on Christmas for free, to be trained as a service dog. She is such a sweetheart, but when it comes to new people, she is petrified and sometimes nips as a warning that she is afraid. The previous owners neglected and abused her and she was rescued from a puppy mill, so definitely did not get the correct treatment from birth. She has warmed up to me and my caregiver(mom) and sister/her kids, but to my dad and sisters husband she gets very scared. She seems to not do well around men, especially. When we first got her she was petrified of our steps, her food, and didn't go potty for the first 3 days. She is now going potty outside, eating well, and loves her treats and new toys we bought her. She such a sweet girl, I would hate to see my dad get rid of her because she nips when scared. How should we go about helping her feel safer around men and new people in general? She already is a great service dog, so I do not want to get rid of her over her having a difficult start in life. She deserves a loving family, as she has with us. Any help would be amazing.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
154 Dog owners recommended

Hello Hallie, Because you are wanting to train her as a Service Dog I highly suggest hiring a professional to help you in person. The public nature of Service Dog work requires a lot of adaptability and a solid temperament from a dog with even the best start in life. Service Dogs have to be around a lot of people and be able to handle surprising and sometimes unexpected or scary situations and the criteria for a dog like that is very high. Many dogs never make the cut. With that said, if you use her help primarily at home and not in public locations she can still perform tasks for you there even if you can't bring her with you in public. I suggest hiring a trainer and recruiting as many friends and family members as you can, whom she is not used to yet. Have one person at a time toss treats to her while ignoring her from a distance whenever she is quiet and calm. Let Nala decide when she is comfortable coming over to say hi. Practice with one person mutliple times and days until she warms up to that person. When she is comfortable with that person, practice the same thing with another person. Also, practice having people you know do the same thing with tossing treats to her in public locations like on walks, pet stores, parks, and other new places. Take her to a lot of new places but keep space between her and others at first, let her go at her own pace, praise and reward her for calm behavior, and try to act confident yourself. Don't pitty her or sooth her. Instead show her through your own attitude that she can relax and feel confident. Practice general obedience training with her to build her confidence as well. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Tux
Labrador Retriever, Mixed Breed
11 Months
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Tux
Labrador Retriever, Mixed Breed
11 Months

We got our dog at the Animal Rescue Leauge of Iowa. I have been having trouble training him because we did not know where he came from previously and when we got him he had kennel cough and an ear infection. He would occassionally poop and pee in the house but we though it was just him being sick. He has gotten over the sickness but now we are having trouble because every time we leave he poops in the house (even though we take him out right before we leave) and he has torn down all my blinds in my house along with chewing a lot of things up around the house. We have tried multiple things but I do not know the proper way to train him because it seems to me that before we got him he had been abused.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
154 Dog owners recommended

Hello Hannah, He needs to be crate trained. Since he was likely not trained by another owner before, you need to go back to the basics that you would with a puppy. He does not know not to chew on things when alone, and it's normal for a young dog to look for something to do when bored. He also has probably never truly been potty trained. Crate him with food-stuffed chew toys while you are away. Check out the article that I have linked below and follow the "Crate Training" method. Since he is much older than the puppy described in the article, you can take him outside less often. When you are home take him to go potty every three to four hours. When you are gone he should be able to hold it for as long as six-hours in the crate, and eight hours once he understands what to do. After he goes potty outside and receives his treats for going potty, take him back inside (or on a walk or to play if you wish) and give him two hours of supervised free time. When the two hours are up, put him back into the crate until it's time for the next potty trip outside. Doing it this way ensures that he is not free while his bladder is full. The more accidents that you can prevent and the more successful times that he pees or poops outside and is rewarded for it, the quicker potty training will go. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-poop-outside All young dogs should be confined when you are not there to supervise. He has not been taught what to chew (chew toys) and not chew (your stuff). Being given too much freedom can be life threatening if he eats the wrong thing, and expensive! Confining him now and teaching him what's okay to chew (by giving him food-stuffed chew toys in the crate) will help him have a lot of freedom when he is older for the rest of his life. Dogs that are not confined while unsupervised while young often have to be crated for the rest of their lives when people are gone because they develop long-term habits of chewing and destroying things. Do him a favorite and keep him safe with a crate now so that he will go onto enjoy more freedom later when he is ready for it. The crate should be just big enough for him to turn around, lay down, and stand up. If it's so big that he can go potty in one end and stand in the other end to avoid the mess, then it will not encourage him to naturally hold his bladder while inside. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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