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.
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.
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:
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.
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?
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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