Adopting an abused dog is a tough feat that requires a lot of patience and a lot of love, but it will also gain you a lot of love from a very grateful pooch. If you’re thinking of adopting an abused dog, or you already have, take a look at our guide to looking after them.
Understanding your dog
An abused dog is a catch-all term that doesn’t show the diverse ways this can affect your dog or manifest. Knowing where your dog came from will help you understand your new companion.
Dogs born into puppy mills are likely to have spent their entire lives in cages. Dogs living in a hoarding situation with multiple pets with no socialization or who have been mistreated by a past owner, may be mistrusting and fearful. Your dog may fear people, children, open spaces, or loud noises. They may not want physical affection or treats.
Medical issues are also rife in abused dogs. The basics like vaccinations and neutering will have been forgotten or dogs may have gained issues due to malnourishment. They may have abscesses, deformed limbs, wounds, hearing or dental problems or heartworm or fleas.
There may also be minimal training. Your dog might not be toilet trained or can’t interact with other animals. They might have never used a leash or won’t know the most basic commands. Be ready to either train this dog yourself or pay someone for rehabilitation.
Preparing your home
You will need all the basics for any dog, but there will be specifications for an abused dog.
Since you won’t know the strength of your new dog or how they will react to a leash, it’s best to get a chain or cable leash at least six feet long to allow for some movement but also for you to be in control. It’s also best to start with a harness as a pulling dog will cause injury to the neck and trachea, and the dog will pull.
As mentioned above, puppy mill dogs are likely to have lived in a crate, therefore, get a crate. It is all they know, and they will feel safe in it. Make sure it is big enough to allow some movement and you have the option of leaving the door open in case they should want to venture out.
When shopping for treats, aim for ones with high nutritional value, mainly high protein value, as your dog is likely to be malnourished. Feed them both dry and wet food to help them gain some healthy weight.
And finally, you’ll need a collar and ID. Avoid a chain choke collar as it can be frightening to abused dogs. ID tags will hold your address and phone number so that your dog can be returned if they run off and can be easily purchased at any pet store.
When you get your dog home, take it slow. Don’t let them loose in the house. Welcome them into one room with their crate, water, food, toys, and bed to get them comfortable. Keep the volume low so as to not startle them, don’t leave them alone, and have an old towel ready for accidents. They might try to escape or experience panic attacks. This is where your patience is needed.
Once they’ve seen their room, you can then gradually introduce them to the rest of your home. Give them a few days to get used to the house and avoid a walk until they’re ready.
Noticing the signs
Trauma can be triggered in various ways, so it’s best to keep an eye on your dog’s behavior and note down anything that trigger a fearful or aggressive response. Some dogs flinch from a raised hand, assuming they’re going to be hit, or are scared of a raised voice or eat their food as fast as possible because they assume they won’t get any more. A specific object previously used to hurt them, like a bat, a newspaper, or an umbrella, could trigger a fearful reaction or a certain area where they’ve been hurt might be somewhere you aren’t permitted to touch.
Dogs will often vomit due to stress, due to their muscles tensing and their body reacting to feelings of discomfort. Stresses like a visit to the vet, riding in the car or being left alone can all lead to a dog to vomiting. So, it goes without saying that mistreatment or a new environment can too. Native Pet’s article can explain more of what it means when your dog is throwing up undigested food.
Mold your behavior around these triggers. If you’re dog isn’t a fan of you raising your voice, maybe whisper when your opposing team scores? Keep your umbrella in your bag. Gradually feed your dog with toys to get them to stop eating so fast. You can gradually build trust and reverse the negative impact of your dogs past experiences with loving support.
The rehabilitation starts here, and it won’t be easy.
Give your dog somewhere to go when they feel overwhelmed or fearful. Their crate would be useful but leave them to it. Give them the space to work through their feelings and know that you aren’t coming after them.
Give them positive experiences by playing with them, giving treats, or taking them outside for excursions. Avoid triggers to build a whole host of happy memories for your pup.
If you need to potty train your dog, you can use an exercise pen and puppy pads, either outside or indoors. Place them in the pen every few hours until the have finished their business. Be persistent and consistent.
A result of fear, biting is also something to consider when you adopt an abused dog. They may snap when you touch their food bowls or somewhere they were often hit. Try to avoid raising your voice or telling them off. Take note of what made them bite and avoid doing it again. Wear falconry or welding gloves to protect yourself if you need to handle them while they are being aggressive, like clipping time.
If your dog is prone to barking, they could be doing it for a lot of reasons including attention-seeking, territorial reasons or in response to certain sounds. Determining what they are barking at is the key, but it’s often handled by calming the dog.
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