Adopting Abused Dogs: Building Trust

Published: 06th October 2010
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Of the people who adopt from shelters, only a few will adopt a dog they know has experienced abuse. The fact is, a large number of the dogs found in shelters have been rescued from an abusive situation of one type or another, but the effects of that abuse differ from animal to animal. A person who decides to adopt a dog severely affected by his past knows what he is getting into and has made the decision carefully. If you are thinking of being a rescuing angel for such a dog, here are some things you need to keep in mind.

Why to Adopt an Abused Dog

If you enjoy being a part of a transformative process and if you have the patience and dedication to deal with a variety of behavioral and emotional problems, then you may be a good person to adopt one of these dogs. Generally, because of what an abused dog has gone through, it will take patience to make him a part of your family, but the investment can be worth it. At the other end of the journey, you will have a bright and cheerful companion who appreciates what you have done for him.

Serious Considerations to Bear in Mind Before Adopting

Although it may be nice to think of the rewards for this work, there are downsides. As mentioned earlier, these dogs can come with a host of emotional and behavioral problems, such as aggression, shyness, barking, nipping and biting. They are also unpredictable. Since the dog can’t tell what he or she went through, you may inadvertently do something to make the dog act out. Correcting these outbursts and behaviors will take time and it all depends on how quickly the dog accepts you. Building trust is the most important thing in your relationship, so here are some ways to start off on the right foot.

• Provide all his basic needs. Given that the dog may have come from an environment where he was not taken care of properly, it is your responsibility to make sure he has fresh water and food available at all times. Consider that if he was abused, it is quite likely that he was also neglected. Assuring him of his basic needs will go a long way toward building trust.

• Get a crate. This is an important purchase for any new dog, but especially for one who has been abused, as he may initially be uncomfortable or nervous in your home. The crate gives him a place that is safe and secure to call his own.

• Don’t rush things. You may want to be friends right away, but you have to be patient. Give him time to adjust.

• Avoid being forceful with your dog – let him do things on his own terms. While you may want your new dog to walk perfectly on a leash or learn a variety of commands, for the first few weeks you will want to let him do things his way. This will help him focus on enjoying life, not about whether you are displeased with him.

• Be non-threatening. While with your dog, speak gently and move softly. Show him you won’t hurt him. If the dog cowers when you approach, walk to him backwards, with your hand extended. This way, he has a chance to smell you and get to know you without feeling threatened.

• Never, ever hit him. Your new dog has been hit probably more times than you want to imagine, so it is never okay to strike him. It will just reverse all the work you have done to gain his trust. This is true with any dog. There should never be a reason to hit your dog. A pack leader should be able to exert control and remain calm at all times.

Despite the difficulties posed by adopting an abused dog, as the old adage goes, "Good things come to those who wait" and in this case it is really true. If you take your time, you will see your new dog transform from the shy and scared dog he was, to a bright animal, full of life, love and boundless joy.

Are you giving your pet the best pet health care you are able to give? Do you understand the medications and treatments prescribed for your pet? David Jackson, VMD, is now offering a free Ebook by subscribing to My Pet Information Network at The Ebook is entitled "Making It Work: A Veterinary Guide To Your Pet’s Health".

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