Overcoming the Behaviors That Arise From Abusive Treatment

Animal cruelty is pervasive and even at this moment, a helpless animal is being subject to some form of brutality. Many of these poor dogs find their way into adoptive situations, which is a blessing and a curse. The curse is that because of the brutality they have experienced, they often become an unworkable challenge in their adoptive homes, a tragedy both for the dog and the humans who have tried to make a difficult situation work.

The good news: it can work. The bad news: it takes work.

The ASPCA motto is “All animals are entitled to protection under the law.” However, there are way too many situations where animals are not protected and undergo unimaginable suffering. Here are just a few of those situations.

Dog Fighting

When dogs are raised to fight, they are trained to be aggressive and often part of the training involves attacking and killing ‘bait,’ specifically a small animal, or an innocent dog. In a ‘real’ fight, injuries range from catastrophic blood loss to broken bones. The losing dogs are killed, discarded or further brutalized. A veterinarian is rarely, if ever, brought in to treat these poor animals.

Puppy Mills

Today there are an estimated 10,000 mills in the U.S. The breeding dogs and their pups are kept in cages that are in deplorable condition. Proper breeding is usually not a concern and often the pups have many health problems.

Animal Hoarding

Perhaps it will surprise you that up to 250,000 animals are victims of hoarding each year. Most hoarders have good intentions, but get carried away and can no longer afford the proper care for their animals.

Adopting an Abused Dog

If you have opened your heart and home to an abused dog, chances are you won’t notice too many behavioral issues for the first few weeks. Once the basic transition period is over, you will probably see some signs of your dog’s former abuse. These are his ways of communicating. There is no one set of signs or symptoms, but some common ones include:

  • Cowering
  • Tucked tail
  • Sudden aggression for no reason
  • Becoming overly submissive
  • Whining or whimpering
  • Trembling or shaking

Making it Work

Depending on the dog’s issue, there are a number of ways, using positive reinforcement training, that can help your dog modify his communication style to be a happier, well-adjusted dog, and for you to have a happy, calm home.

Making use of private lessons is the best place to start. I use home visits as a way to evaluate and assess what’s going on with the dog and to come up with the best possible training plan for dealing with him.  Sometimes I ask the dog parents to bring their pet to my facility when it is empty of everyone except me.

My approach is based on treating each dog as a unique individual with a history that has hurt him, and now it is up to me, and you, to unhurt him.

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