A Word of the Wise: Adopting Traumatized Dogs

Preparing to welcome a dog into your life is an exciting time. However, if you are adopting a dog with a traumatizing background, you have to prepare for a long road to earning his trust. It would be a little trickier to get this dog to trust you and the rest of the family members. Often, you might feel like you are not making any progress at all. With care, love, and patience, the dogs will begin to feel safe once more. So, be careful about breaking their hearts. Make sure you are committed to having them with you before taking on the responsibility of opening your home for these dogs.

Ask for Professional Help

There is no need to make this transition all by yourself. Even if you have had dogs in the past and you think you’re a good enough fur parent, don’t take on the role of a parent to an abused dog alone. Seek help from professionals because they have vast experience in dealing with traumatized dogs. You might have to enroll your new family member in a dog training camp. Here, the experts will assess the dog’s behavior and make the necessary adjustments in the program to help alleviate the emotional stress of the dogs.

Most training programs last for two weeks, but your new dog might have to come in for sessions even after the completion of the program. You need to work with the trainer to find the appropriate behavior modification for the dogs. It will take some time for the dogs to feel safe again, but time and commitment are hopefully on your side.

Know the History

What kind of trauma did the dog experience? Is it an army dog that saw war, famine, and death? Is it a physically abused dog? Was the dog left by a previous owner? There are different kinds of abuses. Knowing what affects your dog’s mentality will help you understand how to deal with him once he’s with you. It will also give you information on the triggers that might cause the dog to act out.

Keep the Dog Safe

Take some extra precautions to make sure that the dog feels safe and secure in your home. For example, make sure that the collar fits properly so the dog doesn’t feel like it is getting choked. You might want to invest in a lightweight leash long enough for the dog to be able to walk freely without bolting away. Practice a firm hold on the leash, though be careful not to hold on too tight as to hurt the dog. It may react aggressively. You need to start making the dog feel that he is safe in your home and your care.

Prepare a Comfortable Spot

Most abused and traumatized dogs have never felt love. They cannot differentiate love from abuse. One of the ways you can make them feel safe is to create a private and comfortable space for them. A large bed or pillow in the corner of the room will do that. Create a space where the dog can “hide” from people if it doesn’t feel ready to embrace the deluge of people coming into your house. This is their safe zone, and it will help reduce their anxiety.

Be Patient

There is no timeline to making a dog trust you. You need to be patient because it will take time for them to learn how to trust humans once more. They need to be familiar with your home first, and they need to realize that this is a different life already. Slowly expose them to people, so you cannot invite guests over for the first week weeks, and maybe months, that you rescue a traumatized dog. Don’t overwhelm your dogs with too much attention because they are not used to it yet.

Use Food to Bond with Them

Are you brave enough? Can you use your hand to feed this new member of the family? You can put a couple of treats on your hands and wait for the dog to come to you and eat from your hand. This is a sign that it is starting to trust you. If it’s okay with it to eat from your hands, then that’s a good sign of improvement in your relationship.

As with many things, healing takes an awful lot of time. Please be patient with your dog. Nobody cared enough for it in the past, so it was hard for it to imagine that someone will care now. Can you imagine how pitiful that feeling is? Isn’t it heartbreaking? So, carve the time out to make it feel welcome to your family.