Adopting a dog is always a complicated decision that demands one commit to a future of great responsibility, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. You are bringing another living being into your home and your life, and taking on the challenge of providing for all their needs for the rest of their life. In return, your new furry friend will provide you with unconditional love and companionship, comfort and laughter. There is no doubt that the benefits far outweigh the inconveniences, as evidenced by the many individuals who have chosen to bring a dog into their lives. But what if the dog has a history of abuse, mistreatment or neglect?
Considering an Abused Dog
There is no doubt that an abused, mistreated or neglected dog deserves the same chance at a new life as any other dog, and in fact may become all the more devoted a companion to their new, loving and attentive owner, but the truth is that such a dog will come with its own set of challenges. Following are four key things to consider when adopting an abused dog:
- Most shelters or rescue organizations evaluate dogs prior to placing them up for adoption, in order to better determine their temperament and possible trouble spots. It is important to take advantage of this, and ask as many questions as you need in order to better understand whether a prospective dog will be a good fit for your home and your life. Questions such as, “Is he food aggressive?” and “Is he afraid of sudden noises and movements?” can help you figure out a prospective dog’s needs.
- You have plenty of time–take it. If you have found a formerly abused dog that you are interested in adopting, take the time to get to know the dog. Take him for a walk, interact with him, and see how he responds to you. It is sometimes true that a formerly abused dog is yet aware of the fact that they are in a better place, and is eager to leave their troubles behind and give their affection to someone new. Others, however, may need time to get to know you, and by taking the time to better understand them, you can decide if this is something you are willing to wait for.
- You will have to be incredibly patient. New people and new environments can seem incredibly traumatic for a formerly abused dog, and this means that they will not simply take it for granted that their adoption means a better life. It may take days or even weeks for them to feel comfortable coming to you when called, and perhaps even longer before they participate in normal dog behaviors. Many formerly abused dogs can be helped enormously by having a safe place that they can go to whenever they want–such as a crate or quiet corner of the house. Taking them on frequent walks around the neighborhood can also help them to become acclimated to their new environment and better disconnect from their past. If you are willing to be patient, the rewards can be great, but it is important to recognize this need from the very beginning.
- Obedience training may be very helpful, or necessary, for improving a formerly abused dog’s disposition. Obedience training can give a dog something to focus on, and distinct, predictable rewards to work toward. This can be enormously helpful in allowing a formerly abused dog to work through their discomforts and build the confidence they will need in order to lead a happier, healthier life and relationship.
If you do make the bold decision to adopt a formerly abused dog, you may find that it is enormously beneficial to work with a professional dog trainer, as they may have fantastic tips that are extremely useful. It is also helpful to watch your dog’s body language in order to get to know them and assist them through periods of difficulty. For example, if you notice that your dog becomes aggressive or fearful in certain situations, you can work better to desensitize them to these situations through their obedience training and your own positive actions. No matter how you go about integrating a formerly abused dog into your home, your actions in taking such an animal into your life is nothing short of heroic, and it’s quite likely that your new furry companion will recognize this fully.