When you adopt a previously abused puppy, the little guy comes with a lot of emotional baggage. Whether he was improperly socialized, kept isolated in squalid conditions or physically beaten, your puppy has probably learned that people are something to fear. With some training, gentle handling and lots of love, you can help de-traumatize your new pup, making him a well-adjusted member of your family.
Calming the Pup
Set up a room in your home that contains your new pup's crate, food and water. For the first few days, keep your pup in this room and play calming classical music to help him relax as he adjusts to his new surroundings, according to the New York Post. Lay down puppy pads to prevent accidents. As your pup gets used to your presence, allow him access to the rest of your home. Maintain a daily routine of feeding the pup two to three times a day and taking him out several times for walks, exercise and bathroom breaks. A constant routine is very calming and reassuring to a previously abused pup, recommends the Pet360 website.
Many abused pups have been yelled at or hit in the past, so avoid such cruel methods when training your pooch. Instead, use positive training methods to reinforce the behavior you want, by giving your pup treats, verbal praise or doggie toys as rewards. For example, wait for your pup to come and sit with you, then give him treats to encourage this behavior. If your dog exhibits fearful, aggressive or other inappropriate behavior, simply ignore him until he stops. You can also interrupt him with a clap of your hands and redirect your pup to an acceptable activity, suggests the Victoria Stilwell Positively website. Keep the interruption as gentle as possible, because abused pups can become frightened by loud sounds.
An abused pup may have been exposed to cruelty from a person wearing distinctive clothing or hitting him with a distinctive item, like a shoe or belt. Through trial and error, you'll have to determine what sounds, items or gestures may trigger your pup's fear or aggression. Once you do, you can slowly expose him to less frightening versions of these things. For example, use a recording of a scary noise, rewarding your pup each time he hears it, recommends the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. If certain items scare him, place them at a distance, giving him treats and praise when you expose him to them daily, bringing them closer each time.
Pups learn most of their social behaviors by the age of 16 weeks old, according to the Whole Dog Journal. Unfortunately, abused puppies learn to fear people during this time. To get your pup comfortable around you, feed him dry kibble by hand daily, suggests the Best Friends Animal Society. Have other members of your family and your friends do the same so Fido associates people with good things rather than bad. The entire rehabilitation process may take weeks or months before you see results. When working with a pup who's aggressive, seek the help of an animal behaviorist, recommends the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA.