Adopting an abused or neglected animal can be rewarding but it is also a huge time and patience commitment. Abused and neglected dogs may have all sorts of fears and behaviors that could take years to correct and could possibly never go away completely. It takes time to help an abused pet learn to look at the world differently and develop trust in humans again. With knowledge, hard work, and commitment, an abused animal can be transformed into a loving member of your family. Before adopting an abused or neglected animal, try to take a minute to understand what behaviors to expect and what precautionary measures should be taken.
The first and most important step that should be taken when adopting an abused animal is to make sure you have all the knowledge available about that animal. Ask as many questions as possible. Make sure to spend some time with whoever has been raising the dog. If there is a foster family or a particular shelter volunteer who has spent some time with the dog, find out what they have tried and what the results have been for any behavior problems the dog may have. Find out if the shelter or rescue volunteers know anything about the circumstances of the dog’s abuse.
After bringing home your new pet the first task you have at hand is to establish trust. The only way to do this is to consistently meet your dog’s need for physical comfort, food, shelter, water, and companionship. Try to establish a routine so your dog knows that food will be given daily on a certain, dependable schedule, that water will be plentiful and fresh, and that playtime will be provided every day. Until you have established that you are to be trusted, you may get little else done with your dog.
Be prepared for specific caring that may be needed. Depending on the nature of your dog’s abuse or neglect, there are a wide variety of special resources that may be needed. Make sure you have the means to provide veterinary care, behavioral help, or other required extras your animal may need. Emotionally abused animals often deal with mobility issues, infections, special skin care, or respiratory therapy for many years to come. Early beatings due to housebreaking accidents may cause the dog to never be able to master the skill. Be ready to put in the time and funds that could be needed in helping rehabilitate your pet.
When your pet is ready to start training, make sure you are focusing on positive training methods. When training an abused or neglected animal, it takes time to see results, which is why patience is the most important quality for an adoptive family to possess. Focus on what your dog does right, then worry about what he or she does wrong. Consider using treat dispensing toys to help curb your dog’s destructive behaviors and keep their attention. If notable issues continue to surface or you’re having trouble helping your pet make the positive changes you were hoping for, consider working with a veterinary behaviorist.