Bringing a new dog into your life can be an amazing experience. Many people envision the first day home with their new puppy or dog as a day of basking in the sun, playing fetch, and receiving numerous licks under the chin. Often times, this is exactly what the first day home with a new dog consists of, but what if your dog has not had an ideal life up until you got him? What if your puppy has fear and negative things associated with human contact? How do you care for a mistreated dog?
When you bring home a new dog, the same rules apply whether the dog has had an abusive or neglectful past, or if he has lived a life in the lap of luxury. Dogs need a simple handful of things to take place to make them relax and accept their new home as a wonderful place. A dog that has been previously mistreated will have an even greater need for these things to occur. Let's look, in order, at the proper way to care for and bring home a mistreated dog.
1. Proper Introductions
The way you introduce yourself to a shy or fearful dog is extremely important. With a few simple tricks, you can put the dog at ease, and show that you are friend, not foe.
Start by making sure you are not facing the dog with the front part of your body. This can make the dog feel as though you are coming at him very dominantly, or even in an aggressive manner. Instead, walk sideways, or even backwards, towards the dog.
Once you approach the dog, remain very quiet and calm. Talking to a fearful dog simply adds more stimulation to his already overwhelmed senses. Simply sit next to the dog, still keeping your side or back to him, and wait. What are you waiting for? For his nose. Once he begins curiously sniffing you, you can silently celebrate in your head!
Once you feel that the dog has properly relaxed in your presence, (he is not panting, drooling, whimpering, or wildly glancing around the room) then it is time for the next step.
2. Building Your Relationship
The best way to build a relationship with a fearful or mistreated dog is by going for a lovely walk. A fearful dog needs to feel that its owner is in total control. You can show your new dog that you are now in leadership over him in a matter of minutes! Simply attach the leash and lead him in a fast-paced and quiet walk. How long should your first walk last? Probably a minimum of 40 minutes, or until the dog relaxes. The dog should be walking with his head in a medium position and his ears back, his tail in the medium or relaxed position, and he should be focused on you, not on what scary things are waiting around each bend in the road.
3. Earning Trust
The last step in caring for a mistreated dog is earning his trust. The best start to this you have already completed by going for a nice walk, with you leading. Trust is continuously earned in the dog world. Every time you offer food, safety, comfort, and gentle discipline, you teach your dog that he can completely trust you. He can trust that your reactions are always for his benefit and he can trust that you are there to take care of everything. He has no need to fear or be nervous around humans once he learns to trust. Trust can take a long time to build, so be patient with your mistreated dog.
Taking in a mistreated dog can turn into one of the most meaningful life experiences many humans have experienced. When you bring a dog into a balanced and loving home that has come from a life full of neglect, abuse, and general mistreatment, it leaves you with an amazing feeling. By following a few simple rules, your new dog can gain a new found ability to have confidence in himself and can learn to trust people again. The two of you will have a bond that only fellow rescuers and their dogs will be able to relate to.