5 Tips for Successfully Rehabilitating an Abused Dog
Rehabilitating an abused or chronically neglected dog is a challenge, but it's also one of the most rewarding things you will do as an animal lover.
Puppy mill dogs, especially those used for overbreeding, may require extra patience and love, but committing to these dogs means you get to witness unbridled delight as they discover the comforts of becoming a member of a family. Here are 5 tips from the experts about how to help your new friend start a happy, healthy life.
Give Them Time to Decompress
Though you may be eager to start introducing your new friend to the joys of belly rubs and romps in the yard, everything will be new and scary to an abused or neglected dog. Give them a few days in a quiet room of their own to decompress. Let them get used to unfamiliar household sounds such as the TV or washer and dryer. This will also give them, and other pets in the house, time to accept the others’ scents.
Review Housetraining 101
It’s likely your rescued dog never had anyone teach her where to relieve herself outside of a crate. Even if you’re adopting an adult dog, review the rules of housetraining a puppy. Until you know your dog has learned the rules, she should always be in one of three places: inside with you, outside with you or in a crate or confined space that’s easy to clean. Don’t overlook the magical power of treats when she does her business outside. Give her a treat within three seconds of going where you want her to go, and she’ll quickly learn what makes you happy.
Be a Detective
Abused animals come with mysterious baggage; they can never tell us what happened to them, or what pushes their buttons. From the first day you bring your new buddy home, start making a list of what you learn about him. Do cubed hot dogs give him courage? Do certain sounds scare him? Is he afraid of leashes, loud noises or even petting? As you build your list of his likes and dislikes, you’ll start to get a picture of how to help him enjoy life and assimilate into the family.
Your rescue pet may never respond to even the most tried-and-true training methods. For example, many puppy mill dogs spend their entire lives in boxes or crates. A better method of limiting their range may be a harness and light leash attached to a piece of furniture or eyebolt in a baseboard. Give them a soft bed and blanket and they’ll be happy waiting without feeling like they’re back in their old life.
Visit the Vet
Even if your dog had a health exam at the rescue, take him to your veterinarian within two weeks of bringing him home. Rescues are often overwhelmed by volume, but your vet will have plenty of time to identify any health issues that need to be addressed. This is also the time to get recommendations for diet and exercise and supply of heart worm pills.
Be Extra Patient
Some abused animals start to blossom in days while others can take years to learn the rules, how to trust and have fun. Be extra patient with housetraining. Be loving, positive, and consistent with training and let your new friend progress at her own pace.
Robin Howard is a full-time freelance writer who lives in Charleston, South Carolina. When she’s not writing you can find her traveling the world or kayaking, paddleboarding and racing sailboats in the Charleston Harbor. In addition to ghost writing for SMBs and Fortune 500 companies, she is a regular contributor to Charleston Style & Design, Charleston Magazine, IBM Systems Magazine and Computer Technology Review. Robin is the author of Moving to Charleston: The Un-Tourist Guide and is currently working on a guidebook entitled Pluff Mud Pie: A Traveler's Guide to Unforgettable Days and Nights in Charleston.