Help for Dog Owners Who Think Their Dog Was Abused

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Although many dogs may act as though they were abused they probably were not. How to tell if a dog was abused and how to train it correctly. How to help a dog who was abused. Was my dog abused? How to care for a dog that is nervous or shy. How to car

For some reason people tend to romanticize that the dog, or puppy, they own was abused. In many cases they are incorrect about the history of their dog and simply want to feel better about their relationship with the animal.  Even dogs rescued from puppy mills were often not abused, but may suffer from behavior problems due to neglect.

Many people look at dogs, or pups, cowering in an animal shelter and immediately think the dog was abused. In truth, while animal shelters tend to get a lot of neglected pets, abuse is not all that common. Many pets are at the shelters out of loving homes, brought in because their owner passed away or could not keep the pet. Abusers are more likely to keep a pet and continue abusing it than to put the pet in consideration and surrender it to a shelter. As such unless the animal shelter removed a pet as a response to a complaint about abuse, abused animals rarely enter the rescue centers. If they did rescue an abused animal they would likely work to rehabilitate it before putting it for adoption since some are prone to aggression.

a badly neglected dog  A badly neglected dog.  Please see

So chances are unless you were told your dog was abused, or it has visible injuries, it very likely was not.

Some dogs show signs of submissive behavior, such as submissive urination. This does not mean a dog was abused. This is simply a mannerism common in some breeds of dogs, particularly small dogs who are often poorly socialized.

Some dogs cower when an arm is raised. Again, this does not mean the dog was abused. In fact this can just mean the dog is smart, aware that a raised arm is a show of anger. Dogs, after all, are very in tune with reading body language of other dogs, humans, and prey. Their ability to interpret an action is a survival mechanism, not an indicator of former abuse.

Pampering a dog because there is a believed history of abuse some times results in problem behavior. Owners are sometimes afraid to discipline an abused dog because they feel it has already been through enough trauma.

dog rescued from Iraq  Dog rescued from Iraq.

If a dog was actually abused it should be seen by a veterinarian to be sure all injuries have healed properly and fully. Some dogs may need pain medication if bones were broken and not allowed to heal properly.

Remember even if a dog was abused, the abuse was in the past. The dog is not experiencing it now, so there is no need for special treatment (as long as the dog is not in physical pain as the result of an injury). Dogs live in the moment. They do not so much carry grudges as we humans do. As a dog owner who has a dog with a known history of abuse, the best thing you can do for the dog, is to forget that it was abused. Train the dog just as you would any other dog.

Obedience lessons are very important. They help dogs overcome self esteem problems. Formal obedience lessons also help dogs learn how to socialize with other dogs and people. Dogs should not be allowed to get away with negative behavior because an owner believes it to have been abused in the past.  Select an obedience school that uses the reward method, or the clicker training method. 

four smart looking dogs

If the dog is showing signs of submissive urination the owner should work towards fixing this problem. They should remember it is not a sign of abuse, although a lot of dogs are abused as the result of having this problem.

Related Reading

How to Prevent your Dog from Barking

Eleven Questions to Ask Yourself before getting a Dog or Pup

How to Select the Right Dog for You

Tips on Surrendering a Dog to an Animal Shelter


Posted on May 19, 2010
Rae Morvay
Posted on Jan 27, 2010