Dogs and cats who have been mistreated by previous owners, or who have been abandoned and forced to live on the streets, often harbor emotional, mental and behavioral issues that can be a challenge to overcome. Sadly, many animals, including family pets, are victims of abuse at some point in their lives.
- Depriving a young animal of its mother through too-early weaning
- Chaining or tying up an animal or forcing it to spend most of its time in a kennel or cage
- Deliberate or thoughtless infliction of chronic stress or pain
- Yelling, hitting or other forms of verbal or physical punishment
- Lack of proper care in feeding, grooming, and attending to health needs
- Partial or complete social isolation; lack of appropriate learning experiences
Depending on how old the pet is when the abuse occurs, it can affect him for the rest of his life, even if he’s taken away from his abuser and adopted into a loving home. However, with the proper training and love, abused animals can be rehabilitated.
These are general signs. Specific signs may reflect the type of abuse the pet suffered. For example, if a young dog or cat has been forced to spend many hours alone, it may fear a return of this situation with such intensity that they become overly attached to a caring owner and may show extreme anxiety when separated from him/her. Alternatively, affected dogs or cats may simply fear being left alone – a slightly different situation.
Pets who have been abused are easy to spot if you know the signs. They are very often withdrawn, distrustful, depressed, physically inactive, and unwilling to play. A particularly sensitive abused animal will be off in the corner of the room or in a hiding place, too insecure to even explore her environment.
Cats that have not been exposed to people during the first 7 weeks of life never become fully accepting of people and thus rarely make good pets. Cats that have been frightened, mistreated or physically hurt during those seven weeks may develop generalized hostility that sometimes cannot be overcome.
Creating a Safe Environment for a Previously Abused Pet
Make him feel loved and needed – communicate clearly with him.
Do not force anything on him under any circumstances – allow him to adapt to his new family and life at his own pace. Provide him with his own safe place where he can be alone when he feels like it.
Create opportunities for him to be successful and build confidence. Feed him a balanced, species-appropriate diet and make sure he gets plenty of physical activity, including 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise each day. The form of exercise may need to be adapted so your pet feels safe.
Additional Steps to Stabilize Your Pet in a New Environment.
Speak in low tones around your new pet, including when you’re giving training commands. This goes for everyone in the household. Don’t shout at or around your pet. Dogs and cats are extremely sensitive to the tone of human voices, and it is very likely that yelling will be a trigger for a previously abused pet.
Spend some quiet time each day with your new pet. Pick a room both of you are comfortable in, bring a supply of irresistible treats, and close the door behind you. Read a book or engage in some other quiet activity, and every few minutes put a treat near your pet.
Make time for these quiet one-on-ones with your pet each day to build his confidence and trust in you. Let him set the pace. Don’t try to rush things.
Dr. Dodman also recommends clicker training to build your pet’s confidence. His theory is that clicker training empowers your pet because she has the opportunity to find a way to make you click and thus receive a reward.
When your pet is well along the healing path you’ve laid out for him, it’s time to initiate rehabilitation in the form of desensitization. Dr. Dodman calls desensitization “the behavioral equivalent of homeopathy.” It involves introducing a little bit of what bothers your pet, gradually and under close supervision.
With reference to training, as ethologist Konrad Lorenz once said, “Art and science aren’t enough – patience is the basic stuff.” This is especially true when it comes to rehabilitating formerly abused animals.
Given the right setting and the right owner, many dogs and cats do have the ability to overcome past abusive situations and go on to live full and happy lives.
❤ From Shelter Dog To Family Pet – Making The Transition Easier