A human who’s been traumatized lives his life experiencing constant depression and anxiety, even years after the mortifying event. Fortunately, there are a lot of different treatments to help them cope up and heal. But what about traumatized dogs? Similar to humans, dogs have feelings and can be greatly affected by having an abusive owner, forced and trained to be in an illegal dogfighting ring, neglect, and left alone.
Deciding to adopt a traumatized dog is a courageous act. Traumas have a lifelong effect on dogs, which makes caring and training them extra more challenging. They can have behavioral issues and missed socialization that hinders development. It’s a lot of work but patience, effort, and love can even turn even the saddest of dogs into happy pooches.
If you are planning to adopt a traumatized dog, here are some tips that’ll help you care for and treat their emotional trauma.
How To Care for Traumatized Dogs
Some dogs need a bit more love than others, especially those who grew up in a neglectful and abusive environment. Like humans, fear and anxiety disorders can develop in traumatized pets and they have varying defense mechanisms. Some dogs might become aggressive with interaction while others might try to escape when they are in a situation that seems frightening to them. Some other signs of traumatized dogs are avoidance behaviors like hiding or stilling, fidgeting by pacing, pawing at their owners, shaking, panting, and excessive vocalization.
If you are planning to adopt a dog where you knew had a mortifying past, here are some helpful tips on how to care for traumatized pooches.
Know the triggers
The first thing you need to do is to identify the triggers. By knowing the things that your dog fears the most, you can slowly work on eliminating these until your pet dog becomes comfortable with his environment. These triggers can be loud noises, too many people in the room, and other dogs. Even basic activities like bathing and trimming the nails can be triggers for your dog.
Look out for body language that signifies stress and immediately intervene with the situation. Pushing through with these situations or actions can only create new fear and worsen the triggers.
Create safe places
A traumatized dog most likely hasn’t felt safe with its previous owners. This is why it is important to create safe places for them in their new home. A safe and positive place is where the treats and relaxation are made. This conditions the dog to a more positive emotional response and is a wonderful training tool as well.
Safe places can be their crate or the mat. Once these have become their safe place, make sure to keep it that way. No bad things should ever happen to your dog once they are in their safe place.
Train with positive reinforcement
The most effective type of training is positive reinforcement. This is where desirable behaviors are rewarded with treats, praises, and soothing pats for a few minutes. If your dog isn’t comfortable with walking up to you yet, one effective way is to be place treats between you and your pooch and allow him to come to you willingly.
Avoid speaking and commanding, instead allow your dog to make the decision whether to eat treats and walk up to you.
Use relaxation techniques
Relaxation techniques are great way to help your pet get used to its new surroundings. Sit quietly (either beside or have your dog in your lap), and gently pet and talk to her in a soothing voice. If she is feeling more comfortable, you can give her a toy to play with. Do this for 20 minutes.
As you notice your dog’s fear levels decreasing, you can gradually introduce “loud noises” back into the home. This could be using the dishwasher or clothes dryer, vacuuming, or using the blender. While these household noises are occurring, give your dog their favorite treat so they will not associate these with fear but with positive situations instead.
Avoid severe scolding
Dog training requires patience but when dealing with traumatized dogs, extra patience is a must. And while it can be very tempting to scold a dog for displaying unwanted behavior, resist and don’t yell at him. Severe scolding can inflict more trauma and fear and what we want is to create a calm and safe setting for the dog. Until your dog is comfortable, avoid making loud noises. Once you’ve seen an improvement, you can gently scold if needed. Take note, gently.
Give them control
One basic rule when it comes to dog training is to establish who’s the alpha at home. In this case, you, the owner should be the alpha. If you can’t reinforce this, it can quite troublesome to live with your dog.
However, with a traumatized dog who is entering an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people, this can induce anxiety and fear. First, don’t force your dog to do things they don’t want to do. Give them space and give them relief. You can always establish authority over them later on but remember, this is a traumatized dog. Don’t immediately dominate but instead, allow them to decompress.