Sadly, there are many animals in the UK that experience some sort of abuse in their lifetime, whether that be physical abuse or emotional abuse, with the most common form being neglect. If you are caring for an abused pet there are steps you must take to ensure they have a happy, settled and healthy life ahead. By meeting their basic needs and providing the support they need you can give them the love that they deserve.
Providing Emotional Support
When you are dealing with a previously abused animal you need to be aware that training them will likely be more difficult than in normal circumstances. Abused animals may have a problem with being left alone and this could cause them to act aggressively. It is important that you never raise your voice or shout at them as this can be very triggering, and that you remain patient at all times to help them gain your trust.
Abused animals can become frightened by the slightest thing, which could cause them to bite in fear. It is crucial that you supervise them at all times around other people, especially children, and other pets. You should always be wary of them getting stressed as this can cause aggression.
Some signs of stress are:
• Showing Teeth
• Lifting Tail Up and Stiff Wagging
Developing a routine with any dog is the key to a healthy and happy relationship between you both. Dogs enjoy routine as they like to know when they are going to get walked and fed. Routine helps abused dogs feel secure and gains and maintains trust.
With any dog, especially abused, you must allow them space and give them time to be comfortable around you. Allow them to approach you in their own time. Dogs who have been abused tend to be wary around people so if you have any visitors to your home it is important you allow time for your dog to come around to them.
Dogs bond through play so this is an excellent way to build a relationship and trust. Try playing fetch, running or an activity that you both enjoy. It also helps them stay active and healthy.
Building strong bonds and trust can be done through physical affection. Once your dog is happy with you petting him you should do this daily through brushing, cuddling or playing.
As dogs are pack animals they enjoy following rules, so it is important you have rules set in place. Training a previously abused dog can be quite a difficult task and you may need to seek help from your local dog trainer or behaviourist.
Providing Physical Support
The first and most crucial step in providing physical support is meeting their basic needs to build their trust. Starting with food and feeding. What you feed will be based on the dog’s individual needs as many abused dogs need to gain weight. Other factors to consider are: breed, age and weight. Develop a routine with them by feeding at the same times each day, feeding adult dogs twice daily.
Dogs need a comfortable place to sleep or somewhere that they can get away to if they want some quiet time. You could provide them with a dog bed, crate or specific place suitable for them within your home. Introduce them to their sleeping place slowly and allow them to get used to this and feel comfortable. Having their own space where they can go at any time of the day or if they need alone time allows them to feel safe and secure.
All dogs need exercise and time outside. It is important that you make this a part of your daily routine as it keeps your dog healthy and builds trust between you both. The level of exercise they need per day will vary by breed and age.
All dogs need occasional grooming and if they have been abused or neglected they may need a lot more attention when it comes to grooming. It can start with a good bath and a haircut, however, if they are wary of other people it would be a good idea not to take them to a professional groomer straight away. It is better to start grooming and bathing them within your own home and a few steps to follow are:
• Always begin by brushing and combing.
• Use scissors to remove any clumps of hair that you cannot comb.
• Use dog shampoo and gently massage into their fur.
• Comb through their hair again.
• Trim any hair that may be in your dog’s eyes.
• Use a towel to remove any excess water from dog’s fur – an abused dog may be frightened of the hairdryer as they can be spooked by certain sounds.
If you are unsure what health state your previously abused pet is in, then it is advised that you contact your local vet.