Helping an Abused Dog

This is our a 2 yr old Lab/mix. She will only eat in her crate laying down. How do I get her to eat standing up and outside of her crate? Right now she is not eating or drinking water. She is an abused dog from Georgia.

By Ria from East Hartford, Ct

Helping an Abused Dog
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What is this not eating or drinking? Can you hand feed? Offer water? Your new baby is terrified and it will just take some time for her to trust. When she finds she is a family member, not crated or tied or locked up or ignored or beaten she will be the best, most faithful, loving dog. Treats from your hand, praise for potty outside, easy on the scolding should she have an accident inside, peacefulness, warmth, love, touching, good food, build good immune system, borax in the carpets for fleas, no vaccines(see and you will never vaccinate anything), food grade diatomacious earth for intestinal worms, all the good stuff like love and kisses and she will return ten fold good things for the family.

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If she's only eating/drinking in her crate, maybe that's because she feels safe there. I don't have any experience with this (although you're going to get a lot of it in the archives below), but I'd suggest to continue feeding her in her crate for now, but maybe leave a bowl of food & water in a quiet place not real close to people so that she has that option if she wants to try it. Also, maybe while she's in her crate, put a small treat or couple of pieces of dry dog food on the floor just outside the crate until she gets curious & decides to try it,then continue to do this & over a few days move the treat farther & farther away from her crate until she will come out & eat it.

Right now I think you should just continue to feed her where she feels most secure & give her a calm & loving environment while you try to get her to try the food you leave outside her crate. Poor baby, she's a pretty thing. I hope she comes around & realizes she's left her abuse behind & will only get love from now on!

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I agree with lyonpridej. I think her advice is right on. Also put treats several times a day in the bowl outside the crate so she will get use to eating out of that bowl. She will come around slowly. Give her lots of time and you will see patience works

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Aww. she is adorable! Your fur-baby needs to learn to trust you. She was probably only fed in a crate that is why she eats there. Please leave the door open for her and put her food/water outside the crate nearest the opening so she can reach it. Give her lots of loves and speak softly to her to re-assure her. Good luck.

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Here's my two cents:

EXERCISE then DISCIPLINE and then and only then AFFECTION. We need to remember one very simple truth: Dogs are not humans. Now matter how much we want them to be they do not see the world and express themselves in the same way that we do. Not understanding how a dog thinks is detrimental to the dog.

I would use techniques that display leadership rather than dominance. You don't want to challenge the dog, but rather show the dog that you are the Alpha and he need not worry about anything because you are in charge. The leader of a pack would not allow another member to be emotionally unstable. Use a 'touch' correction - where you use your fingertips as teeth and jab the dog in the neck just enough for him to feel it, but be sure not to push, just jab. This is normal in the dog world and the dog would associate that with a bite from another dog rather than abuse from a human. This dog needs and wants leadership and instruction so he can feel calmer.

*Note, it is counter productive to pet or caress your dog when it is nervous. That only reinforces the behavior.

Dogs, unlike humans, don't need to be coddled when they're upset, they want and need to be able to look to a leader that they trust to make the decisions and to take care of them. It is calming to a dog that is not alpha dominant to be directed in some way, THAT is what calms a dog down. If there is a time when the dog is starting to get nervous, try distracting her w/ commands. A good distraction is to command the dog to sit or lay down.

Next, you must be patient and not display agitation at the dog. The dog will pick up on that negative emotion and therefore will not respond like we want.

To help build your bond, I would suggest that you walk with the dog a minimum of 5 days a week. The 'walk' is very therapeutic for dogs mentally and it will also help build your bond with him. The catch is that the walk is only useful if it is done correctly. The dog cannot be pulling or distracted. He needs to be focused on you and moving forward. This will take time, patience and determination, but is vital to having a happy dog.

Also, lots of exercise will help to calm him by burning some of that nervous energy.

*Note, there is a misconception that a big backyard is as good as a walk. This is so very untrue. The dog sees a backyard, no matter how big it is as a big cage. Yes, they can play and have fun, but NO it is not a substitute for walking with your dog.

At the same time, at home we can do some exercises that will help develop trust. With a treat, gradually try to get the dog to come to out of the kennel (this is his 'safe spot', which he NEEDS to have and should always be available for him. I suggest you use a small bit of meat to be able to tempt the dog (hard to resist a hot dog!).

We also need to make sure we are aware of how dogs view body language. A dog sees prolonged eye contact and full frontal body exposure as a challenge. This will immediately scare off the dog. We do not want to stare at the dog or to come squarely at the dog. We want to use our peripheral vision and we want to position our body to the side and get on the floor rather than standing. This demonstrates non threatening behavior on your part. This will help desensitize the dog and help the dog see that you are not a threat (like some other human figures in the beginning of the dog's life).

During any of this training it goes without saying that continuous positive reinforcement be used when the dog does something good. This can be talking in a soft, high pitched voice, a scratch in a favorite spot, or a treat.

This is not, by any means, an exhaustive list of to do's. This is just a quick blurp of info. None of this is, by any means, easy. This will take time, patience, dedication and determination on both of your parts.

Good luck and I recommend to watch the Dog Whisperer on The National Geographic Channel!


**Kudos to all of the ppl out there that have a shelter pet!!

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I am currently babysitting a dog that was formally abused by a man. I am a woman and it took her a couple days to get used to me and now after three months she has total trust in me. She continues to growl at my husband and run away from him. I totally understand the dog's situation and know it takes time and patience. Any thoughts to help her accept my husband more?

By Beth P

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Time & much patience. He just needs to remain calm & unthreatening. Maybe even carry treats in his pocket to entice... gently!

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Read More Answers...

My husband and I adopted a dog from a woman on Craigslist. She said that she couldn't feed him anymore and that she saved him from abusive drug addicts. Now that we have him home (which is a large house with a backyard), he is very timid. He's great on walks and has a great time.

Most of the time he's sweet and comes up to you when you call him, but he sometimes will (out of nowhere) be very skittish. He'll cower and pee, run away and whimper. It's very strange because most of the time he's fine. It's very frustrating. Especially since he knows how to use the doggy door, but refuses if he knows we're home. He'd rather be cold than come in on his own (not that we lock him out).

I would appreciate some advice on how to handle, cope, reassure, anything would be nice. At this point we're just dumbfounded on his mood swings.

By TJ from Fresno, CA


Helping an Abused Dog

My husband and I adopted a beautiful Chihuahua a year ago. The woman who had her said she was giving the dog away because her husband was abusive and the dog would hide when her husband came in the home. She said they had left the dog for two days in the house and when they came home, her husband shouted at the dog for peeing on the floor. And after that the dog would hide all the time if he was in the home. I told her she needed to get rid of her husband, not her dog.

I am telling you though this dog is the best dog in the world. We treat her like she is the most precious creature on earth. She has never reacted negatively to us ever. We have a male Chihuahua she has bonded with and we plan to never separate them from each other.
We use crates for them also and yes they do love their own space. (12/08/2010)

By Bookeesmom

Helping an Abused Dog

I wish you so much luck and thank you for taking in this poor abused dog. Chances are that his "mood swings" are triggered by a memory of abuse, for example, maybe he can become frightened of the doggie door as he remembers being hurt in the past by the abusive first owner for doing just that, using the doggie door when the abusive addict wasn't in the mood to see the dog and decided to beat him instead.

Abused animals have such huge, horrid, histories that they can't share with us, verbally. I so wish they could talk to us like they did to Dr. Dolittle.

Just love him, reinforce positive behavior with lots of happy scratches and kisses. Be stern, but kind and nonthreatening, when the fur guy messes up. (Cowering then peeing.) He will learn to understand the difference between healthy discipline and unacceptable abuse. Your dog just needs to learn to trust again. With your love and patience, he will do just that. I'm sure it is frustrating, but consistent kindnesses will win in the end. Good luck, and tummy scratches galore for your dog! Seriously, go find him and do so right now, just 'cuz! :-) (12/08/2010)

By KansasCindy

Helping an Abused Dog

9 years ago I took in an abused dog, not knowing that he had a rough background at all. He is now 13 years old and just wonderful! First, you need to build trust between you and the dog, see that was very easy for me because mine took to me easily. My dog was still a bit leery about my hubby, but in time got over it.

If he is cowering down, of course, something is scaring him. Was it a loud noise, maybe you moved too fast, or whatever, try to figure out what is making him feel uncomfortable, and after you have built that trust you can help him through these moments. Calmly talk to him, pet him, and be gentle. If you are upset he will know and that will make him feel edgy. I know it is frustrating, but keep trying to figure out what is bothering him. As for using the doggy door he may feel like he is not allowed to. Try to encourage him with treats. Praise him when he uses it. The more positive attention he gets the more he will do that particular thing.

Most importantly. Hang in there. You seem to already have made progress and to think of what that poor thing has been through. You saved him! You gave him a second chance. Good luck. (12/09/2010)

By brenneman826

Helping an Abused Dog

Maybe he would respond well to other dogs. Maybe you could seek out a friend with a dog his size and arrange play dates. Are there any dog parks nearby? (12/09/2010)

By bilbobaggins7

Helping an Abused Dog

There is a website called that shows you how to knit, sew, or crochet blankets for dogs or cats that are in shelters, or who were strays or abused animals. It says they have a calming effect on these animals. Maybe one of these, or even a doggy bed or blanket would help him feel comforted.

I am making a Snuggle Tubbie for my kitty even though she is a happy cat just because I know she will like it. You might want to look at the patterns link for ideas of what your dog might like. If you don't knit, crochet, or sew, maybe someone you know does and would be happy to help you out caring for your special dog. (12/09/2010)

By SuzyQ82

Helping an Abused Dog

There is so much good advice here! the only thing I could think to add would be to consider obedience or agility training. It is a great confidence builder for dogs. Other than that you are on the right track and I am sure time will take care of the rest. (12/10/2010)

By Lizzyanny

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About 2 months ago I had, I guess you can say, rescued an American Pit Bull Terrier. He has had no human contact, and he's never been shown any love. The most human contact he has gotten was when he was beaten by his previous owner.

I've been trying to show him nothing but love. At first when I would pet him he would be so scared he would pee all over himself. Just talking about it makes me wanna cry. His whole life, or 9 months, he had been locked away in a pen with other dogs and never shown any love or anything. That's how he thinks it is supposed to be. He still won't come to me unless I have his leash on him, it still scares him for me to pet him. I know that it takes time, but any suggestions are very welcome and greatly appreciated. So if you have any ideas please let me know.

By Amber from Boswell, OK


Helping an Abused Dog

UGH! That makes me angry to hear that. I'll bet he was going to be used in a fight ring! Anyway, try contacting a pit-bull rescue and I would hope they would have some advice for you. Don't stop showing him love and affection! He will surprise you one day! I was told to "never give up" with a horse I own, I haven't and he has turned out awesome! He was also abused. (09/14/2010)

By horseygal

Helping an Abused Dog

Oh my. Poor Fella.

If he will cooperate, try feeding him from your hands. Don't put food in his dish until after you have fed him most of it from your hands. Speak softly to him as you're feeding him, and if he'll allow it, stroke him face, the way his mother would be doing (licking his face and washing him) if she were nursing him. When you speak to him, always tell him what a good boy he is. Dogs and cats understand your tone of voice better than they do what you're saying.

Sounds like he's been hurt badly enough that it's going to take a good while to reverse the damage.

I wish you and the dog the best of luck, Amber. It's very good of you to care and to work with him. Don't give up. It's going to take a while.

Songwriter (09/15/2010)

By Songwritter

Helping an Abused Dog

I would love to give the previous owner a beating. It is so horrible when people abuse animals. I would talk to your vet. that is the person who can best advise you in your area. Also bless you for being such a loving pet parent. I think that if you are patient and keep showing the love, evidently he will come around. He may always be a nervous dog though. Time and lots of quiet love will conquer, I bet! Good luck to the both of you. Sending a big hug to you both. (09/15/2010)

By virginiag

Helping an Abused Dog

Amber, No real advice except to keep loving the dog and don't give up. Whatever was done to that puppy should now be done to the previous owner! Mainly wanted to wish you good luck. Banty (09/15/2010)

By banty

Helping an Abused Dog

Several years ago, we fostered a dog for the Humane Society that had been found living on a construction site. A HS volunteer happened to be driving by the site and saw workmen hitting the 6 month old dog with bricks and 2x4s. When we brought her home, she was terrified of everyone and everything. We put her in a crate but left the door open when we were home. The crate gave her the security of having a place where she could be alone, but th freedom to come out when she wanted. For six days she sat and stared at the solid wall of the crate and only came out when we took her outside on a leash. I made a point of never reaching for her over-handed. I always held my hand palm-up,and rubbed under her neck so she could see my hand. I talked quietly to her and moved slowly around her.

After 6 days of sitting in her crate, she began to come out, first lying in front of the crate and then moving farther away. It took two months for her to come to me because she wanted to do it, and wanted to interact with me. Before that time, I could pet her, but I had to go to her. We adopted Tessa after fostering for three months and are now fast friends. My older dog has taught her how to be a dog; she was so isolated on the site and alone, she had no idea how to be a dog! We did have some problems with her doing "emotional" chewing, but once we put the decorative pillows away, that improved. Good luck! By the way, Tessa is the beautiful golden retriever / chow mix in the attached photo. Debra from Charlotte, NC (09/16/2010)

By debra.wilhoit

RE: Helping an Abused Dog

Helping an Abused Dog

6 months ago, I adopted a half pit, too. In the beginning I was obsessed, but I found that when I just ignored her, I found her coming up to me. You want her to just see that she is with humans who aren't hurting her, and ignore her after feeding her her dinner, etc, etc. If she comes up to you, congratulate her by giving her a treat, then turn back to whatever you're doing. If she starts getting more reproachful, give her a little pat, and if she wants more after an hour, give her more attention and more treats. Slowly, she'll adjust to this new situation, that humans aren't always in it to get her. Good luck!
Attached is a picture of my dog, right now there is another person in the house, so she is a bit scared, but checking him out.
Zora (10/16/2010)

By zoraborealis99

RE: Helping an Abused Dog

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I just got a Golden Retriever from an owner who rescued him from his previous abuser. He is a very well behaved dog and has done absolutely no wrong. My only issue is that he's very timid and shy (not in an aggressive manner).

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I have adopted a 4 year old registered male Australian Shepherd. It is obvious that he has been abused.

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Kali, my Springer Spaniel, had been abused by her former owner when I brought her home at 9 months. She is afraid of men and will avoid them, but when they turn away she will run up and bite them.

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I have a 5 mo. old Chihuahua. I believe he was abused. He won't take treats from me and stays in his little bed all day. What can I do to help him?

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I have adopted a 10 month old dog from a lost dogs home. When I am feeding him, if I try and touch him, he growls, etc. Tonight when I fed him, he bit me. Any training tips for this out there? I just want him to know that he will always get his dinner, and that there is no need for him to guard it.

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Pets Dogs AdoptingFebruary 21, 2011
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