Training a Dog That Was Abused

I adopted a Pitbull mix puppy, who is 1 year old now. She was abused before I got her from the shelter here. They did not tell me how or what was done to her. When I brought her home to my family I found that she is afraid of my father and runs away from him when he walks towards her. Also she has picked up a nasty barking and growling habit, but we are afraid to use any type of physical training (barking collars or submissive/dominance) on her. Are there any tips on how to fix these two problems I have?

By Michelle J. from Sioux Falls, SD

January 29, 20110 found this helpful

She sounds like the boxer we adopted over a year ago. We used no physical training on her either she was also afraid of

Men. It just took a lot of time love and patience. We made sure there was a man present everyday to interact with her slowly she got used to them and started coming close and close now she loves the men of the family more than us women. She has now comfortable with the kids and played well with out growling and nipping . She also had food aggression problems we just slowly moved closer and closer while she ate. We never yelled or raised our voice just a firm no or ahh type noise and tons and tons of praise. Good luck!

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January 31, 20110 found this helpful

Honeybees had great advice about making sure your pup gets used to having a male present on a regular basis. I will offer this additionally; have the man be the one that the dog sees filling its food and water bowls. It may take some time for a bond to form, but this warmed my man-hating dog up to my then husband pretty fast. Good luck!

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January 31, 20110 found this helpful

With regard to her being afraid of your father it could be something very simple like his clothing or aftershave. Does he always wear dark clothes for example. I had a Cocker Spaniel years ago who loved everyone except a man wearing dark clothing whether the mail man or my uncle who was a priest it didn't matter to her, they were the enemy (I got her when she was about 3 years old so I had no way of knowing her history). A friend of mind had a dog who hated a certain brand of aftershave. It will take time and patience but try to keep calm, dogs are very sensitive to the tone of your voice and if they're nervous a loud angry voice will only add to that.

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January 31, 20110 found this helpful

Just patience and a lot of time, always works. Never give up. She will come around slowly. It think too many people give up and discard problem dogs. I also have an abused dog and it took a good year to get him retrained from his bad habits.

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February 5, 20110 found this helpful

Like others pointed out, she is afraid of men, and I suspect that she was abused by a man. Great patience, time, gentleness and having your father do positive things like feeding and petting her, will help her get over her fear. He should not walk straight toward her, either, for that seems threatening to her. He should approach her slowly from an angle, but within her sight, and speak softly and kindly to her as he approaches. Tone of voice is important, as dogs are highly sensitive to our tone, so avoid speaking sharply, loudly or with any hint of anger or impatience. The barking and growling are probably signs of fear, and she needs to be re-assured that she is safe and loved. Good luck, and bless you for working with this poor dog, who certainly deserved a better start in life. Please keep us posted on her progress.

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Anonymous Flag
February 23, 20110 found this helpful

I am also from Sioux Falls, SD. I would highly recommend seeking the advise of a dog trainer in town (The Dog's Listener). He is very good at what he does. Here are some tips I would personally suggest:

First, 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 buring some of that nervous energy. All Terrier breeds are known for their high energy.

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. A good distraction is to command the dog to sit or lay down.

Once YOU have built your relationship with your dog and he trusts you, it will be easier for you to get him to accept your father. For this, we need to build a relationship and trust between the dog and your father. First, your father must be patient and not display agitation that the dog does not like him. The dog will pick up on that negative emotion and therefore will not respond like we want.

You should take the dog out walking with your father. Start with you holding the leash and your father walking on the other side of you, (how far away depends on the reaction of the dog). Gradually, have him move closer and eventually take the leash from you and walk the dog himself. Again, this will take time, patience and determination on both of your parts.

At the same time, at home we can do some exercises that will help develop trust. With a treat, your father is to gradually try to get the dog to come to him. To do this we 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 want your father to not make eye contact (it's harder than it sounds) and not to come at the dog with his body positioned square with 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 the part of your father. I suggest your father use a small bit of hot dog to be able to get close to the dog (hard to resist a hot dog!). He can position the piece of hot dog 10 feet away or so and then gradually closer and closer to him so the dog gets closer and closer to him. This will help desensitize the dog to your father and help the dog see that your father is not a threat (like some other male figure 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. I know once I re-read this that I will say, "oh i should have put that" or "I forgot this"! I volunteer at the SFAHS so if you need any other tips hopefully we'll run into each other someday! Good luck and 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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Anonymous Flag
February 23, 20110 found this helpful

Mfisher, God Bless you!

Michelle J, I am completely and utterly impressed with mfisher's advice to you! I suggest that since you live in the same area that you go to the SFAHS where she volunteers and ask when you can meet her and let her know of your progress with your beautiful Pitty and ask more questions if need be!

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Training a Dog That Was Abused
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