Training a Dog That Was Abused

January 29, 2011

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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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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November 24, 2017

I have a 12 month old blue nose Pit. He was given to me by a family that abused him. I am having a hard time getting him not to go to the bathroom in the house. It's been 4 months since we got him. We will let him out to use the bathroom and when my husband and I come back home from work, there's pee everywhere.

I tried putting him in a cage, but he just keeps breaking out and hurting himself. I really don't want to get rid of him. I need advice on what else I can do. I don't have the funds to put him in doggy school.


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November 27, 20170 found this helpful
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It sounds like this dog has anxiety when you are gone. Is he getting plenty of walks? This will help an anxious dog. Chew toys that require him to work for his food are helpful. Safe bones can work too. You may have a hard time getting him to adjust to a crate as it is probably a part of his anxiety. Pick a safe room if you must limit him. Anything you can do to build his confidence is helpful, especially agility training, or just throwing a ball for awhile. It takes time. Good for you for taking it on. In time he will trust you.

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May 2, 2012

Pit Bull PuppyI just got a 16 month old pure bully, but it was locked in a cage always, fought, and the lady used to beat her with a metal pipe. She's latched on to me now, but she needs to be taught how to play, and basic commands like stay and heel. I don't want to raise my voice now because she gets scared. She's bouncing back quickly, but if anyone has advice on training tips or links on how to get a Pit that was abused and fought, back to a normal playful 1 year old puppy I would appreciate it. Thanks.

By dennymia from Providence, RI

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August 2, 2007

My children had found a 6 month German Shepherd abandoned so now we have adopted her. I am not sure of the best way to train/housetrain her. I don't want to do anything the wrong way! I'm not sure on the environment she came from but she is a really loving dog! My other concern is she pees a little when you approach her, is there a way to fix that? Other than a few concerns, she really is a good dog.

Giammetta from Columbia, South Carolina


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August 2, 20070 found this helpful

I think the wetting when you approah her may just be anxiety, and may clear up in time. You might check with a vet when you take her for shots to be sure she doesn't have a UT infection. On the training..we have been really successful with crate training. Basically, any time you are gone, or can't watch her, put her in her crate...or on a short leash to a bedpost or something like that if you dn't have a crate for her..small bathroom might even work. Then as soon as you take her out, take her out to the restroom. When she is out of the crate, just be sure to watch her and run her outside at the first sign of needing to go, and after meals, etc. Also helps to always take her right to the same spot outside that you want her to go. German shepherds are smart, she should learn pretty quick. Don't rub her nose in it if she has an accident..that is like telling the dog " hey..smell this..this is a good place to go to the bathroom! don't forget! " LOL!

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August 3, 20070 found this helpful

My dog has the same submissive personality, and the bit of wetting is natural behaviour meaning she's scared. So even though you feel like killing her when you find another puddle, don't scare her! don't yell, don't rub her nose in it, don't smack her, just remember that she couldn't help it, treat her like you would your elderly mother. This is not true of every dog, but this personality type is fragile. She's not had the easiest life yet, you can imagine, and she's going to need a long term of stability before she calms down around you, and she may take almost forever to not drip a bit when being greeted by a stranger.

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August 3, 20070 found this helpful

Submissive peeing is she is letting you know you are boss. Also some voices tend to trigger this in
puppies. It does go away as the pup becomes used to you and less scared. She is so good because she is grateful for you and a great home. My JackRussell was abused and was ribs sticking out thin and she is the most loving happy (non-hyper)
doggie. She did this for a little bit then stopped on her own one day.

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August 11, 20070 found this helpful

How fortunate you are to find a young german shep. Around here they cost a small fortune. I have a puppy, age 4 1/2 mo.
Your dog is unsure of his surroundings/new family, and will need time to feel safe and secure. When he does feel safe and secure, he will need obedience training. German shep dogs are powerful and smart, and if you don't train him, he will most definitely train you. Human must be alpha. Please get him neutured and checked regularly by a good vet. After the first visit, it's usually only once a year plus heartworm and flea/tick prevention on a monthly basis. I buy mine on the net. I also have a white husky, a mini dachshund, and a pound puppy. We are dog lovers! I can't leave Kitty Gia off the list. She's our cat who puts up with the dogs. We love cats, also.

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By k-9 (Guest Post)
August 14, 20070 found this helpful

Well good i hope you look after her. You should take some dog handling classes and lots of walking her and ball play to build a friendship with her all use a dig cage for in the house.

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January 25, 20100 found this helpful

Peeing is anxiety.

When I get new dogs, I always take them out every 20 minutes. Yep, you read that right. They are bound to go one of those times, and they quickly get the message, you are the one who takes them to potty. When they go, make a fuss over them and pat them. If they have an accident wash spot and go over it with white vinegar water to deodorize so they don't think the house is the place to go. When you wake, make it the first thing you do, other than go yourself. Don't stop to make coffee. You'll be glad.

Probably be trained in few days.

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May 17, 2013

We found a puppy in the desert, abandoned. He is loving and sweet, gentle and amazingly and has some great training. He can sit, come, and stay. However, he will not go potty outside. It almost seems at times like he is waiting to go back in. Help? We love him so much

By Stephanie

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October 8, 2019

I have a 1 year old Pit. She was abused before I got her. I got her to stop going to the bathroom in the house, but I can not get her to go poop on the leash. She walks on the leash, but not go very far until she wants to turn around and go back home. She will pee on the leash, but she will not poop. Any suggestions?

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July 14, 2015

I adopted a Pit Bull mix puppy, who is 1 a year old. She appears she might have been abused before I got her from the shelter. 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 wakes up from naps startled, growls, and barks.

She also randomly will walks to the closed bedroom doors and begin barking and growling. I don't want to have to return her to the shelter, but I am afraid I don't know how to handle/help her. Are there any tips on how to fix these two problems I have?

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July 8, 2015

I recently got a younger (probably 2 or 3) year old dog that is very skittish and scared, but is OK around me and my husband; she trusts us. However, when she is scared she likes to hide in our closet. Well, while we are at work she will take things out and chew them up.

Also, she will go outside to play with our other dog and will take forever to use the bathroom, if she goes at all. How do we teach her commands like sit, stay, don't chew, and go potty since she shows signs of abuse and is very skittish?

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April 25, 2016

I recently adopted a year and a half old Pit Bull that was abused. She is a total sweet heart. But when I raise my voice she always runs away in fear.

She even cries sometimes. I don't know how to get her to stop barking for no reason when she is outside.

black and white Pit Bull
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December 20, 2014

Lola, white and brown Pit BullI rescued a 3-4 year old red nose Pit Bull that had been abused. I got Lola off the road, she was looking for food to eat and she had burns all over her. I don't know how to train her after she has been abused for a long time. I need help.

By Jacqueline JQ L. from Coos Bay, OR

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October 31, 2014

lying in dog bedI am in need of some advice please! I have a year old Beagle, Alfie. We first got him when he was weeks old and he was lovely and jumpy like a puppy would be. I had a dog before Alfie, but he does not live with me, my brother, or mother now because my father took him due to a divorce.

Without us knowing my mother's ex-boyfriend started becoming violent towards Alfie. Before we knew it he was picking our Beagle up by his ears and pinning him to the ground, hitting him against walls, and causing harm to him. When witnessing this he left our house. A few weeks ago he returned to my house where my mother and dog were relaxing and invited himself in. On this visit he was the most violent we have ever witnessed, he beat up our Beagle and left him with a very bruised back leg, a bruised jaw, and wounds all over his body. He was in the vet's for a week recovering.
(Sorry for the long intro.)
It has now been about a month since everything has stopped. And things with my Beagle have taken the turn for the worst. He has a tendency to go into our fridge and try and eat our food, when we discover this he gets very violent towards us and we are now at the point where we are getting hurt.
I have had some training tips which I was wondering if anyone could give me advice on how to stop him from
-weeing in the house
-barking at us for no reason, even after walking him and playing with him for hours
-barking at us while we have tea
-opening doors
-not walking on the lead very well (he pulls very hard until we reach the field)

I have been told to make him sleep in a certain place, walk him up to 3 times a day, don't shout at him when he does something wrong ( we do not as we know he doesnt like loud noises) and when he barks keep playing with him.
I really need some advice on what to do as he is a very lovely dog when he is calm and playful, when he misbehaves he turns into a horrible dog and we can't control him? and my family is inches away from re-homing him, but we love him so much! I need some advice. Help!sleeping

curled up looking at camera

By Chelsea C.

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September 8, 2014

Hippa (my Staffy) was found under a freeway with a broken leg and scars. She had obviously had multiple litters. Her microchip took us to the original breeder and as far as I can tell she was a show dog that went to a family where she was stolen, brought to the city, had her ears cut off and used as a puppy mill.

I am an alpha to dogs and have dealt with problems before. This dog is a princess. But, when someone aggressively walked behind us with leashed aggressive dogs, she made eye contact with me which is her training for stressed situation. I couldn't get off the path and the poor dear actually began shaking and leaning on me. My heart broke. She has not left my side since. Yes I have acted normally with her since and I gave her some tasks to do for routine.
My question is...Is there any way to help her come back to the present when the trauma is that bad? I now know she was attacked and probably used for baiting. She actually likes other dogs and people. I have had her evaluated by the trainers that work with possibly aggressive dogs and she aced every trial.
What is the best way to help her after a situation like that? And other than sit, focus on me and ignore the scary stuff, can I do more?

By Shasoren from Richmond, CA

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May 3, 2014

Tan ChiweenieWe rescued our Chiweenie (Chihuahua Dachshund mix) from an out of state pound where she was picked up as a stray. The pound had her age at 11 months. Once she arrived with us, we quickly found that she had been abused. She's gotten over most of her fears except her unbelievable fear of being picked up.

Once she's being held, she's fine. It's the initial picking up that she's deathly afraid of. She runs (like she's running for her life) when we try. We do have one method that works. She has a bed that's kind of like a pita pocket. When she goes in there, we pick up the whole bed quickly before she can jump out.

We think she was abused because she wasn't housebroken. We think they picked her up and threw her outside. Why we think this:
1. She used to be extremely afraid of being outside.
2. She used to be extremely afraid and hide inside her bed after she used her pee pad.
3. We've actually seen her licking up her own pee from the floor. :(

She's gotten over these issues, but now we really need to help her fear of being picked up. Does anyone have suggestions?

By misee930

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