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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Raising A Shelter Dog With A Troubled Past

It can break your heart to see an animal which has experienced trauma in their past. Some owners are simply unfit to keep pets, and in some cases, that’s putting it very politely. Shelters exist all around the country, run by incredible people who significantly care about rehabilitating animals with a troubled history. In your search for a new pet, you may have felt inclined to take on a shelter dog. This is wonderful, and will signify a time of love and care for that pet.

However, it’s wrong to assume this animal can be treated in the exact same way one from a loving household or breeder will be. These dogs often have baggage, and quite rightly. Despite the efforts of the shelter keeper, these animals may be very untrusting of humans, and find it difficult to connect. Sometimes, they can be outright aggressive.

Here are some tips you can employ to raise a dog with difficulty in its personality and history:

Peace & Quiet

It’s good to give these animals some of their own space. Loud noises and constant drones can often make them feel vulnerable, so it’s important to try and limit those. If this means setting up their bedspread somewhere under the stairs, or in a corner of a room, this could be a good option. However, this doesn’t mean you should give them too much space. In a new environment, shelter dogs can feel overwhelmed. It’s important to stay present, continually praise, pet and treat the dog. Reinforce good behaviour such as successful garden ‘bathroom’ trips, or eating all of their food.

It’s also important to plan for anything that could set the dog off. This should be done before you even bring the dog home. A shelter will often want to know anything of interest in your property which could be unsuitable for the dog. For example, are you the parent of many young children? Do you live in an industrial or busy city centre environment? How often are you home? These things can all contribute to the ease or difficulty of the animal. Observe your animal. For example, if you’re picking up your shoes and you note your pet flinches, he may have been mistreated with one before. Plan accordingly.

Prepare For Hostility

While pets are rarely overly aggressive, and this behaviour would have been noticed in the shelter anyway, it’s important to plan for it  You can never be sure what will trigger your pet, and what in its past will resurface or has left its imprint. It’s important to stock up medicinal equipment, thick gloves and a large, spacious dog cage for if they become aggressive. Make sure you have plenty of dog bite treatment on hand, because that risk will always be there.


A pet should be socialized in phases. Some dogs will have experienced difficulties in the past, and may never be able to reintegrate with other dogs. Some will, but this must be implemented in stages. Meet up at a local dog trainers, a dog therapists, or allow it to once again greet the shelter dogs it resided with. It’s important to try and help the animal become familiar with things outside of the family setting. This will help it move outside of its comfort zone, which is important for the health of your animal.

Show your dog kindness, and calibrate your behaviour with the reported history of the dog, usually given by the shelter. If you manage to help a dog reintegrate to a loving family life, you will have performed a great deed.

Author Amber Higgins

Author Amber Higgins
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Welcome UK and worldwide visitors and friends to Family Disaster Dogs online! Although I'm an American author and dog professional the worldwide web has given me the opportunity to connect with some wonderful folks who have contributed pictures for my books. The "Start Mantrailing" book features RRI K9 North Scotland trained Search and Rescue Dog "Amber" on the cover and her teammates training in the book, plus American dogs using my training methods. A portion of sales of the Start Mantrailing book or copies were donated to RRI North Scotland. The children's picture book "My Puppy Can Find Me" has my daughter and bloodhound as illustrations by UK cartoonist Scotty King. You can find the books on Amazon UK or use the contact page to order from me. When you click the links will take you to your own county pages of this site.

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