Caring for an abused pet is not an easy task. Often, many of the dogs you will find in the animal shelter are victims of abuse– verbal, emotional, and mental, as well victims of neglect. In the dog’s attitude, you can see how their past has affected them, as they are often fearful of people, anti-social, depressed, and have a generally downbeat disposition. Oftentimes, the emotional wounds that are inflicted upon these dogs never fully heal, and the dog owner is assigned the task of training this dog to un-learn what it had been taught in the past, and to nurse them, through loving, caring, and strong leadership, back to stable emotional health. It is nearly impossible to turn the dog into a well-rounded social success, yet by following these few tips below, you can improve your dog’s emotional health and potentially save its life. Here’s how to begin: -Make your dog feel needed and loved -Allow your new dog to become accustomed to you at his own pace – never try to force the issue -Protect them against whatever they fear -Build their confidence by introducing them to situations in which you arrange for them to be successful (arrange a positive outcome) -Strive for clear communication with your dog -Always ensure adequate exercise and a healthy diet -Give your new dog a safe place where he can go to get away from it all Some specific measures include the following: Always speak quietly and encourage others in the household to do the same. *Whisper* commands. There’s never any advantage to shouting. It doesn’t make the message any clearer. Try sitting in a quiet room at night with your new dog. Prevent him from totally dismissing you and avoiding your company completely by strategically closing certain doors. Sit quietly on a couch or bed and read a good book. Make sure the dog is hungry before you start and arm yourself with delicious food treats (hot dog or freeze-dried liver for most dogs). Toss or slide the occasional food treat across the floor toward him. When a paw emerges from beneath the sofa he is hiding under you are on the right track. When he takes a pace or two toward you and you’re getting warm. “Baby steps” should be incrementally rewarded with additional food. It is the best way to engender confidence and trust. Never try to hurry things along. If your dog shows separation anxiety, arrange for him to have plenty to do when you have to go out. If strangers terrify him, protect him from their well-meaning advances. Engage a “reverse dominance” program, in which your dog has everything he wants and needs for free. Do not make him work for food, praise, toys or your attention. These should always be available at no cost. Take care of the dog’s basic biological needs by providing aerobic exercise and a healthy diet. Dogs need 20 to 30 minutes of running exercise (not just walking) every day. A tired pet is a good and happy pet!
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