Adopting an Abused Dog

Adopting an Abused Dog

Making the choice to adopt a dog can be one of the most rewarding decisions you and your family will ever make. Providing an animal with a history of abuse, mistreatment or neglect can give them a second chance at a fulfilling, happy life while giving you a loving, devoted four-legged friend. While bringing a new dog into your home will be an adjustment no matter where he or she came from, adopting an animal that has been mistreated may come with its own set of challenges you’ll want to be mindful of and work on from day one.

Jason Cohen, owner of Canine Cohen Dog Training and volunteer with Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue, shares some tips for adopting a dog with a history of abuse and advice for creating your new life together.

Adopting a Dog with a History

While you may be concerned about your potential new dog’s past, Cohen says the important thing to remember is that your role is to help your dog move beyond the abuse, build a relationship and create a new story. Reputable shelters and/or rescue organizations will have evaluated your dog prior to its adoption and should be able to provide you with information about its temperament. Take advantage of this and feel free to ask questions about the dog, take it for a walk and speak to the people that have been caring for it. “If your dog is being fostered, talk to its foster family or ask if you can see how the dog is at home,” Cohen says.  

Although many dogs are not themselves at adoption events, and may appear nervous or anxious, many organizations (like Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue) help prepare adoptable dogs for life in a new home.

“Many of our dogs may never have been on leash or even lived inside,” Cohen says. “We focus on making new, scary experiences become normal positive ones with training, counter conditioning and desensitization.”

Bringing Your New Dog Home

Once you’ve found the right dog, you’ll want to be practice patience from the start, allowing your dog to get comfortable with new people and environments on his or her own time.

“Coming into your home is new and there are a lot of things to adjust to,” Cohen says. “Just allow for as much time as it takes, without perpetuating the fearful state of mind.”

Cohen also recommends giving newly adopted dogs a “safe place,” such as a crate, to help them adjust to a new home, as well as spending time walking and sitting outside their new neighborhood receiving lots of tasty treats. Dogs with a history of abuse can also have their confidence rebuilt through obedience training (with ample periods of rest). Because each dog is different, Cohen recommends working with a professional trainer in the beginning to help guide you through the process and determine the best way to set you and your dog up for success.

Tips for a Happy Future

“Listening to your dog and watching their body language as you introduce them to new people, places and sounds will help them make positive associations and become more comfortable as they become a part of your home,” Cohen says.

“With fearful dogs it’s all about patience, and taking things and always ending on a good note,” he adds. “If you see any signs of aggression or fear, always work with a professional to help guide you through the process.”

Cohen notes, “Build your dog’s confidence through training and provide them with clarity by acting as a fair and balanced mentor, leader and advocate.”

(Read a first-hand account of one of Cohen’s clients, who rescued and rehabilitated an abused dog, here.)

Image via Hilary Benas for Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue

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