I have successfully rehabilitated many dogs, including several considered ‘hard cases.’ In the course of this work, I’ve seen firsthand the challenges a rescued pet faces in rehabilitation. Abused and neglected dogs have suffered at the hands of other humans and their recovery requires a careful approach. Your first interactions with your pet are extremely important and will set the stage for their potential rehabilitation. Beyond this, every moment is a chance to build trust and offer positive experiences. Providing the proper environment and experience is vital to successful rehabilitation of any rescue animal. This article focuses on rehabilitating rescue dogs but many of these principles also apply to cats.
Things you need before you adopt:
-A firm basic understanding of dog training or a trusted friend/acquaintance with experience to assist and advise you.
-Access to additional research on specific issues the dog may exhibit.
-Plenty of extra love and time to give.
Now that you’re ready to adopt, be prepared to provide the following:
Previously neglected or abused dogs have trust issues and are typically afraid of people, leashes, newspaper, harsh tones of voice, quick/aggressive movements, and more. Neglected dogs generally have no real social skills to speak of and may shy away all together. No pet should be rushed to do tricks, interact with other pets, say hello to strangers, or even play right away. Your dog needs time to discover his new world on his own terms without being bullied or shuffled around which is likely what he has been made to endure. Once your dog gains confidence in his surroundings, you can slowly introduce new experiences and training. Take your time; pushing a pet to do too much, too quickly can be harmful to their recovery.
A Sense of Security
Before bringing the dog home, make up a bed and fresh food and water in a quiet room away from other pets and people. Never use a crate or kennel during this introduction period. He has likely been living in a cage and that is not an association you want him to make on arrival. Sit in the room for a bit before he arrives. Take time to touch his blankets and food dishes. This helps spread your scent around the area he will soon come to associate as safe. When he arrives, spend about an hour sitting in the room with him. If he likes petting, pet him. If he is shy, just sit and talk softly to him. Offer treats and lots of love. For the first night, be welcoming but mostly just let him be. Let him get used to the sounds and smells around him, in his own space, without you hovering over him. You will have plenty of time each day to work with him, but on this first night he needs rest. Only immediate family should be introduced on the first day.
Come back in the morning and have a routine established. The second day should be peaceful and pleasant. Provide lots of affection, petting, and exploring. Family pets should generally not be introduced right away but it depends on the pet. Some pets jump right into playing, while others need a few days or more to gain the confidence to meet other pets. Rehabilitation often takes months, sometimes years, so don’t be discouraged if the going is slow.
A Positive Introduction
The best start you can give this dog is to have a treat to give when you first meet him. Your first interaction sets the stage for all future encounters with him. You’re a bright new opportunity for happiness in life, and giving a treat tells him right away that you are a ‘positive experience.’ Basically this means your encounter didn’t result in pain, sadness, or rejection for him. He may not show it right away but that first encounter has a huge impact. Be aware that treat-giving should always be accompanied by affection, encouragement, and praise.
A previously abused or neglected dog has been through his own unique experience which has shaped his fears and insecurities. It’s important to be attentive to what affects him negatively and positively. This is vital to continued training and rehabilitation. If you are spending a lot of time working with him, you will naturally come to know his needs and develop a training plan that works for him. Some animals are not so easily convinced of your good intent. Have patience. It may take some time to win the trust and build the confidence of a previously abused or neglected dog, but once you do you will see him blossom and thrive in the light of your efforts.
Source: Hands-on rescuing and rehabilitating of neglected, abused and abandoned pets in Eugene, Oregon