Working with Abused Dogs

Discussion in 'Dog Behavior Problems' started by tx_cowgirl, Dec 8, 2007.

  1. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    The shelter I volunteer at has a very large mixed breed dog that was abused. I think he might have some mastiff of some kind in him, and possibly some pit although I'm really not sure. I've only seen him a few times. He was found wandering with a heavy chain embedded in his neck. He was brought to the shelter, and they had this removed. He has wierd scarring all the way down his back in an odd pattern...it is very wide and goes from the base of his neck almost to his tail. It branches out in three places on each side into other short, wide scars. He has random scarring throughout the rest of his body. According to the shelter owners, Hooch is not a "mean" dog, but he is so strong that walking him is a danger and a challenge. His only behavior problem that they have warned me of is that he will (try to)kill male dogs if he is with them. Of course they have never let this happen, so they have not had any real issue with this. He has gotten away from some people who have walked him, so on his pen is a sign that says "Do Not Walk." I have spoken to the owners and they have cautioned me simply to be careful and make sure that I do not attempt walking him alone.
    The poor guy hardly ever gets walked because so many volunteers that come to this shelter simply see the sign and don't ask questions. I have never worked with dogs abused to this degree, and I have certainly never worked with dogs who have had embedded collars. If Hooch was leash-trained he could at least get more exercise, and eventually I would like to teach him more. His chances of adoption are slim to none right now. Anyone have any suggestions on how to work with him?
    By the way, I am not simply taking this dog's training on my shoulders with no knowledge or experience with abused dogs. I am simply asking for suggestions. I realize that the first suggestion will be to consult a professional, and I will be looking into this first thing in the morning. :dogsmile: I am not just jumping into something I cannot handle.

  2. Jean Cote Administrator

    Sad when you hear those kind of abuses to a dog. I guess we'd be screwed up too if we were chained outside and treated lower than dirt. Basically like a slave.

    I hope you guys find a good home for him, a trainer I used to know adopted a mastiff and ended up teaching him agility. It was his third home so he wasn't the best dog around the house. But at least she didn't give up. :dogsmile:
  3. bipa New Member

    Because every abused dog is so different, it is very hard to give any specific training advice that you'd actually find helpful. As you know, the very first step is to have the dog evaluated by a professional. Find out what are the dog's triggers, both in terms of fear and aggression. One is already known - he attacks other male dogs. But there could be other triggers that haven't yet been discovered. Until the dog has been fully evaluated, you have to treat the dog like an unstable stick of dynamite that could go off at any time. If, for example, the dog had been beaten with a garden hose, then you could be in for a terrible surprise when simply wanting to hose down his pen.

    Abused dogs need consistency more than anything else. They first need to build up a sense of trust and security. That means preferably having the same person handling the dog all the time, with a set schedule of feeding, training, playing and exercise that doesn't vary a lot. Hard to do in most shelters, I know, since folks tend to rotate and come and go.

    I can't stress enough that you should be extremely careful until you have a much better idea of the dog's temperament and triggers. At this point, any incident, no matter who is at fault, could end up with the dog being labelled a dangerous lost cause and eventually put down.

    Good Luck!
  4. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    Thank you very much, Bipa. According to the owners and some of the other volunteers, he seems to have an unusually good temperament considering the circumstances. I plan to speak to some more volunteers that may know more about him, and I am still checking out behaviorists and trainers in my area.
    On the other end of the spectrum, a couple just brought in a male Jack Russel mix pup and I want to start working with him as well. Since he's young, I can start early and he should be adopted quickly. Puppies always go pretty fast, and people tend to like trained puppies. :doghappy: So I have two projects, besides my own mutts....^^
    Jean, it is indeed a shame. Fortunately, I think Hooch is the only dog currently at the shelter that was abused. I think the rest of them were either strays, dumped, or were brought in by owners who couldn't keep them anymore.
  5. bigboytex New Member

    Hmm I fell sorry for hooch hes been in that pen for no telling how long out there. Anyway I guess we'll just have to take it slow and easy and hope we don't make him made huh. Anyway I'm talking to people also trying to get some ideas so we will see how it goes.

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