Survivor Dogs

So many of our dogs live in their past because humans keep them there. Humans excuse dog behavior by explaining that the dog is a rescue and most likely abused. Let’s just stop right there. Is there a chance of this, yes, but not all of these dogs were abused. Some of this behavior can be caused by dogs being moved from home to home. Most of the time that doors open for these dogs is because of their stories. People embellish a story to get people to feel sorry for the dogs in order for doors and wallets to open. Let me explain why this is a problem since I see it quite frequently.

Keeping a dog in a state of uncertainty can ultimately cause behavioral issues. The issues can range from disobedience to outright aggression. Many times after I would show up to an appointment for a private lesson, the dog would have progressed from being scared of a belt being worn by a man to outright aggressive behavior towards men. Since the progression has already taken place, I skip the lecture on fixing the issue when this was first seen and I jump to addressing the issue at hand. After you see enough of these cases, you will start to see the bottom line is and it is the sad story that came with the dog.

In the case of actual dog abuse, you treat them the same as hypothetical abuse stories and that is with strength. You have to be a rock for the dogs because they need support to get them through hard times. I can say this because I lived through domestic violence. My family didn’t hide me from men after that point, I didn’t get shielded and my mom didn’t say “don’t look at him, he may beat you too!” So many dogs are suffering because of this. People ask, “If my dog wasn’t abused, why do they cower?” It is quite simple, the dog gets petted and maybe a treat everytime they cower, so they will keep doing it.

Humans want to portray the look of a fixer and wants to be the person that “saved the dog’s life.” I get it that everyone wants to be a hero, but the dogs are the ones paying for this. Unless there is some type of documentation proving the “abuse”, please for the sake of the dog, leave it there. If you adopted the dog because of their story, you owe it to them to get over it.

Understanding what goes into fixing these dogs can usually help stop the madness because avoidance and reinforcing the fearful behavior does not help. Trainers have different methods that work for them, but one of the biggest things is addressing the issue at hand. When dogs go through my program, we do a lot of public work. I go with the humans because I want to point out what needs to be changed. I always address behavior then get a handle on it before I teach obedience. If the human is nervous, we wait. The dog will be tuned into the human’s emotions and act accordingly. In the beginning, we keep moving, it will help to desensitize them. If the dog seems nervous and a stranger is approaching, tell them you are in the middle of training and to please not approach. Advocate for your dogs.

If you adopted/rescued because of a story, let it go. Make sure you understand everything about the breed, if you are having problems with your dog, get need help. Reach out and I can help you to find a trainer in your area. Can’t afford training? Start watching videos for simple questions, but please do not try to fix aggression on your own.

I got over my past, you can help your canine’s get over theirs.

Sarah Gill

Owner of Total K9 Focus

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