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 was most likely abused. “He’s a survivor dog.” Let’s just stop right there. Is this possible? 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 door opens for these dogs is because of their stories. People embellish a story to get people to feel sorry for the dogs. That opens doors and wallets. Let me explain why this is a problem since I see it quite frequently.
Survivor Dogs Need Your Strenght
Keeping a survivor dog in a state of uncertainty can ultimately cause behavioral issues. The issues can range from disobedience to outright aggression. Many times after I show up to an appointment for a private lesson, the dog has already progressed. He went from being scared of a belt being worn by a man to outright being aggressive behavior towards men. Since the progression has already taken place, I skip the lecture on fixing the issue. We could have done that when this was first seen but now it makes more sense to address 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 post-abuse survivor dogs post, 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 every time they cower, so they will keep doing it.
Forget The Story
Humans want to portray the look of a fixer and want to be the person that “saved the survivor 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 survivor dogs can usually help stop the madness because avoidance and reinforcing the fearful behavior do 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 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 turned 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.
You Can Do This
If you adopted/rescued a “survivor dog” because of a story, let it go. Make sure you understand everything about the breed if you are having problems with your dog, get needed 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 canines get over theirs.