7 Things to Know before Adopting A Dog Who Has Experienced Trauma

7 Things to Know before Adopting A Dog Who Has Experienced Trauma

Many stray dogs taken in from the street or adopted from a shelter have endured a challenging past. These are often animals that have experienced human cruelty through being neglected, beaten, starved, or chained. It can be difficult for people looking to adopt a rescue dog to know just exactly what each dog’s past is. You can often only guess at what a dog may have experienced by the behavior they exhibit.

Dogs with a traumatic past often react inadequately to various situations. Certain sounds, movements, or events may cause dogs anxiety that can easily trigger panic attacks. They may act out in an aggressive manner because of this, making situations dangerous for both the dog and their new owners. My Sweet Puppy experts warn that dogs who have experienced trauma in their lives may also suffer from things like depression, separation anxiety, and compulsive behavior.

When you decide to adopt a rescue dog, you need to be patient and acquire all the appropriate knowledge. First of all, you need to know what to do so that the dog can feel safe in your home. Creating a bond with your dog based on trust is another essential step.

Before adopting a dog who has experience trauma, you need to find out ways to make the adoption successful and pleasant for both parties. To assist you, we have put together this handy guide for people that are looking to add a four-legged furry friend into their lives.

Make the Dog Feel Safe and Comfortable

Safety is one of the basic needs of all animals, ourselves included. Without it, it’s hard to create a bond or extensively train your dog. Building a relationship with a dog takes time, and is something that shouldn’t be rushed.

It is also worth knowing that the adopted dog’s behavior can change dramatically after a few weeks when the pooch will begin to feel a bit more confident in its new home. The dog should have a safe haven somewhere in the house where it can have time and space to itself but at the same time be able to observe others in the house and the surroundings so they can get comfortable with their new home.

Before you even begin to think about adopting a dog, you need to first ask yourself if you have the space and correct environment in your home to accommodate them. You don’t want to force them into living in too small a space indoors nor do you want to confine them to a life solely in a backyard if the weather where you live can be unpleasant certain times of the year. You need to consider the various breeds of dogs and what space and environment is suitable to each. Your home may only be suitable to certain breeds of dogs.

Building the Relationship

During the first days spent together, you as an owner should help the dog get used to your presence. You want to let them get used to you without invading their personal space too much at first. You want them to be the ones to approach you when they feel comfortable.

Keep in mind that actions like petting and cuddling may not be seen as comforting at first to certain rescue dogs that have experienced trauma. Some dogs may have negative associations with any sort of physical touch at first until they begin to learn that you mean them no harm.

Talk to your dog to help them get used to your voice and help them associate your presence with positive experiences by giving them food, treats, toys, or other rewards.

Getting Rid of Fears

Most dogs struggle with various types of anxiety after having gone through previous unpleasant experiences. Some are afraid of people, while others can be triggered by sounds or the sight of specific objects. If you can determine specific items or events that are causing your dog to have anxiety, you may need to work on breaking the old negative associations they have with those objects or situations by replacing them with positive things that occur when those triggers are now present.

In such cases, desensitization may be required. It means gradually exposing the dog to the anxiety-triggering stimulus and after time goes by where the dog experiences no negative consequences from those triggers, the dog will eventually start to get used to them and the anxiety will hopefully diminish. In extreme cases, a natural remedy such as a chamomile-infused treat or some dog-friendly CBD oil can aid in reducing your dog’s anxiety.

House Rules

Before the dog shows up, you need to determine precisely what will be allowed and what will be forbidden in their new home, and you should follow this consistently. You want the dog to be comfortable but they shouldn’t be allowed to rule the house either. Determine where the dog’s bedding and food will be situated and which rooms if any it will not be permitted to enter.

You need to set clear rules that are consistently followed by all members within your household so the dog isn’t getting mixed messages from different people. Rules can be good for dogs as it gives them routine and a sense of place. Rules shouldn’t, however, be too strict and you must realize it may take time for your dog to adapt to them in the beginning.

You again need to think about the breed of dog and determine if your rules are realistic for the type of breed you have chosen to adopt. For example some breeds are known to be energetic and shouldn’t be expected to adhere to a calm existence as a lap dog in a small apartment. Some breeds may simply require large open spaces.

It is also important to dog-proof your home before you bring home your new dog, much like you would baby-proof your home long before your baby starts crawling and walking. You want to protect items you don’t want to get potentially damaged and remove any chemicals or dangers that your dog may get into.

Training Your Dog

Any dog, regardless of age, size, or breed, can learn various forms of obedience. Training can be a great form of building a relationship based on trust and communication with your dog. Training should be done in a manner which never inflicts any serious physical or emotional harm to the dog.

Training your dog will help you control their excitement when you come home and keep your dog calmer when he is left alone for long periods of time. Training can also contribute to your dog’s safety, especially when they are left at home alone or presented with dangerous situations they are likely to encounter. You also need to make sure your dog is well trained so that they don’t hurt other people or other dogs/pets. It is your duty alone to make sure your dog doesn’t become a danger or nuisance to the public. If you find you cannot train your dog effectively, you may need to acquire the assistance of a professional dog trainer or resign to the fact the dog may not be a good fit for you.

While you never want to give up on a newly adopted dog, you also don’t want to put them through further trauma or put others at risk if you do not have the skills or willingness to effectively train them and give them a safe existence.

Behaviorist Help

In the case of a dog with trauma, the help of a dog behaviorist can be very beneficial. After observing the dog and interviewing you the owner, the behaviorist may be able to suggest effective training methods you can use with your dog to make life better for each of you. You have to remember that every dog is different and requires an individual approach.

Different approaches need to be taken for different behavioral issues whether your dog is anxious, aggressive, or antisocial. There may be several problems occurring at the same time which can make determining the correct diagnosis quite tricky. A good behaviorist will teach new owners how to read the various signals your dog is sending and how to respond appropriately to them.

A Visit to the Vet

There are cases where the dog’s trauma can be so intense that only pharmacological support will improve the pup’s well-being so that it will be capable of adapting to a new life with you or can be trained. You will need to see an experienced vet who will select the appropriate medications and doses for your dog based on their breed.

It is also worth visiting the vet when you suspect any health problems that may have been missed by a shelter. Stray dogs taken in from the street should always be taken to the vet right away to make sure they don’t have any serious issues which could put their health or the health of your family in jeopardy. Dogs often don’t show pain like humans do, and serious problems can easily go overlooked.  Sometimes a simple visit to the vet can uncover ailments which can be easily cured and this may end up resolving a dog’s behavioral problem.


When you learn how to deal with a dog who has experienced neglect or cruelty, you have a chance to create conditions in which the dog will have the opportunity to live a much happier life.

It is necessary to realize that adopting a dog from a shelter requires effort and a lot of responsibility. Simply wanting a dog is not enough. The goal is to rescue a dog to give them a better life, not solely to give you companionship and entertainment. It needs to be an equally beneficial relationship. With the right attitude, expectations, and commitment, adopting a dog can be a wonderful deed that provides each of you with years of love and happiness.  





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Author: Michael Jerrard

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