As a dog professional I hear it too often: “He’s a rescue, he might have been abused” or “He was abused, that’s why he’s acting like this”
Often I hear these statements after the owners had the dog for multiple years which makes me really sad. What makes me sad (sometimes even angry) is that they are actually preventing the dog from moving on from their “possible” bad past.
In some cases, people don’t even know if they dog was abused but they just assume because of the dogs initial response when they first got them. By the way…many dogs act slightly off when first coming in a new home.
The problem is though that, whether it is with actual abuse cases where
we know for a fact these animals were heavily mistreated or cases that are just acting a little “off”, their new owners are dragging this word “Abuse” around with them for many years after. They are not actually helping the dog to get over his past because they will always handle these dogs different than they would a dog that was not allegedly abused.
The result of this often is, instead of helping build up these dogs confidence and teaching them that the world is an awesome place, people often shower them with love, tell them it’s okay to be scared and never put them into a situation where the dogs could actually overcome their fears. The owners tend to just say “he can’t do this, he was abused so now he just is afraid (fill in the blank) and we just manage around it”.
By doing this, they are holding the dog back from fully enjoying life! They don’t let the dog unfold his full potential and let him become the best dog he can be. The new owners might pick up the broken pieces and hold them close to their heart, but they never put them really back together so they stick. The dogs are always at the edge of breaking down again and again and again, experiencing and remembering the past over and over and over.
Another thing that makes me sad in some cases is that the owners use the “abuse” stamp as an excuse for the dog’s behavior and not training the dog to become better... Often so to make themselves feel better, even if done unintentionally and still for the dogs best interested (in their minds anyways).
I feel sometimes that people who use the "abuse stamp" as an excuse do it because It helps them (not the dog) getting the feeling of having done something great by “rescuing the dog out of this horrible situation and showing him the love”. In my opinion, if you want to make yourself feel good because you have gotten the dog out of a horrible situation, then your main goal should be to build the dog up that much that nobody can actually tell your dogs past from his behaviors and everybody assumes he just always was a happy puppy.
Dogs are miraculous creatures like all animals, they learn to live in the moment, they forgive in an instant and they recover from trauma much faster than we do. If you have a dog that was in fact abused (depending what you consider abuse) or even if you just suspect abuse and you want them to be the best dog they can be, then you have to be the first that let’s go of their past and treat them like any dog should be treated, no more and no less!
YOU HAVE TO LET IT GO! It doesn’t matter anymore! It’s the past, live in the now like your dog does and wants you to!
You have to distance yourself from this “abuse situation” and promise your dog that his life has now changed and you are together writing a new story. But to write a new story YOU have to let go of the past first so your dog can let go of the past.
Assist your dog in overcoming everything that was in the past by not accepting and making excuses for the behaviors that he displays as a result from the abuse. Rather push him little by little to become the best he can be (contact a professional if you need help) so YOU BOTH can in fact live your life’s together to the fullest.
Once you gained your dog’s trust, he is committed to let go, and so need you. If you keep thinking, remembering and telling people “oh he was abused” you are just making excuses and every time you are doing this, you are preventing your dog from moving forward and writing a new chapter. As long you carry the worries around you give off that message to your dog, he will too.
Make a promise to your dog today! Tell your dog we are writing a new book! The past is the past and it doesn’t matter. Your abuser will disappear and so will your scars the moment we don’t let him any room in our thoughts! Because now you are mine and I am yours and we concur the world together with no regrets !ONWARD!
About the author:
Simone Krebser - CPDT: Owner and head dog trainer of K9 Possible Dog Training serving the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia from Osoyoos to Penticton and Kelowna with result based dog training. Certified dog trainer, certified pet first aid instructor, member of the IACP, dog crazy and chocolate/cheese addict. “My life revolves around dog’s day in and out and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is my goal to help enhance the lives of as many dogs (and their owners) as possible. Your dog is my priority and I’m as committed to your dog as you are. But I can only help those who sincerely want to help their dogs and not only themselves.”