My Dog Was Abused; Why That Phrase is Ruining Your Dog and Your Training
I believe I recognize I am about to make some people angry… I ruffle a few feathers from time to time; but only in an attempt to help people have a better relationship with their families.
But being a professional dog trainer I see so many horrific things all of the time.
I DO ABSOLUTELY see dog abuse.
I will use one name everyone knows Michael Vick. His dogs were fought and horribly abused.
Over 50 dogs were seized from the NFL player’s property.
Daphna Nachminovitch, a spokeswoman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said “"These dogs are a ticking time bomb. Rehabilitating fighting dogs is not in the cards. It's widely accepted that euthanasia is the most humane thing for them."
Whereas I am sure that many of them were too badly scarred, injured and aggressive to be rehabilitated and unfortunately I am sure many were euthanized.
But thankfully a few were saved and rehomed.
One named Hector went to live with a fabulous family in Minnesota. Hector lived for 7 years with this wonderful family, traveling the country as a therapy dog and dispelling many myths associated with Pitbulls and fighting dogs, before he finally succumbed to cancer at 9. For more on his inspiring life click here. You can even see him playing with other dogs (something naysayers probably said would never happen).
You see, I can tell that this wonderful couple in MN never used his history of abuse as an excuse or rationalization for poor behavior.
I am guessing, that in the beginning Hector had a hard time with life. I am pretty sure no one ever snuggled him, taught him obedience, or allowed him to “play” with other dogs.
I can bet that he was kept in a cage and agitated until it was time to fight (after all he was 2 when he was adopted, so he wasn’t a “puppy”). It doesn’t get more abused than this.
But you can’t be a successful therapy dog and be aggressive with dogs or other people and you can’t be a successful therapy dog and be fearful.
So even though I am sure his new family had to take the time to train him and teach him and socialize him, and they obviously used his life trials to teach people they never used it as an excuse for his bad behavior (let’s face it all dogs are naughty sometimes).
Now I would totally understand if he was dog aggressive or didn't care much for people. After all, he undoubtedly had to fight humans and dogs in an attempt to survive.
And, I can empathize with a dog that has been kicked or chained or beaten or yelled at; but empathy is different than making excuses as a defense mechanism for not dealing with behavior.
Excuses begin with “he was abused” or “he was a fighting dog… so he is dog aggressive, or fearful or doesn’t like people so we don’t push him”
I can’t tell you how often I have heard “He bites my husband, but he was abused by a man”
“He attacks other dogs, but he was attacked by a dog”
“He hates children, but he was teased by neighborhood kids”
If you are making excuses you probably aren't working on changing the behavior.
The Fact Remains
The fact remains whether he was abused, or whether he is just straight up aggressive or fearful (I believe highly in genetics) the prognosis for obedience and desensitization are the same.
The excuse doesn’t really matter when you are dealing with aggression.
I Don’t Mean to be Callous
I don’t mean to be callous or act like I don’t care. Animal abuse tears at my heart too.
But I think it is a detriment to the dog AND to the owner when they use it as an excuse for bad or aggressive behavior. “He bites my husband, but he was abused by a man… so my husband sleeps on the sofa and he can only hug me when the dog is outside”
You shouldn’t let your past affect your future and the same is true with dogs.
If we focus on the past and making excuses, we are too busy living in the past and not working on the present and the future.
No one should live on the sofa or be afraid to show affection to their family or spouse.
Dog’s Live in the Present
Although some things can permanently scar a dog; dog’s live in the present.
I am certain that Hector did not live in the two years prior to his adoption with a loving couple. He lived in the moments where he was loved, and trained and doing his therapy work.
I might also note that just because a dog is starved, or abused by humans does not mean it gives him the right to be aggressive.
Not all abused children grow up to be sociopaths!
No one deserves to live in an abusive relationship. And, sometimes dogs are relinquished BECAUSE they hate or are aggressive to men.
Aggression does not always equal fear or abuse, sometimes it is just an intolerance to share; or Napoleon syndrome. For more on that read this I Do Not Love Thee I possess Thee.
So If This Article Hits Home
So if this article hits home; it doesn’t mean you are a bad person.
You probably have the best intentions in mind.
But, for you and your dog’s sake forget about his past and work on his present and future with obedience, work and perhaps desensitization to the things that bother him. For more on that click here…
And, give him the “Gift of Obedience” to help calm him and give him confidence in all situations.
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.