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My abused dog... help :(

carson79
July 27th, 2006, 12:11 PM
Okay, so I have no idea where to start with this. I have a dog who is almost 2 years old and is a lab cross. I rescued him from a shelter when he was 7 months old. At about 9 months we did some obedience classes which he was great in. He's a wonderful dog with a great, happy personality. However, right now I feel like the worst owner possible. (Believe me this is really hard to write)

Emotionally for me it's been a very rough, difficult and stressful year. Unfortunately, I've taken it out on him. I'm SO ashamed to say this, but I have hit him before (open hand) and he never deserved it. Instead of finding a healthy outlet for it, I turned it on the one being that I had control over. I regret that so much. After working on it for a while now, I've really come to understand where my anger lies and how to deal with it on a healthy level. I've gotten out of my funk and am in a much better place. I understand what I've done is wrong and unacceptable, but now I'm afraid of how I've mentally affected him. I didn't really think much of it at the times when it happened, but now I'm so worried. I actually feel ill right now.

Why I say all this is because... it's been a while since I treated him poorly. We've been doing really, really well together and I thought he was happy. But last night he was laying on the floor and I was talking to him and petting him. I bent down to his level (I realize now was a mistake) and patted his bum, not hard, just patted a bit. I noticed that his leg was shaking and I didn't know why. What didn't dawn on me while he was laying there was that, in his mind, he thought I was going to hit him, so out of fear he lashed out at me baring teeth and growling. Unfortunately his warning bite met my face. Thank goodness it wasn't serious, just a slight cut. It was at that moment when I realized what my moments of anger had done to him. I went on the balcony of my apartment and bawled.

I see now that I've made him into a fearful, aggressive, yet submissive dog. And he doesn't trust me anymore... and really, why should he?! I've tried to look up information as to how to help an abused dog, but all the information is for a dog that's been abused by a previous owner. I want to fix this and it upsets me SO much.

Please, don't judge me for this. I'm already being hard on myself. I've made mistakes and many of them. I'm not making excuses for anything, just asking for help. But all I want is for him to trust me again and not hate me, but I don't know how to begin doing that. I don't want to give him up; since I made the mistakes I want to fix them and give him the happy home he deserves.

Help me. :(

jessi76
July 27th, 2006, 12:39 PM
that was indeed a very sad tale. I'm glad you can admit your wrong, and take responsibility, however, I do think you (and your dog) would benefit from some professional one-on-one help. A professional for you, to help deal with and work through, any issues you may have, and another to help establish a healthy and respectful relationship with your dog. I don't think the advice you will receive on a message board will be sufficient.

I really do applaud you for speaking up and taking responsibility, and my advice is not meant to condemn you. I do sincerely hope with the right guidance your relationship with your dog can be saved. I'm sorry I don't have more to offer.

good luck.

carson79
July 27th, 2006, 12:45 PM
Well, personally I am working with a professional to help me through this, which is why it's improving. And it has gotten much much better, for me at least. But like I said, it really opened my eyes as to how he's doing from what happened last night.

I know you're not condemning me. I thank you for not doing that. I don't need any more guilt to be associated with this (I already have enough)... I just need to fix it, somehow.

Thanks for your suggestions and kind words. :)

happycats
July 27th, 2006, 12:45 PM
I commend you for your candor, and for seeking the help you needed to make you a better person!
I know that all of us at one time or another have lashed out (wether physically or emotionally) at the ones we profess to love most (be it man or beast) so please don't think your alone.

All I can say is trust is a very delicate thing, and once lost takes a very long time to earn again, if ever.
Please keep trying. Time, patients, and love, as well as the end of abuse will surely help. You may also want to try "bonding" activities with him, maybe try obedience classes or some other form of "classes" which will require both of you to rely on and trust each other again.

Actions speak louder then words, and I am sure over time, he will come to realize that the abuse is over.

I wish you good luck, and hope that you never feel the need to lash out at your best friend again.

carson79
July 27th, 2006, 12:51 PM
Thank you for your suggestions. I actually thought about maybe doing the next level of obedience classes with him. From the research I've done I also need to consistently reward his good behaviour as opposed to focusing on what he's doing wrong. I have been doing this, but I guess I need to work harder. The things that do bother him (like the patting on the back leg) I will avoid and pay better attention the outward signs of him not being happy (like the tail between the legs).

I guess the hard part for me is that he's already done the obedience training, so it seems kinda stupid to be doing things he already knows. But on the other hand, I guess redoing them to reinforce the positive would be helpful.

PS: Your message made me cry. ;)

LavenderRott
July 27th, 2006, 12:54 PM
Since you are seeking help for those things that are bothering you, maybe you could look into getting you and your dog into an agility class.

There really is nothing in this world that helps a canine-human relationship better then a good training class. But since you don't want to spend time correcting this dog right now - try agility. You and your pal will learn a new skill and have fun together.

mastifflover
July 27th, 2006, 01:00 PM
I agree with happycat you need to spend some quality time with your dog. I have an abused dog it is a slow process to gain there trust once they have been abused but I believe you can work through this. Buddy still has his moments if I reach out to quickly he will hit the ground and I feel so bad. But even that is less and less often. By keeping a calm demeanor and never lashing out at the dog will help. Be very aware of the body language if you sense the dog tensing abide the signs and if you back off he will start to realize you are not going to do harm to him. Even just taking him out for a long hike and spending time with you will help to create the trust he once had in you.

carson79
July 27th, 2006, 01:11 PM
It's true... I have to be more aware of his body language and how he's feeling. It will take some time, I realize that. And I'm obviously willing to put the time in that's necessary. We do spend a lot of time together... we are at the park twice daily for play time with other dogs and hikes on the paths. I'm just going to make sure that at home I acknowledge how he's doing and spend more time just the two of us playing, and rewarding his good behaviour. Hopefully that will help.

happycats
July 27th, 2006, 01:21 PM
Your original post made me cry;)

Is that your guy? (avatar) Please post pic's (we love pic's):) Oh and what's his name? Carson?

BoxerRescueMTL
July 27th, 2006, 01:23 PM
To communicate with your dog better and help destress him using body language:
http://www.turidrugaas.com

carson79
July 27th, 2006, 01:25 PM
Believe me, it took an hour to write that original post. *sigh*

Yes, that's him. :)

carson79
July 27th, 2006, 01:33 PM
To communicate with your dog better and help destress him using body language:
http://www.turidrugaas.com

Thanks for link! I'm just starting to look at the site and I can already tell that it will really help me to look at him differently... things that I may have overlooked before! :)

BoxerRescueMTL
July 27th, 2006, 01:38 PM
Awesome! I'm glad it can help :) Good luck.

Prin
July 27th, 2006, 01:41 PM
I think the way to go about this is to pretend you just got him from an abusive owner, and just gradually desensitize him. But to be successful, you can never hit him again. You can't desensitize and then freak out because that will just kill all the trust you rebuilt and you'll never get it back a third time.

carson79
July 27th, 2006, 01:53 PM
Okay, so let's say that he was from a previous abusive owner... how would I go about desensitizing him from abuse? Other than the obvious. Is it just from what was said before about spending time, playing, rewarding good behaviour, being aware of body language?

Prin
July 27th, 2006, 01:58 PM
Being aware of body language but also gradually doing things, like patting his leg, in a positive way. Like with Boo, who was abused and hit on the hiney, we'd pat his hiney and he'd turn around to bite (not hard but a warning). Over time, when he started trusting us, we'd sort of travel from his head down to his hiney slowly, getting closer to the "affected area" every time and the day we got all the way, he was showered with cookies and affection. But really gradually. Don't expect miracles in one day.

carson79
July 27th, 2006, 02:04 PM
That makes sense. I have been better at doing that in the past month or so... just showing lots of affection and praise. I guess that's why last night took me by surprise. In my mind things happen quicker than they do in reality. Ugh! Patience is key... pretty much with anything relating to dogs.

Prin
July 27th, 2006, 02:07 PM
Yep. And also remember you are doing it for him, not for you. If you feel rejected at times, it's not his fault. He's just coping. I find a very sincere "I'm sorry" (or a few dozen ;)) can help too. I believe dogs can feel it when you are honestly sorry. Some "poor doggies" might help too.;) It just changes the attitude you pet with when you say it. I mean, you don't want him to become a victim, so don't say it all the time, but once in a while, when he really needs it.
(But you always have to mean it).

carson79
July 27th, 2006, 02:22 PM
You're right. It does take time. Things have been much much better in the past month... but again, I'm probably thinking it should be moving faster than it is. Maybe last night was more residual of the past. I'm not downplaying what has happened, but I shouldn't let this get my resolve down to correct this situation. It will take time and last night was a bit of a setback but he'll progressively get better as I work harder with him.

Prin
July 27th, 2006, 02:23 PM
You mean, work softer with him? ;) :o :clown: (just trying to lighten the mood inappropriately :o)

carson79
July 27th, 2006, 02:24 PM
Hahaha... yes, SOFTER with him.

technodoll
July 27th, 2006, 02:31 PM
Please be careful with that, though, and remember that the more you treat your dog like a human, the more he will treat you like a dog. Dogs do not know the suble differences and leniences in pack behavior: they know the basic rules and it's up to the humans to try to fit the Lessons and Training within those rules. that is why it is possible to train dogs from all walks of life using the same basic methodology.

that being said, if your dog growls or bites you - no matter the reasons behind it - it is time for some SERIOUS training, and nevermind the mushy stuff, if you do not want this to escalate into a dog that bites someone's face off. it will not matter if the dog bit out of fear, aggression, self-protection, etc: it will be deemed an agressive dog and the consequences are dire. let's not cry over spilt milk, the past is done, now what are you going to do about it? you've cried, you've grieved, OK now get that dog into Boot camp ASAP. learn to be the leader he needs to be a good dog. Earn his respect and the Love will come naturally.

I NEVER fear that my dogs will bite me, even if they've done something really bad and i am grabbing them by the scruff of the neck and growling in their face (in fact the darn dogs wag their tails the whole time i'm yelling at them, they think it's funny?). dogs who know their place in the pack do NOT challenge their leaders. they accept the punishment and get on with life, because life is good and they have nothing to fear. Now you job is to show your dog he has nothing to fear, but you are not a pushover either, he can trust you to lead him and no harm will come.

hopefully a good trainer can show YOU the way now :angel:

carson79
July 27th, 2006, 02:33 PM
In all seriousness again... what about him being submissive? I can understand if he lashes out or gives a warning... but he does roll on his back or side with his leg up sometimes when I pet him. He has peed submissively before, but that's quite rare. Or when he lays down, he just won't get back up even though he knows the command "up". I can understand praising him to rebuild his confidence, but how do I deal with this? Even with treats he won't get up.

happycats
July 27th, 2006, 02:36 PM
Every dog is different, but I think however long they have been abused, it takes just as long if not longer to trust again. It's really not much different with people. Just think of it as having an abusive spouse.
If your spouse abused you for a year, it would probably take a year of kindness to forgive, and trust again.

Prin
July 27th, 2006, 02:39 PM
There is a difference between him feeling like he should protect himself from you by growling and him growling to dominate you. If you confront a dog who's growling to protect himself, you will get bitten. Another softer approach has to taken to get him to the point where he doesn't feel afraid or that he has to protect himself.

Big difference between leadership/dominance and submissive snapping and growling.

carson79
July 27th, 2006, 02:50 PM
There is a difference between him feeling like he should protect himself from you by growling and him growling to dominate you. If you confront a dog who's growling to protect himself, you will get bitten. Another softer approach has to taken to get him to the point where he doesn't feel afraid or that he has to protect himself.

Big difference between leadership/dominance and submissive snapping and growling.

Okay, I think I'm following you. But, how would I know if he's growling to dominate me? I can understand growling to protect himself or snapping because of that.

Prin
July 27th, 2006, 02:55 PM
If he was growling to dominate you and was serious about it, it would be much more frequent. Like if you take away a toy, or food or you say "no" about anything. You would see him challenging you at different points in the day, whether it's subtle or really growly. It wouldn't only happen when he feels threatened or cornered, the way you described.

carson79
July 27th, 2006, 03:02 PM
Ahhh... I see now. That does happen occasionally. Like last week I think it was I tried to take away an empty peanut butter container and he growled at me. But that's pretty rare... or should I be worried? He usually doesn't care if I take things away from him. Occasionally he does that to other dogs as well when they try to take a stick or a toy, but I figure that's pretty normal and not that frequent.

we3beagles
July 27th, 2006, 03:02 PM
Make sure also, when you go to pet him you don't make any threatening jestures towards him. Approach him from underneath the jaw with your hand cupped and hold his little jaw in your hand and stroke the sides. Then move up to his ears. Don't smile at him with teeth when you are doing it either. He will learn to trust you again. Good for you for growing as a person and admitting to your actions. It is a little like a 12 step program. You admitted it now you have to make ammends. When you see the unconditional love in his eyes again you will understand the giant leap you have taken.

carson79
July 27th, 2006, 03:08 PM
Make sure also, when you go to pet him you don't make any threatening jestures towards him. Approach him from underneath the jaw with your hand cupped and hold his little jaw in your hand and stroke the sides. Then move up to his ears. Don't smile at him with teeth when you are doing it either. He will learn to trust you again. Good for you for growing as a person and admitting to your actions. It is a little like a 12 step program. You admitted it now you have to make ammends. When you see the unconditional love in his eyes again you will understand the giant leap you have taken.

Thanks! I'm trying here. I was scared I was an unfit parent... but I really can't see myself without him. The love is there, just my behaviour needed adjustment... and I'm almost there with myself (which I'm very pleased with). But now I need to slowly fix what I've done.

Prin
July 27th, 2006, 03:11 PM
Some food possession issues can be normal (but still should be worked out). But things like growling when he's on the sofa and you try to get him off, or talking back when you say no are completely unacceptable.

There is also a ton of body language that goes along with all that though. Like if the tail is high or the ears are forward, it's dominance. If the ears are back, the tail is low and the head is low, it's fearful submission.

Stanley Coren's "How to Speak Dog" is a good book for that. It has drawings of the different body positions, ear positions and so on.:)

carson79
July 27th, 2006, 03:15 PM
Interesting... see, these are things I wouldn't have even thought of. I'm going to learn more about that. BoxerRescueMTL gave that link (http://www.turidrugaas.com) and it gives info like that too. I haven't been in-tune with his body language for the most part. Maybe when I've been thinking he's happy, he's been upset but I haven't realized. I thought I was doing something right and maybe I wasn't in his mind.

pitgrrl
July 27th, 2006, 03:42 PM
You might also want to look at "The Other End of the Leash". It's a really good book that will help you to see how your body language etc. looks to your dog.
Also, on the topic of establishing yourself as leader, I think this can be accomplished in non-confrontational ways, and would be especially important in your case. Try searching NFL or Nilif (nothing in life is free). It's basically just habits you can adopt that continuosly re-enforces you as alpha, without creating challenging and/or potentially dangerous situations.

Prin
July 27th, 2006, 03:44 PM
Good idea pitgrrl. You don't want to lose your position while you're desensitizing and things.

carson79
July 27th, 2006, 03:48 PM
You might also want to look at "The Other End of the Leash". It's a really good book that will help you to see how your body language etc. looks to your dog.
Also, on the topic of establishing yourself as leader, I think this can be accomplished in non-confrontational ways, and would be especially important in your case. Try searching NFL or Nilif (nothing in life is free). It's basically just habits you can adopt that continuosly re-enforces you as alpha, without creating challenging and/or potentially dangerous situations.

Okay great... but where am I searching for this and what does that even refer to?

Prin
July 27th, 2006, 04:11 PM
Just use "NILF" or "NILIF" as your search word, either here on this site or just on google.:)

carson79
July 27th, 2006, 04:18 PM
Just use "NILF" or "NILIF" as your search word, either here on this site or just on google.:)

Perfect... that's what I thought, but I figured I'd check. :)

pitgrrl
July 27th, 2006, 04:27 PM
Sorry, I should have been more clear.
Here's a link to get you started, there are many others though.

http://www.pbrc.net/training_nfl.html

carson79
July 27th, 2006, 04:36 PM
Wow... this is great. I must say that just posting on here and talking about this has made me feel so much better. As of this morning I was so depressed and felt completely hopeless. Now I feel like I can do this and repair my relationship with him. Thank you all for your suggestions and advice. It's greatly appreciated! (Not that I'm saying stop with the advice... anything and everything is helpful to me!) :)

mastifflover
July 27th, 2006, 05:14 PM
He is very cute and I am glad you have gotten good advice. I live near High Park but we don't go very much in the summer too hot for Bud but come fall we will be looking for you we go all the time. I hope everything turns around for both of you

carson79
July 27th, 2006, 05:29 PM
He is very cute and I am glad you have gotten good advice. I live near High Park but we don't go very much in the summer too hot for Bud but come fall we will be looking for you we go all the time. I hope everything turns around for both of you

Thanks. I know it will now. :)

carson79
July 28th, 2006, 10:48 AM
So last night, after I took him to the park to play for a while, I started my research. I read about dog's body language and what that means... as well as NILIF, which is really interesting.

Before I left work, I picked up some treats for him and now I'm starting training again from the beginning. Briefly last night we tried doing it, but he always assumes that when he gets a treat he's to sit down. And when I tried to get him to stand, he went back to his bed and laid down... walking away with his tail between his legs. After doing my research I've realized that it's not him being stubborn, like I may have thought in the past, it's him being confused at my instructions. So I left the training at that and I will change my method of teaching.

When he laid in bed or behind the dining room table (which I understand now is one of his safe places), I let him be. However, I did approach and in a soft voice talk to him and offer him a treat. I noticed that when I did this, he lifted his tail, rather than having it curled under his body. This morning I made him sit/stay before we left the house and when we returned, which he did quite readily.

My consistency was lacking before and now I realize that by my training him and consistently giving him rewards for good behaviour, we will start the road to recovery. Slowly I'll continue our training from the beginning and include new things as I go. By making him realize that I'm the alpha male and that nothing will happen to him any longer and he's safe, I feel like now this will be successful! Plus we'll spend more time together learning as I train him.

I think this is a good start, right? :)

mastifflover
July 28th, 2006, 11:14 AM
That is a good start and remember he did trust you and will again. You are doing great

LM1313
July 28th, 2006, 12:03 PM
Good for you for realizing that you've made mistakes and being willing to change! :) Your dog is absolutely adorable.

Starting over from the beginning is a great idea and it sounds like learning about dog body language is really helping you. :)

Prin
July 28th, 2006, 01:15 PM
Just remember that rewards don't always have to be cookies. They can be praise, a good belly rub, a toy, etc. You don't want to create an addict.:D