How to Take Care of a Puppy: Bringing a Puppy Home
How to Tell if Your Dog Has Been Abused in the Past
Adopting a dog can be rewarding and exciting, but also challenging. If your dog has unexplained injuries or other physical symptoms, or expresses unusual or extreme behavior, you may wonder if it was abused in the past. While there may not be a definitive way to tell, if you notice physical and behavioral signs of probable abuse, you should take your dog to a veterinarian or animal behaviorist for treatment.
Checking for Physical Signs of Abuse
Take note of the dog’s general appearance.A dog’s physique will vary widely depending on its breed. However, no dog should appear too thin.For example, if you can clearly see where a dog’s bones are below its skin, it may be emaciated.Since neglected or mistreated dogs are sometimes not adequately fed or are even starved, emaciation can be a sign of prior abuse.
Examine the quality of a dog’s fur.Some dogs have short, stiff hair, others have long, soft hair, while still others fall somewhere in between. Whatever breed a dog is, however, its fur should be clean and free from unexplained clumps or tangles. If your dog has overgrown or matted hair, it may indicate that it has been neglected in the past, not cared for or groomed, or perhaps made to live in substandard conditions.
Pay attention to any fur loss.If your dog has patchy fur, or if its fur seems to be falling out in clumps, this may be a sign of prior abuse.Possible causes include inadequate grooming or an untreated disease.
Notice if the dog’s nails are overgrown.While it may seem like a relatively minor thing, overgrown nails can be a sign that a dog has been abused in the past.This condition can indicate that the dog’s previous owner neglected to care for the animal, or that the dog was kept in conditions in which it could not naturally wear down its nails.
Watch for untreated skin conditions.You should observe a dog’s skin very closely. If you see certain unexplained skin conditions (that is, you don’t know how they came about), these may indicate that the dog was abused physically or did not receive adequate veterinary care in the past. These signs include:
- Bumpy skin
- Scaly skin
Be on the lookout for infestations.Dogs that have been abused or neglected may be infested by fleas, ticks, or other parasites.While there are other reasons a dog (even one that is well-cared for) can become a host to one or more of these parasites, a serious, unexplained infestation might indicate mistreatment, especially if there are other signs of possible abuse.
Observing a Dog’s Behavior
Know what kind of behavior to expect.Be careful not to assume that all unusual behavior is a sign of abuse. For instance, dogs that are adjusting to new homes may express certain behaviors (anxiety, excessive chewing, whining, etc.) because they are excited or nervous. Likewise, a dog at a shelter that seems nervous, frightened, or aggressive might not necessarily have been abused.Instead, the dog might not be used to being around so many dogs, or to being confined.
- All dogs need a period of time to be socialized and to adjust to new settings.
- If you are thinking about adopting a dog, try to observe it in a quiet place first. This can give you a better idea of its normal behavior, and help you decide if it is likely to have been abused in the past.
Observe how the dog moves.Sometimes, past abuse can leave no obvious signs on a dog’s skin or fur. However, if you notice lameness or difficulty moving, this can indicate that the dog was injured in the past due to physical abuse.Signs of such a problem can include:
- Unusual gait
- Moving slowly (lethargy)
- Not liking to be touched in certain areas
- Difficulty getting up, laying down, or sitting
- One or more legs moving differently than the others (slower, stiffly, etc.)
Watch for aggressive behavior.Some dogs that have been abused react by becoming aggressive. However, aggressive behavior in dogs can have many other causes, so it is important to talk about your dog’s symptoms with your veterinarian, trainer, or animal behaviorist.Signs of aggressive behavior in dogs include:
- Baring teeth
Look for signs of anxiety.Dogs that have been abused may also react by becoming withdrawn, shy, or fearful. As with aggression, there are many potential causes of anxiety in dogs, so it is important to talk with your veterinarian or another expert to narrow things down.Signs of anxiety in a dog can include:
- Excessive whining
- Excessive panting
- Dislike of being left alone or separated
- Urination or defecation when separated from its owners
Know which breeds are likely to have been abused.A dog of any type or gender can be abused. However, breeds that are used for dog fighting and security are more likely to have suffered abuse or neglect. This includes breeds such as pit bulls and RottweilersThose that abuse these dogs may isolate, starve, and drug them, train them to be extremely aggressive, and cause them to be injured or even die in dogfights.
Ask your vet to analyze your dog.Whenever you adopt a dog, you should take it to a veterinarian as soon as possible in order to check its overall health.If you suspect that your dog has been abused in the past, it is imperative to contact your veterinarian right away. He or she can give the dog a full examination to assess any problems, including behavioral ones, and develop a treatment plan if needed.
Take action if necessary.In most developed areas, animal abuse is a serious offense and punishable according to a number of laws.If you know or suspect that a dog is being or has been abused, contact your local law enforcement agency and/or animal protection agency.
- Try to document the abuse if possible, using photographs or other evidence.
- However, do not put yourself in danger. Stay off of private land, and away from any individuals or animals that seem dangerous.
QuestionI adopted a dog. His first week at home was wonderful. But then he started snapping and growling at my son, and he acts overprotective of me. What do I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou've been caring for him, so he is attached to you the most. Have your son feed the dog and give him treats, and try to spend time together with your son and the dog so the dog sees that your son is a "friend" and not a threat to you or him. Make sure your son doesn't do anything that could be seen by the dog as aggressive, like grabbing him, taking his toys away, making loud noises, etc.Thanks!
QuestionI have a chihuahua that has been in the with us for a year and a half. Her first week was fine but then she suddenly became very afraid and aggressive to my dad. What do I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt sounds like your dad scared the dog. Your dog is very small and your dad is very big; any moves perceived as aggressive by your dad are going to scare your dog. Ask your dad to speak softly around the dog, don't pick it up, or try to wrestle with it. Encourage play with toys.Thanks!
QuestionWhy does my dog get scared easily when something hard hits the ground?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt could be a fear of loud noises. If a previous owner got angry easily and threw things on the ground and at the dog, sounds that remind the dog of that could still frighten him.Thanks!
QuestionMy dog hates all loud noises. When I shut a door loudly, she gets scared, and when I'm in the kitchen, she stays in a different room. Why could this be?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerShe probably had a negative association as a puppy with loud noises. With that said, lots of dogs do not like loud noises because their ears are much more sensitive than ours.Thanks!
QuestionI got an 8-month-old boxer mix puppy with bad anxiety. She cannot be left alone for a second, she chews everything. She doesn't listen to me. What do I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerPuppies are a lot of work, and require special attention. Chewing is most often caused by too much pent up energy. Dedicate time every day to playing with her and taking her on walks. Walking helps with socialization and house training. If you don't have the time, I would start taking her to puppy training classes. Work on discipline. If she doesn't listen still, take the thing she is chewing away from her and say "no" more sternly.Thanks!
QuestionMy dog goes crazy/barking whenever someone raises their arms to do something like screw in a light bulb, switch on an overhead fan from above, or even stretch. Obviously he feels threatened, but why?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerMost likely your dog had a previous owner that raised his arm before hitting him, perhaps even with a belt or another object.Thanks!
QuestionI have a really big dog with a bite that could easily rip someone's arm off. When he was a puppy, and he tried to bite, we had to gently hit him on the nose. Is this acceptable?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNo, it's not recommended that you use physical actions to "punish" your dog for nipping. Puppies like to explore and play with their mouths. To get them to stop biting, stop playing immediately and yell "ow!" If your dog is a bite risk now, you should probably train him to use a muzzle using force-free, reward positive methods. If he's reactive outside, I recommend talking to a force-free trainer about counter-conditioning or behavior modification. You can use the "Look at That" game too.Thanks!
QuestionIs it bad to make a dog leave a room using a broom?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerAs long as you're not using the broom to hit the dog, then yes. Gently sweep the broom towards the dog to startle them and encourage them to leave the room.Thanks!
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