The following guest post comes from Jackie, a writer for 1-800-PetMeds, who loves to help and support the pet community. You can find Pet Meds on Twitter or connect with Pet Meds on Facebook. This is part 2 of a two-part series on adopting an abused dog. See part 1 here.
Teach Your Dog How to Eat
If your dog was deprived of food before, she doesn’t know when her next meal is going to be, so she may exhibit certain behaviors like wolfing down her food, or even aggressively guarding it. It will take some time for her to learn that not only are you going to give her food on a regular basis, you’re not going to take it away once you have given it to her. Contrary to what some training materials might have you believe, giving your dog food, taking it away, and then giving it back doesn’t teach your dog to be tame and accepting. It teaches her that you will take her food from her, and an abused or formerly starved dog will not react well to that.
The first few times you feed her, just let her do whatever she’s going to do. This will not only let her know that she can eat without being disturbed or punished, but it will let you observe her behavior so you’ll know how to address it. If she tries to grab the food before you even put it down, work on training her to sit until the food is on the floor and you give her the command to eat. If she aggressively guards her food, isolate her from any other pets while she eats so she knows it’s hers, and no one is going to take it away. Also give her a few treats throughout the day so she gets used to taking food from you. If she snaps, work with her until she can gently take a treat from your fingers without nipping you. It will take time, but eventually, she’ll calm down and will respond to your training.
Love Your Dog
An abused dog has probably never known love from a human. Before your dog came to you, his life was full of pain, suffering, starvation, loneliness, and heartache. He may not know what to make of your soft words and gentle touches. He may not understand why you feel the need to hug and kiss him, that your heart aches for the suffering he endured, and you wish your affection could erase the horror that was his previous life. It will take time before he’s comfortable and can respond the way most dogs do—with equal enthusiasm, wet kisses, and a trusting head on your lap.
Until he gets there, love him every day, and show him that you will love him even when he has an accident because he hasn’t figured out the difference between inside and outside yet, and even when he knocks over a lamp because he’s never wagged his tail before and doesn’t realize how strong it is. Love him when he’s sick after eating because he’s never had a full belly and his body hasn’t adjusted to being nourished yet. Love him when he chews up the blanket you gave him to lie on because he’s working through his anxiety and depression. Just love him. And he will, eventually and wholeheartedly, love you back.