5 Tips for Traumatized Dogs

In recent weeks, we’ve discussed fearful and brittle dogs. Some dogs can have the best start in life and still grow up with behavioral concerns. Other dogs missed out on critical socialization experiences as puppies, which impacted their development. But what about dogs who have had it even worse? How does trauma impact dogs?

Some of the dogs we take into our homes don’t just come from neglectful pasts but have lived with outright abuse. Sometimes this abuse has been due to mistreatment at the hands of a past owner, and sometimes it has happened in the current home despite to the owner’s very best intentions. Trauma has a lifelong impact on many dogs.

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Training is still an unregulated field, which means that there are still many so-called trainers who use aversive training techniques to address behavioral problems. There’s a reason why the AVSAB, the organization for the premier experts in animal behavior, has a position statement regarding the use of punishment in training. Manufacturing fear or avoidance in an already panicked animal does not create an environment where critical learning can take place. I’ve heard of trainers shocking dogs who suffer from separation anxiety for barking in their crates, hanging dog-aggressive dogs by their neck when they lunged at others, and strapping electronic collars to dogs’ genitals in the name of behavior modification.

Remember that you are your dog’s advocate. If something doesn’t seem right to you, it is up to you to put your foot down and protect your dog. Even something as seemingly mild as squirting a reactive dog with a water bottle or gently placing a frightened dog into a fear-inducing situation (such as setting a dog who is afraid of slippery floors onto the middle of the kitchen floor) and preventing that dog from leaving can have long-lasting consequences. While you may have had the best intentions when you followed the advice of the trainer on TV or tried a technique that your coworker swears by, if your dog responded by panicking or shutting down and if you’ve noticed that your dog’s behavior has deteriorated since that time, it’s possible that your dog could be experiencing a canine version of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, also known as PTSD.

PTSD is most well-known as a disorder frequently experienced by veterans, but any survivor of trauma may experience the symptoms. Little is known about why some individuals experience symptoms that can range from mild to debilitating while others who were present in the same event can emerge unscathed.

Extreme fear oftentimes results in altered perceptions of the event. Triggers associated with the fearful event do not engage the hippocampus, which is usually responsible for memory, but rather the amygdala, which is responsible for emotions. Strong flashbacks to the original panic state can be instantaneous, and are not under the dog’s conscious control. Just as you’re unable to control the contraction or dilation of your pupils when you feel strong emotions, a dog experiencing Post Traumatic Stress symptoms such as this is absolutely unable to stop feeling the way he does in the moment.

The triggers for this flashback state may not make logical sense. Scents, textures, certain movements, and even the time of day can all trigger this instant fear reaction. While some triggers are easily explained, such as Layla flinching and dropping to the floor the first time I carried a rolled up newspaper into the house or a previous foster dog slinking away if he smelled alcohol on a visitor’s breath, others are less easy to tease apart and may never be completely identified. A foster dog several years ago would occasionally yelp when he was touched, even after soliciting attention, but the vet could find nothing physically wrong and his quick fear reaction never manifested twice when the same area of his body was touched. Another dog that I’m working with right now will begin trembling for no apparent reason several times a week, hiding under the bed and occasionally voiding her bladder in terror. While her owners are keeping diligent notes, they haven’t been able to pinpoint the source of these episodes.

If your dog has a history of trauma, whether suspected or confirmed, here are some guidelines to remember.

1. The dog determines what’s traumatizing, not you. While you may not have thought that holding your dog down for a simple nail trim was that big a deal, your dog may have a different opinion. Watch your dog’s body language for signs of stress such as lip licking, yawning, slower or faster movement, freezing, and turning away so that you can intervene if a situation starts to go south. Pushing through such situations can almost guarantee that they’ll create new fear triggers in many dogs.

2. Create safe places. One of the reasons that mat work is so very helpful for so many dogs is due to its clear structure of safety. By making the mat a positive place where treats, relaxation, and massage take place, we can create a positive conditioned emotional response to the mere presence of this training tool. Once the mat becomes a safe place, make sure to keep it that way. Don’t let anything bad happen to your dog on the mat. You can create other safe spaces as well – places in your dog’s environment where good things happen and where there is no pressure placed on the dog.

3. Give your dog choices. One of the fastest ways to traumatize any mammal is to take away all of his or her choices. Manufacture opportunities for your dog to make choices about his or her environment, schedule, and care as much as possible. Whether you let your dog decide which way to turn at the end of the block, wait for your dog to offer a foot for nail trimming, play with nose work, or give your dog several different beds to choose to sleep on, choice is hugely important. Set your dog up to make good choices, then reward those choices to build the dog’s confidence.

4. Always try to end on a good note. Research has shown that people who experienced identically unpleasant procedures created very different memories of those procedures depending on how traumatic the final moments of the procedure were. While we don’t know whether dogs have the same cognitive recall abilities, it certainly doesn’t hurt to try to make the last few seconds of any unpleasant experience as pleasant as possible. For example, Layla is very concerned about having her feet handled. I file her nails instead of clipping them because this is more comfortable for her, and she is in control of how fast or slow nail trimming sessions go. She is also free to leave at any time if she gets too scared. At the end of every nail-trimming session, I practice simply touching the nail file to her toenails for less than a second, followed by a food reward. Because each session ends with these quick successes, she’s more comfortable allowing me to handle her feet when it comes time for the next session.

5. Your dog is not his story. If your dog has a history of trauma, it’s important to be aware of that past, but equally important to help your dog succeed in the present. Too often, we get caught up in the stories we tell ourselves about our dogs’ pasts, and forget to pay attention to the animal in front of us. While trauma can have lasting consequences due to its huge impact on the way the brain develops and processes information, patient behavioral modification and an environment of safety can have equally powerful effects. See your dog for who he is in the moment, rather than who you expect him to be. He may surprise you.

If your dog has a history of trauma, make sure to read the posts on fearful and brittle dogs for more tips on helping him recover, and please share your stories in the comments below!

52 responses to “5 Tips for Traumatized Dogs

  1. Wonderful Post. Thanks so much!

  2. Aw, this newsletter made me cry! Life with Tildy has taken me down the rabbit hole of doggie abuse/trauma/chemical imbalance, and though there are some days when I am frustrated, most days I feel like I am getting insider scoop that helps fortify my skills as an ally to my most favorite species on the planet. (Sorry, humans.)

    I’ve said it before… your newsletter is one of the only that I read. Well written! Well thought out! Well done!

    Thanks!

    Lizzy, Hugo and Tildy moo

    Lizzy Flanagan lizzyflanagan.com 413.695.6588

  3. Once again, a great post that really helps those of us living with and loving these traumatized dogs! Thank you.

  4. Reblogged this on P O S I T I V E r e i k i and commented:
    5 #Tips for #Traumatized #Dogs

  5. This makes sense, but I’m having trouble figuring out how to make some necessary situations easier for our puppy. For example, he got his first Bordetella vaccine this past weekend. It’s a nasal spray, and this is the first time he had issues with a medical procedure as far as I know. We’d been practicing having his head held, so he was fine until the spray started. It was rather painful for me to watch his reaction, and he was terrified for about half an hour after. I have no idea how to make this situation easier, and am worried that this experience has undone all of our work making the vet’s office a safe and fun place to visit. Does anyone have any ideas on how to deal with this, or other situations where the (possible) trigger is unavoidable?

  6. In the case of the Bordatella vaccine or any other quick incident, you can shower the pup with lots of tasty treats that last way longer than the vaccine did.

    For future prep, though, you can get your dog conditioned to be used to the hand over the muzzle and things coming at his nose that he experienced during the vaccine.

    Great article as always, Sara!

  7. “Your dog is not his story” – I love this. So many folks cling to the sad background of their rescued animals, and don’t take enough time to look at the actual behavior in front of them. I once caught myself carrying on at a workshop about my 7 year old dog’s former fear aggression toward men, while the actual dog in front of me schmoozed the male audience members for cookies.

    Our new dog, Theodore, is an amazing example of canine resilience. He is the opposite of a brittle dog. He grew up on a dogfighter’s chain, completely undersocialized, and then had a very long shelter stay (a nice shelter, but a 5×5 pen is still not a home). Who knows what horrors he may have seen in his formative months? Teo should be traumatized by the world (and many of the dogs who came in with him were), yet he is one of the most level-headed, unflappable dogs I’ve ever met. Loves dogs. Loves humans. Loves cats. Kisses babies. Play-bows at his own reflection. Walks confidently through downtown as though he grew up around traffic.

    So I train Teo like a normal dog but I remember his story, and appreciate the fact that he’s really quite extraordinary.

  8. What an excellent article! I work with traumatized dogs (including quite a few puppy mill survivors) as a Tellington TTouch practitioner. Other work includes showing owners of therapy dogs how to help the dog downshift and relax after their work. TTouch is tremendously helpful in helping the dog recover from trauma. I often work cooperatively with positive reinforcement trainers (and teach classes at one such facility). They recognize that a dog that is living in a state of fear or insecurity has difficulty learning desirable new behaviors. Even if they can, training doesn’t really change the way they feel or think. TTouch can do that, and it makes a tremendous difference in the outcome. So I enthusiastically endorse what is written here, and would simply like to add that an approach such as TTouch can be an extremely helpful tool in the tool box along with all of these recommendations.
    As you said, your dog is not his story. His past affects how he feels and acts now, but we work in the “now”, because that is where we can affect change. We acknowledge his past, but we don’t keep dredging it up. We have a saying in TTouch–“Change your mind, change your dog.” If all you ever see or talk about is the dog’s terrible or unfortunate past, and keep talking about it, that drags it into to present. The dog, and you, need to be free of those entanglements.
    If you are not familiar with TTouch, or are, and would like to find a practitioner in your area, go to http://www.ttouch.com for more information.

  9. Reblogged this on rita ippolito and commented:
    Excellent Article

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  12. Mona Lindau-Webb

    Love the article, particularly the notion of choices for the dog. I do that with all my own dogs as part of everyday life. In addition to all the great aids you mention, there is of course medications and nutritional supplements that really help. Prozac or some other SSRI can be a great aid in rehabbing truly traumatized dogs. The first thing treatment for soldiers with PTSD is SSRI antidepressants. So that will help dogs,too.

  13. Pingback: 4 Tips for Socializing a Sick Puppy | Paws Abilities

  14. I bought my dog at pet co and they said he’s afraid of men maybe tromotise and now I can’t even get near him with out him try a bark at me what should I do

  15. I recently rescued a dog from an abusive home. I’m trying to help him get back to a normal lifestyle, but it’s been a very big struggle. I’ve started giving my dog treats after we go on a walk; that’s been very helpful.

    Lily de Grey |

  16. Melissa Brown

    Thank you for the article. I’m looking for ways to help my dog after he was shot and his bff was killed. At the moment I’ve changed certain living conditions so I can get him back to what he use to do, protect livestock babies instead of killing them. And slowly introducing a new buddy for him. He’s not accepting to the new pup as he was when we got his bff. Our 2nd clue he changed.
    Hopefully I can work magic on him again with a bit more understanding of the brain changes.

  17. Pingback: Pickles’ Story | Paws Abilities

  18. My husband has been taking in stray dogs since he had baby teeth so our three dogs all basically came home with him off of the streets. I always made him search for the owners just to make sure that no one is missing their dog. All three of them have some behavior issues but they are the sweetest dogs you will ever meet, so loyal. I think that when you have a pet with issues, it is important to make sure you take them to the vet regularly. We are looking for vets here in Markham for our dogs, thanks for the great read.

  19. Very good and informative post. Lots of good points and was well thought out. A lot of people don’t know how to deal with a traumatized dog.

  20. I have a 3 months golden retriever who is afraid to eat because one time his food’s bowl get infected by ants and bit him… I dont know what to do to help him… I try change the bowl change placewhere I put the food… if I want him to eat I have to give him the food with my own hands for him to eat… any advice? Sorry my english isnt perfect :)

  21. “Your dog is not his story” is a great message. Thank you for this article. I was grinding my teeth last night hearing my new rescue dog barking nonstop. She was traumatized by other dogs and passerby’s in the pound, as well as by whatever happened to her when she was a stray, and now has it programmed in her mind to bark to ward off any and all potential approaches to her new home and her concept of safety. She is literally fiercely protective of her new home…I fear that others do not have patience for this behavior though, and just see an unexplainable fearful dog. She is so loving with her family…How do you train a fearful dog to stop doing what helped her ward of unwanted advances in the past, just so neighbors can have a restful night? She does not understand someone telling her to stop protecting herself.

  22. I just found this and it is very interesting to me. I just rescued a 2 year old Golden Chow, she has come a long way in 6 months but we can only get about 20 feet away from another dog.

  23. My new rescue mini poodle of 12 days is a puzzle for me. No history. Picked up on the streets. He is 1-2 yrs, old. He has PTSD, flight risk, anxiety. Poodles are smart and learn quickly. This dog acts like he knows nothing. He won’t bark or whine. Flat affect, no interest in treats or toys. No response to direction. Never asks for anything. Does eat his food and h2o. Potty trained to potty pad. Does like to be massaged. Tense if you try to pick him up. I have to keep him on a leash at all times so I can catch him. He is good in car and in basket in store. I think he is severely depressed also. I’m thinking I need a behavioral therapist. He has been in foster care for a month and now with me. I want to teach him basic commands to keep him safe and instill self esteem. He is very sweet and gential. I plan holding him and petting him and talk to him all the time. He just sleeps in his crate or in his bed all day. I walk him, take him in the car and in the stores. Can you tell me who I can contact for pro. help? He has had all shots, evil by Vet. and neutered. carol.home1@gmail.com.

  24. I have a dog that is just about 1 year old , but came from an abusive family. Even now when I try to tell him to stop chewing on furniture or shoes he runs or gets in a fetal position. I love my dog so much I would do anything for him not to feel scared. Please tell me what can I do? I am soon going to take him to pets smart for training so he can get along with other dogs because I also feel he is anti social. Thanks

  25. Thank you this is very interesting. I rescued a 2 year old Golden retriever Chow last June. She was kenneled at a puppy farm, due to flooding in San Antonio last year when they found her she was still nursing but no puppies were found. She is fabulous with people but is very aggressive to other dogs. She is so much better now. But we can not walk up to another dog. At first I was not sure what to do, I have been working with her, the Vet says she was beaten so much that her right hip has permanent damage. I would like to make the rest of her life great and learn more about how to keep her safe.

  26. charlotte dean fort Worth tx

    My rottie had a bad experience during surgery. To his eyes for entropic he woke u from anastasia during surgery he bit the vets hand I don’t know what they did to him to make him let go but now anytime you get in his personal head area he will for no reason or warring bit your hand an only your hand like he did the vets hand during surgery when he woke up an they had his eye turned inside out getting to start cutting thank God they hadn’t made the Insion yet or he could have Mabry bleed to death an died help what can I possibly do for him he’s 14mon old an weighs 135 lbs an sill growing my new vet said he problem will reach about 10 to170 lbs total IA afraid he will hurt someone real bad an I will get in trouble or he will be put down what can I do please give me help if you can

  27. In trying to make sense of my adoption of a rescue dog, I can’t imagine a day in life NOW without Jaeger, my boy! Nothing but nothing is too good or without meaning for him and his adoption of ME as his Alpha; life is Good! That established trust and respect between us pushes the issues and details of his life toward the past. We go forward together, gaining insights and pleasurable events each day and his responses are amazing. This post; 5 Tips for Traumatized Dogs

  28. I just got in a car accident and am worried how it will affect my dog on trusting me again, this article helped me a lot

  29. I recieve a small teacup dog who’s history has a abuse from men an bigger dogs. Sense my boyfriend shave his head. Peachy has been frighten an hangs on my shoulders an when he moves she hides her face an paws my cheek an hides against my neck or sits or sits chest.
    She isn’t left alone at because she is always frighten now an she watches the door now an shakes literally ever sense my boyfriend shave his head. I am disabled an she is with constantly. I think she is having fl00ashbacks of previous abuse.

  30. Hi, I’m the owner of a mini schnauzer just under two years old. He is always with me and has good own into a happy healthy being. Recently while I was pulled over in my car getting something from my trunk he jumped out, I didnt notice and drove away not noticing until I got home. He was found by nice people and was gone for 16 hrs.
    He has been home for three days but seems sad. Can you offer any advice please?

    • Start over as if you had just brought him home and for the first time. The trauma of being away from you and that he slipped away without your notice is reason enough to make him feel reassured “your home is his home”!

  31. I have had a rescue dog for almost a year now and he bites, quite severely, through the skin. Luckily he is a small dog so I can handle him but he’s been here such a long time and I was hoping he would get better about it. He is headstrong and wants to get his own way. Plus, he resource guards his bed, toys and food. This is his 4th home in a year and 1/2. I am told he has never bitten before but I don’t believe it, I think the rescue group is being deliberately vague. It’s when I need to do things like combing, ear cleaning, teeth, etc. I have always given him an especially good treat (saved for special occasions) each time upon completion. I do muzzle him for this now. He stills growls and bites if it is something he doesn’t want to do or if it’s unpleasant for him. His biting seems to be escalating. He actually bit me twice the last time, the 2nd time after I had moved away. Then he attacked me and I had to kick him off me. He seemed to “come to” after this and looked at me with surprise. I could actually see his eyes clear and realize where he was and who I was. I like your information about PTSD. This was over a piece of Styrofoam he was eating that I tried to take away from him. I did tell him to drop it prior to reaching down. He is 8 and was never neutered until the rescue got him at 7. I have had many, many dogs and have never faced a biting dog before. All that said, he is otherwise a nice dog, well behaved and minds well in most situations. He’s affectionate, friendly and loves everyone. My dog likes him, too.I am heartbroken and feel like I am failing him Any advice from anyone out there would be very much appreciated. lynn@varinweb.com

  32. Hey I have a dog that’s a groundhog Mix with jack Russell terrier with permanent tramar

    I want answers to this solutions

  33. So I got my dog about two years ago off the street, he was only 3 months old, and I’m pretty sure he was abused. it has been fine when I’m here but it started to get worse when I got roommates and a girlfriend and he has started to get really nervous again and seemingly jealous. Not sure how to help him

  34. My problem are my 2 cats, brothers, together since birth living, sleep together, wash each other, etc until they accidently got out tohether, overnight. Big one got hurt bad, now they are living in seperated rooms, hate the sight of each other. How do i resocialuze each other.

    • I see it’s a very long time ago since you post this now, but if you haven’t neutered the boys I would suggest you do that as a first step! Two un-nuetered male cats can suddenly start to fight and want to kill eachother even if they have grown up together

  35. I have a female Jack Russell, who was severely abused. I have had her since she was three, she’ll be ten this fall. The first owners used to throw her against the wall, at first and for quite a while, she wouldn’t let me pick her up…she’d screen before you really even touched her!! I don’t remember when, but gradually she gained trust in me and I can pick her up whenever I want, however even other people that she knows and loves, she still screams if they try to pick her up. One man, that she didn’t know picked her up and she bit him!! I was wondering if there is anything that I can do for her to help this fear go away for her…she’s a great dog, a Ma-Ma’s girl!!!

  36. My dog lost control of his bladder with fear from the threst of violence even though he had not been mistreated by me.he attacked a dog and i tuck him home immidiately so he would learn hed done wrong.the dog scenced my disspproval but responded in a way were i could see hed been mistreated previously

  37. My dog was hurt a long time ago 3 1/2 years to be exact… A neighbors dog came through our doggie door when my baby was just a puppy and hurt her in ways I can’t say. My mom told me she came home and my puppy had blood all over her. We took her to the vet. She is now 4 and she is very traumatized. I love her to death. And she bit me a few weeks ago on the face. It really hurt but I still love her. Now I can’t even give her a hug without her growling at me. She use to love me. I don’t know what to do but maybe this will work. Thank you

  38. Pingback: Paisley | Mommy Dog Rescue

  39. Hi,
    I have a fourteen year old dog that was home alone when a pipe burst in the bathroom and sprayed water all over for hours. We were out of the house for two months and now that we are home he goes into the basement when no one is home. Hiding under thing’s and behind boxes and shredoing the boxes. I am worried that he is afraid of being home alone now. Do you think that is possible and do you have any suggestions?

  40. My son’s autism service dog was attacked by a man and his dog almost a year ago. The police would not do anything about it. I now have a $15,000 dog that does not perform his duties properly and I cannot take out in public because of his fear of people and dogs. It has caused aggression towards them. He is a very good dog. He never tries to harm anyone, but barks and growls at them whenever they come near. Can you blame him? We scrounged and saved in order to get him for my son and do not have the money to have him retrained. Nothing I have tried so far that has been recommended has worked. He seemed to be getting better and then we were out walking when an off-leash dog bit him in the butt. Now we are back to square one’ only worse. Any suggestions or help would be greatly appreciated. We need him back to full functioning work order.

  41. Hi, I would really really like some tips for my own dog and my relationship with her. In this case it’s my own fault that I traumatized her, without that intention of course and I am feeling horrible about it,. I have a little hairless mix girl, or I have two small hairless mix dogs, but it’s just the one I have traumatized. When I went to get her at 8 weeks old I traveled for over 8 hours one way to get her, and she was the love of my life and love at first sight when I saw her! She is now under 3 kg and when I got her she was so teeny tiny she could sit in the palm of my hand. I got her vaccination papers and health certificate from the vet and she had a clean bill of health with the exception of HORRIBLE achne already at the age of 8 weeks with a huge cyst/pimple on her neck that was the size of a bottle cap on that teeny tiny little body. Which the vet had already noted and had to empty that huuuge cyst/pimple on her neck. In his notes he said I needed to keep emptying this for the days to come and to rinse and clean the area, which I did. I should as gently as I could squeeze it and empty it.. My little girl cried and squealed like a pig every time and it was just horrible, but I followed the vets orders. She kept and still keep getting these huge huuuge pimples that get infected when left untreated, so I keep and kept having to empty and clean them however gross for me, and painful for her.. THIS is now ruined our bond. Even if I do this at most ones a day, and I try to keep it to as little as ones a week… She is happy to see me and all that, and cuddles with me at night etc, but she wont sleep or be close to me at daytime IN CASE of me hurting her so she will never ever even be in the same sofa with me and there is this little distrust all the time now, and she being scared every time I get up to get her to just go out or whatever else! This is just HORRIBLE for me as well as for her… I am just heartbroken to see what I have caused and that she is genuinly scared for me to hurt her. Even when we are outdoors and sit by the beach she wont sit too close to me in case I get in reach of her…. What should I do to repair this relationship and help her get over this? I will have to get her achne treated one way or another, because of the bad infections.. but I am up for ANYTHING to help her.

    • Tina-Leaza Jones

      Hi, I have a three year old Chihuahua/ Norwich mix, I “adopted” her from a very poor couple who owned both parents and were giving them away at our local gas station out of a box…they led me to believe that she was eight weeks old…I gave them a sizable “donation” for the pup…as I got her home, she was no bigger than a Hamster, yet, she still tried to dominate my seven year old ( previously abused) JackRussell, who is my Companion Service Dog, to this day, more than three years later, “Rosie” takes the lead and can playfully be aggressive towards Diamond, no matter how hard I try to deter the behavior… Rosie ” thinks” that I’m hers!!! She is in no way mean to Diamond, but intimidates her from jumping up onto the bed…and she WILL NOT walk on a lead, she stays right with me, yet I refuse to have her out unleashed…I don’t know how to get Rosie to just allow Diamond be…Rosie cleans Di’s face,etc…they are close, but the intimidation worries me…am I just worrying for nothing!! They have Never fought or anything, but I don’t like Di feeling like she’s less…HELP!!!

  42. I feel horrible that I am just realizing in the past couple of days that I was putting my dog through what to her was a traumatic situation. I knew she wasn’t happy in the situation and have worked with that and she has come a long way, but I hadn’t been thinking of it as ptsd and since I have ptsd from a few different sources this is heartbreaking to realize. The program that trained my service dog trains them so well and ends up with happy dogs who want to work, but my dog ended up in a second home where they were not treating her well and the father resented her. I don’t know exactly what happened there but she was taken out of that home and then next into ours. The lady who runs her service dog program was surprised when I would tell her how my dog would shut down when wearing her gentle leader because she said that my dog was rock solid when working. And I know she must have been because initially she learns things right away and is eager to respond, and in the beginning with us would get excited when seeing me pull out her gentle leader as if that had been a good experience, but then once she had it on would shut down. And our lady said that when she went to put it on her in the time between the bad home and ours, she got scared and peed on the floor. I have been doing so many things to make her trips out in the car and when working into happy experiences and it has helped, but the other night we were at the movies with an event that involved a lot of people, in a very loud sound-unfiltered lobby, and she was not doing well. She has mostly stopped shutting down and is always in mental link with me after a year together, but the other night she was acting more of the active ptsd responses. I need to figure this out. I’m about to read the other links you gave here and thanks so much.

  43. Pingback: How To Deal With Dog Behavior Problems - Puppies 4 All

  44. excellent article. Trauma has lifelong effects on humans and pets. Still amazes me how people justify using physical punishment assuming they will rehabilitate trauma. So clueless.

  45. Laura Daugherty

    My dog was attacked by another animal,she is suffering.She will nip at anyone including me you can be in the middle of petting her. What can I do. I want to help her,but I do not want her biting anyone.

  46. My little Doogie is just the sweetest little guy and is full of love. Sadly though he can be the scariest thing in the world at the flip of a switch for no obvious reason.

    When my husband and I met Doogie at the shelter it was a no-brainer he was the one. He was scared out of his mind but a single hug brought him out of his shell and that was all she wrote. That following night we discovered he had violent night terrors, he also screamed when we pet him in just the “right” places.

    We brought him to the vet to get him his first checkup and we discovered he had a broken rib and a bruised hip. He had been brutally kicked. Well as months went by he was starting to get over the anxiety and he was healing up quite nicely.

    Well eventually he injured his back from rough housing too much and had to get two weeks mandatory cage rest. Then it went all down hill from there. His anxiety came back with a vengeance. The first night he threw up and peed in the kennel without letting us know (we were in the other room and he had only been in there for not even a half hour). He just laid in it, it was when we went to get him dinner and take him out we discovered the mess and he was scared to leave the kennel. He was backed into the corner and wouldn’t let me take him out as though I was acting as though I was going to hit him.

    After the two weeks of rest, we kept him out of the kennel as much as humanly possible and had him sit on the couch with us. His night terrors came back and were worse than ever, he would get up, spin around and attack; heaven help the person he was sitting with. When he woke up he would want to cuddle or he would go hide.

    While those night terrors have mostly subsided we still have a problem where we will be sitting with him and he will randomly whip around and attack either myself or my husband very violently (sometimes going for the face), then he will cower down as though we are going to beat him. I’ll try to separate him from the situation and if I accidentally touch the side where his broken rib was at he will flip out and attack more. When he comes out of it he wants cuddles and is scared out of his mind.

    Theres no telling what triggers those attacks. All I can guess is that some one would taunt or beat him, he would try to defend himself then they proceeded to punch/kick him in the ribs. Something causes him to relive that on occasion.

    It’s also weird, we could be playing and all of a sudden he will cower down as though I’m going to beat him. There was no obvious change in my behaviour but it ends the fun and he wants to go hide.

    It’s scary and heart breaking, all we can do is talk calmly and use happy voices (hard to do when we nearly get our faces ripped off). He’s a broken soul but we wouldn’t trade him for the world. I just wish he could tell us what had happened to him…. or maybe not, after the crate rest I don’t think I could handle it.

  47. I have just adopted a cross at bernard Romanian shepherd she is so traumatised im at a loss .she was beaten everyday and starved .she stays in her bed constantly I’ve put f ood and water next to bed and she has eaten and drunk a little .I had to get her out to change bedding so walked her into garden as soon as I released her off lead she ran straight back in to her bed .she hasmt been to the loo properly for three days .will she trust me eventually .I talk to her and stroke her all the time .breaks my heart .What the hell did they do to this beautiful quick to please baby 😢😢any advice greatly accepted thanks

    • Julie, stay consistent on your reassuring and confident behavior. This baby has presently very little if ANY in her to trust anything or anyone, including you. Lie down next to her if possible and just be there. Stroke gently non-vulnerable areas such as shoulders, under chin, softly along the line of the ears. This will take time and much more understanding and compassion then you probably ever thought was in you. This beautiful being is WHO/WHAT you took responsibility for. My giant schnauzer rescue would not allow me to even lightly touch any of his limbs when he became “WE” One year and 8 months ago! Somewhere in possibly the 9th or 10th month, he stopped pulling away and jumping away from me. Today, and every day I lie on the floor with him and he now offers a paw while lying down; I don’t think he’ll ever want to shake! No matter. He’s my boy! All the best to you.

      Jeffrey

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