Advice on Living With An Abused Dog (Pic of Cute Puppy Included!)

Sirius is seven months old. He’s an absolutely wonderful dog-- sweet, snuggly, super-obedient and loving. He’s been a delightful addition to our family.

He was given to us in October by a fellow my husband works with who breeds Jack Russell Terriers. He had been sold once to another family. I don’t know the full details of that situation, but the breeder offered to buy the dog back from the family because he was concerned they were mistreating him. Given Sirius’ temperment, I would say it was likely he was abused by them.

He’s extremely timid. I have to carry him everywhere when we leave the house. He trembles when he’s in new places or meeting new people. I take him everywhere I go because I want to get him socialized as well as I can, but his terror saddens me.

He’s ultra-placid. My vet says she’s never seen a calmer dog, let alone a JRT (who are often nicknamed Jack Russell Terrorists because of their high-energy temperment.) He spends most of his time curled up on my lap.

I have to be extremely careful when I correct him. A sharp “No!” will send him into a cower and he frantically tries to appease me. The only way I can correct him, if, say, he’s chewing on something that doesn’t belong to him, and not scare him to death is to say very gently, “Oh, no, puppy!”

He runs from me whenever I try to pick him up, though I’ve done everything I can to assure him that I won’t hurt him. Once he’s in my arms, he snuggles into my neck and kisses me. He seems to fear me looming over him-- once he’s in my arms, he’s fine.

He’s completely normal with other dogs, playful and friendly. He was raised with brothers and sisters and is well-socialized with other dogs.

I know he’ll probably never be a completely “normal” dog, since he may have had a lot of trauma in his early life. Is there anything else I should be doing to try to help him? Will he eventually stop fearing me?

i know EXACTLY how you feel. i have two pre-owned beagles at home, and they were both abused. i’ve gone through their story in another thread, but, dammit, i’m gonna go through it again.

quincy was found with two teeth cracked in (presumably cracked by foot) and with two BBs in his body (found upon veterinairy examination). he is the most headstrong animal i’ve ever seen. he takes no crap from anything, canine or human and growls if you try to move him in a way he doesn’t want to be. it’s not an “i’m going to bite you” growl so much as it is a “back off me” growl.
nordberg is the puppy. we call her rocketdog because she runs everywhere and she’s a lapful of love at about 84 mph. she spent the first few months of her life chained up in a tiny radius from a post dug in the ground. she has physical scars on her chest and the back of her neck from where the chains rubbed her flesh raw. the fur is mostly growing over, but the scars are still there. she is a love sponge, and because she was abused before, she makes up for it now. she loves her humans (that’s us in the house) and is a complete love sponge.

i suppose where all this goes is that you’re going to pretty much what we’re doing. and that is to spoil them completely rotten to make up for the hell they had so early in their lives. no, you can’t make it go away, but you can make sure nothing like that would ever happen again. my advice is just to roll with your pup’s personality. if she’s a people person, just let her be. if she’s a little more headstrong, let her be that as well, just spoil the snot out of her.

by the way, the puppy is a damned cutie, and i’d happily post beagle pictures, but i have NO clue how to.

My good friend adopted an abused dog and after his initial settling in with them, he grew to love them very much. I’ll wager that the same will happen with you and Sirius. They were able to divine based on his behaviors that he was most likely chained up for most of his puppy life and beaten while chained, as well as abandoned for long periods of time. He HATED being tied to something, to the point where he’d injure himself trying to get loose. He cringed if you came at him too quickly. He suffered from separation anxiety. But damn if he wasn’t the most lovey-dovey dog once he got used to you. After a couple years, he had noticeably mellowed.
My two cents is to avoid the things that seem to upset your dog. Your gentler discipline will probably be quite effective because he’ll respond out of wanting to please you rather than out of wanting to avoid a beating. As far as the running away from you habit, turn it into a game where you chase him, but then when he’s looking, turn around, look over your shoulder at him briefly, and then “run” the other way! Ten bucks says he’ll start chasing you. Once he “catches” you, you can be bending down to pick him up. Love ensues.

As a fellow dog owner, congratulations on the latest member of your pack. :slight_smile:

Bless you for taking in this guy - he sounds like a keeper.

I’d warn you not to get too carried away with athropomorphizing him and his trauma.
First and formost, let him be a dog and treat him like a dog. Not an emotionally disturbed person. The biggest favor you can do any dog, IMHO, is to allow them to be dogs.

He may just be timid by nature - due to genetics and nothing else. He’ll no doubt benefit from quite and consistant care no matter why he’s behaving as he is right now.

I’d say don’t try to socialize him too quickly. Take baby steps. Let him be confident with you before you start taking him out to confront the rest of the wide world.


If he doesn’t like you looming over, try crawling/crouching and see if that helps. Even lying on your belly if you need to, at least to start with.

Cute photo album, Lissa … I especially liked the 6th photo :wink: .

He didn’t give me much choice. :smiley:

I don’t really understand what you mean. Could you please explain?

Oh, God. :smack: Thanks for the heads-up.

I take him almost everywhere. He went with us on a little vacation, and seemed to do pretty well. Once he had investigated the house to his satisfaction, he did what he always does-- curl up on my lap and snooze.

Cute story-- I took him with me to the bank the other day, wrapped in a blanket because he was shivering from the cold. A woman came up to me, her face full of righteous indignation. When she got up close to me, she looked down at him and then laughed. “I thought he was a baby! I was about to bless you out for taking him outside on such a cold day without a hat.”

To the best of our knowledge, our dog was abused as a puppy. He didn’t have any marks or the like when we found him, but he was very skittish, didn’t want to be held, would run and hide under couches or cars or beds if he got overwhelmed. Two weeks later, he was pretty much a normal puppy; happy, playful, chewing everything in sight. The main difference in his puppy years was that he had a strong distaste for men other than my father. We figure it was a man who abused him and abandoned him. Eight years later, he’s a totally normal dog, except that he still is slightly suspicious of strange men.

My dog was only six or eight weeks old, though; yours may not be quite that malleable. Still, he’s a puppy, and my guess is that he’ll turn out fine.

One thing we dealt with was our puppy’s fear of outstretched hands- he always thought we were about to hit him. Crouching before we reached out to him and keeping our hand palm-up seemed to help him a lot.

He didn’t give me much choice. :smiley:

I don’t really understand what you mean. Could you please explain?

What I mean by my first post is this:

It’s possible that he’ll develop some obnoxious doggy behavior, for the sake of arguement let’s say fear biting and a tendency to snap at people when he’s startled.

One response to that would be to think - “I have a nervous dog who is a fear biter. Now what. Since he’s an otherwise great dog, I’ll do what I can to train him, keep in the right environment, etc. so that he doesn’t bite anyone.”

Another response would be to think - “My dog was abused and now acts out his insecurity around people by snapping at people who, forwhatever reason, don’t understand that he has a fragile mental state due to his terrible puppyhood.”

In other words - there are folks who don’t act on their pet’s behavior problems or health issues because they ascribe everything the animal does as the natural result of earlier abuse.

If your dog is abnormally quiet and does behaves the way you describe, I’d make darn sure he didn’t have congenital bone problems, a heart defect, a portosystemic shunt, renal failure, etc. etc. before I’d write it off to his reaction to a poor prior owner.

[QUOTE=Long Time First Time]

I would be very, very surprised. He’s extremely gentle with his teeth. When he takes a treat from my hand, he does so very carfeully. He has never tried to gnaw or nibble on hands the way puppies sometimes do. He has good bite inhibition when playing with Polaris-- play-biting ends as soon as she squeaks.

I’ve never seen him display any agression of any kind, other than play-fighting with Polaris. He doesn’t resist in any way if you try to take a treat from him, nor does he struggle when you put him on his back.

I understand now.

Any dog, regardless of what may have happened to it in the past needs discipline. In Sirius’ case, I have to make sure the discipline is very gentle in order not to scare him, but I still want him to be a good dog.

Luckily, his disciple problems have been very light-- confined to chewing on a few things he wasn’t supposed to. He’s a very fast learner when it comes to correction. As an example, the first day we had him, I ate dinner sitting on the sofa beside him. He reached out to take a bite of my steak. I told him no, and never once has he tried to do it since.

When I first got Polaris, she was an extremely passive, quiet puppy. I took her to the vet, and she discovered several problems. By the time Polaris was done with treatments, she was a totally different dog. She’s a hyper little nut, now.

I had concerns when I got Sirius, because everyone had told me that his quiet behavior was downright bizarre in a JRT, but the vet checked him out thoroughly, and he’s completely healthy. I’ve met both his mother, father, and several of his siblings, and they’re all healthy dogs.

I’m the mommy of a 15 year old hound dog who was prognosed as having 2 days left to live wen I found her. She was skin and bones, covered in fleas and ticks, severely dehydrated and had been badly abused. She was 3 months old.

Socialize, socialize, socialize, I took her everywhere. She wouldn’t let anyone but me touch her, if anyone made any sudden moves she would freak and would shiver if you kept her gaze too long.

Work with her slowly, never yell at her. She may never come around. 12 years I have been with my husband and she still won’t go outside with him, although she adores him.

It pains me to know that my 80lb neurotic hound dog won’t be with me much longer, but she has been the best pet I have ever had. She is aware of her limitations but is convinced that I hung the moon. It took alot of work to get her where she is today, on both of our parts, but she has repaid me in spades. It has been worth every moment.

Understand she may never be comfortable around others, but you can be a touchstone for her that allows her to venture carefully outside her comfort zone. You are a walking security blanket for her and it will give her strength.

I hope you have at least as many years with your new puppy as I have had with mine.

She gives meaning to the phrase “I hope to one day be the person my dog thinks I am.”

Bless the sad little puppies out there that need good, loving homes. There’s one less out there because of you.