How to Train an Abused Dog

This is a place to gain some understanding of dog behavior and to assist people in training their dogs and dealing with common behavior problems, regardless of the method(s) used. This can cover the spectrum from non-aversive to traditional methods of dog training. There are many ways to train a dog. Please avoid aggressive responses, and counter ideas and opinions with which you don't agree with friendly and helpful advice. Please refrain from submitting posts that promote off-topic discussions. Keep in mind that you may be receiving advice from other dog owners and lovers... not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a trainer or behaviorist!


I Can't Take You- Seriously
Barked: Mon Apr 18, '11 9:28am PST 
I took in Sawyer as a stray. He is very, very timid. I am trying to have patience with him, but it is hard. I've trained Moses with no problem, but he came from a breeder. Sawyer just has no confidence!

I try sitting down on the floor with him. Then, I ask him to come.

I do this every single day. He is starting to make it all the way to me.

I've started pressing down on his bottom slightly and asking him to sit. I'm not pushing hard at all. When he sits, I tell him he is a good dog.

I always give him lots of treats, too.

I've gotten to the point where I can get him to sit on command a couple of times per day.

The sit command is going well, but I need some more advice!

we will dance in- the ring without- words
Barked: Mon Apr 18, '11 10:09am PST 
You need to let him build confidence first.

Do you know what clicker training is? Very confidence building. You may not be able to use a clicker (he may be afraid of the noise), but you can use a snapple or baby food lid or a pen.

I'd suggest a copy of Pat Miller's The Power of Positive Training as a starting point. The beauty of clicker training is there is no need to push down on a dog's butt, sit happens, just mark and reward it.

As to approaching, you need to remove any pressure on the dog. For fearful dogs, I make leaving part of the reinforcer. I have people take a step towards the dog, toss a treat if the dog will tolerate that, then turn and leave. Or sit with their back to the dog and food in their hand behind their back. Don't move towards him, allow him to make the choices. Don't push.
Bella and- Daisy CGC

I'm a Meanie
Barked: Mon Apr 18, '11 10:11am PST 
From a fellow anxious dog owner:

Do not worry about training until trust is built. I WISH I had this advise when I started out with Bella. I so wanted to bond with her and was told training was how to do it by the people I knew at the time.

Really, she needed time (months would have been ideal for her) to just live in my house, learn my routine, learn I wasn't out to get her, and for her to be able to relax around me.

Honestly, I wouldn't ever force a dog like this into position. It is NOT how to build trust. You are teaching him that you can force him to do what you want-kinda like his abusers could kick him around when they wanted to.

I would continue to offer treats when he will come to you until he is coming happy and willingly to you for them. Then, I would try kneeling or siting in a chair. Then standing. I would not make direct eye contact and it will be easier of you sit at an angle towards him (and treat form your side) rather than the front. It is very difficult to get a timid dog to do frontal approaches right away, from the side is much easier.

After he is coming to you eagerly, you might want to try chin scratches. Don't reach over his head-rub from underneath. Give yummy treats for allowing the good contact.

Dog that are abused or undersocialized need special types of people-patient ones! I was NOT that person when Bella came into my life but I have had to learn that I can't rush her. When I try to-it makes her shut down and just sets us back.

Most of her training has had to be life lessons. Things like what a normal household does. We wash dishes, we cook, we go in and out of the house. The sitting/down/stay can come later and will be much easier if you take it slow to build a relationship right now.

Jax (earned- her wings- 5/30/12)

Give me your- toy.
Barked: Mon Apr 18, '11 4:38pm PST 
Get the book "The Cautious Canine". It's a very thin book but very helpful. Jax was very fearful when I got her and it helped me immensely. I would also try the suggestions of the other posters here. They are very knowledgeable. Good Luck!

If you can roll- in the dirt, do- it!
Barked: Mon Apr 18, '11 7:42pm PST 
"Come" can be quite a loaded cue and not at all confidence building. Imagine an abusive owner calling the dog to him and then hurting it in some way. Torie was in a mill. I imagine they do all sorts of unpleasant things calling them first. I'your sure YOU would not do this, but your dog has no idea.

I agree re: the clicker training. A snapple lid is a nice beginner clicker for a fearful dog.

Pushing on the butt is not a great way of teaching a dog sit. I'm sure it can work but your new dog has been stressed enough. Physical contact like that can be scary.

I like the throwing food and clicking. If he starts coming to you, you can work on something like "touch".
Touch the end of a finger with a nose. The dog will initiate everything. You start very close in and move out. Actually it is quite a good "come" as well.
All my cats were able to do this one.

I ended up changing the name of the come cue, but Torie, to my knowledge, was not really abused. I definitely don't think you should start here.


Edited by author Mon Apr 18, '11 7:46pm PST