How To Train An Abused Dog

How To Train An Abused Dog

By Adam Katz

Many people who’ve adopted older dogs— especially stray dogs or dogs from the animal shelter— assume that their dog has been abused in the past.

So, how do you train an abused dog?

Let’s get right to the heart of the matter and state that— in order to learn how to train an abused dog, we need to first define what an abused dog is:

Of course, there are all types of different abuse. Everything from a dog being hit with a hammer to a dog simply being left and ignored in the back yard for months or years can constitute abuse.

But for the purposes of this article, we’re going to define an abused dog as any dog that shows specific signs of extreme timidity in response to regular behavior by you. I.E., Petting, grooming, feeding, walking, etc…

These are what you might call “high-functioning” abused dogs. In contrast to dogs that have been used (for example) in laboratory experiments. Or dogs that have been physically scarred and wounded. Working with such dogs is (or should be) clearly outside of the scope of this article.

So— How do you work with a “high functioning” abused dog? And how do you teach your dog to relax and enjoy life?

The answer can be found in starting obedience training along the lines of the principles I’ve outlined in my book (which you can read more about at):

I can hear it already, “But Adam—you advocate using a leash and training collar when you train a dog, and my little, shy “Muffy” already wets himself when I bend over to pet him… [ALERT: I’m about to make a broad GENERALIZATION:]

In general, most “high functioning” abused dogs continue to display timid behavior because they are unclear as to when they’re doing the RIGHT thing and when they are doing the WRONG thing.

If you follow my approach to dog training, your dog quickly learns– or more specifically, you learn– how to communicate with your dog in a way that will make him relax and know when he’s doing something wrong and when he’s doing something right.

And what I’ve found with these dogs is that they quickly learn to become much more confident and self-assured through the process. Why? Because when you use intelligent dog training techniques, your dog is now clear about what’s going to happen and when, in a world he formerly had no guidance or clear leadership. He learns what is good behavior and what is bad behavior—instead of having to guess!

You read that right: The #1 Reason That Dogs Who’ve Been Abused In The Past Continue To Show Extreme Timid Behavior Is Because They Are Confused.

Once your learn how to communicate with your dog, and take away the confusion, you will see all the extreme timid behavior disappear! And the way to do this is to start intelligent obedience training.

“But should I use the leash and collar to correct my dog, if he’s got such a soft temperament?”

The answer is: Yes.

Which begs the question of how firmly you should correct your dog—which is something that differs from dog to dog.

Here’s a hint: You’ll figure it out by practicing with your dog. (If you haven’t already, please review the: Three Keys To Successful Behavior Modification chapter in my book). However, the issue is not “Should I correct a dog that has been abused in the past” but rather “When I’m communicating to my dog when he’s done something incorrectly—how firmly should I correct him?”

And the answer to this question is: Only firmly enough to extinguish the unwanted behavior and communicate to the dog that he shouldn’t do it again. Like I mentioned: You’ll learn this by practicing with your dog. If you employ the concepts of timing, consistency and motivation—you’ll have nothing to worry about and your dog will gain confidence and self-assuredness from your efforts.

Adam G. Katz is the author of the book, “Secrets of a Professional Dog Trainer: An Insider’s Guide To The Most Jealously Guarded Dog Training Secrets In History.” Get a free copy of his report “Games To Play With Your Dog” when you sign up for his free weekly dog training tips e-zine at:

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