Dogs Which Experience Traumas

Dogs can be significantly harmed by unexpected traumas. For example…

I did a lesson a lesson with a couple who adopted a Miniature Schnauzer a month ago. For the first 2 weeks, the dog was great. The shelter notes said the dog was great. Then the dog started biting people who came into the home. I traced it down to an incident 2 weeks ago, where a couple of extended family members entered the home unannounced when the owners weren’t home. These guys are macho men who proclaimed if the dog tried to bite them at Christmas, they would beat the hell out of the dog. The likely cause was they entered the home, scared the dog because they have a chip on their shoulders about everything, and that traumatized the new dog. In the lesson, the owners realized it started right after these guys had come over to do that delivery. So, these guys are no longer welcome, and we now must decompress this dog. I’ve seen this before and it can take a long time to fix.

I saw a similar thing about 6 months ago. An elderly man had a heart attack. EMS broke into his home to get him to the hospital, and they forced his pit bull into the back yard. One of the EMS put his hand through the fence as the dog was barking (I have no idea why they did that) and was bitten. When the man came home the dog had become like that Miniature Schnauzer… not accepting of any strangers. It used to be a social dog.

A similar case was with an owner’s pit bull that went to work with him. A tenant in the building came in and caused a ruckus over something while standing over the owner who was seated. The dog bit the guy, who started shrieking and making an even bigger scene. That also changed the dog. It stopped being social, started growling at everyone else he knew including the employees and girlfriend. The dog developed a skin condition, digestive issues, hair falling out, lumps between his toes, no longer would play, and was ultra-territorial around the retail area and at home with guests. The dog was not safe with strangers anymore. It took 6 months of work to get the dog to accept customers at work and guests at home.

And yesterday, an Australian Shepherd that deteriorated after multiple unhappy experiences going to dog parks. Over time, the visits became less and less fun for the dog. Eventually, just entering the gate, being surrounded by unfamiliar dogs, cause her to start fighting with other dogs. Now the owner is having trouble taking her for walks if any dogs are visible to their dog. It is going to take time to unravel this one, as well.

Some dogs can handle all of this and not perceive these types of incidents as traumatic. If you have such a dog, you are either lucky, knew what to look for, or you got your dog from a breeder that had dogs with the type of genetics that make them more resilient to these kinds of stresses. Generally, pet dogs are more susceptible. Working dogs (police, military, hunting, guide dogs, etc.) from proven working lines, generally are less susceptible. Either way, it is important to exercise proper management of all dogs to prevent such traumas. I think many people don’t see what is possible or probable when putting their dogs in various situations. They see things from their own viewpoint and aren’t closely reading how their dogs are feeling or trying to predict how they are going to feel.

All traumas have the potential to be significantly impactful. I think it is always wise to think ahead when managing any dog to anticipate what it might encounter, and to also closely observe how that dog is coping with whatever you are doing with that dog. Prevention is a whole lot easier than trying to fix a dog that has been traumatized.

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