Adopting a pet from an animal shelter or humane society is probably one of the very best things you may ever choose to do for yourself and for your pet. There are times, however, when you may decide to bring home a pet that has a past history of abuse or neglect. This is a challenging situation, but there are some important tips to remember when trying to rehabilitate a traumatized pet after adoption.
If it is possible, try to get as much background information from the shelter or humane society as possible when going through the adoption process. This may be a heartbreaking process, but it’s necessary to fully understand what he has gone through in order to anticipate certain triggers or types of situations to avoid. If you aren’t able to get full disclosure or it’s simply not known outside of it being a less than favorable habitat before, it may mean that you have to spend some extra time observing and being highly sensitive to your new pet’s behaviors as he acclimates to you and your home environment.
Fear is going to be at the heart of any odd behaviors from your new pet. It may manifest in the form of shaking, hiding, elimination, nipping, growling and even full-on biting. If there is more aggressive behaviors, such as biting and attacking, this is certainly something to know beforehand, especially if you have young children in your house. It would not be advised to adopt a pet with this behavior if you have children around that are too young to adapt to this special situation.
Observe, observe, observe! You may even want to keep a small journal of situations that you find are triggering your pet to behave out of fear or anticipated pain. If you find that loud noises or voices set him off, create a calmer atmosphere for him. You may even decide to play soothing music at a low volume only to slowly increase the volume and tempo as you go along.
Don’t rush it, though! Be patient and understanding. Every pet has their own timing for learning to trust once again, and that is something you simply cannot force to happen any quicker than your pet will allow. Introduce things slowly, such as providing high quality treats for him, but leaving it at a safe distance away from you. Eventually, work up to holding it out for him as you have squatted down to his level to offer it. Standing up and above him shows too much dominance and may run the risk of backfiring on you.
Create a solid routine with your pet as soon as you are able. This allows him to know when to expect certain events throughout the day. Forming good habits also builds trust, and that is your ultimate goal. You need to learn to trust each other, so work together to accomplish this end result.
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