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mixeduppup

Abuse Only Behaviours?

33 posts in this topic

So because I temp test in pounds people often ask me if a dog has been abused. I always tell them that there's no way to know for sure if a dog has been abused without actually seeing someone abusing a dog but with some dogs you can make an educated guess as to whether it has or not by behaviours that it displays and the dog's condition. I'm just wondering whether there are behaviours that we only see if the dog has been abused? Has there been a study done or is it purely guesswork? For me I just comment on a dog's behaviour and if people ask I tell them that I can't be certain and it's best to just work with what the dog is displaying today and only go forward.

Edited by mixeduppup

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LisaCC   

I think it's mostly guess work, but a few years a go I lived with two housemates, one young woman who bought a rescue dog, the other was an airforce man. As soon as he would put his boots on the poor dog would pee himself and run away. Eventually, with a lot of love from the guy, we got him to the stage where he would just back away instead. My work boots never did anything to him.

We are pretty certain he had been kicked pretty hard by some men in work boots.

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Diva   

For me I just comment on a dog's behaviour and if people ask I tell them that I can't be certain and it's best to just work with that the dog is displaying today and only go forward.

I think this is the important point. Often times a lack of socialisation and exposure, or a nervous temperament, might be interpreted as a result of abuse but no actual physical abuse has occured. Or there has been one single adversive incident, but occuring at the right time emotionally to make a big impact on a puppy. If people think the behaviour is a result of abuse, they sometimes treat that as an excuse instead of just working on the behaviour.

I edited this because I just thought of a good example of single event learning - when I had my first dog, I forgot one day to put the garbage bin out for collection. And I am ancient enough for this to have been when the bins were metal and men got off the truck to pick them up. My helpful garbo decided to go in the gate to get the bin, the big friendly pup gallomphed up to him. The garbo panicked and threw the bin lid at his feet, and the pup got an awful fright and ran and hid. For his entire life until we moved to green plastic bins this otherwise well balanced, very social, dog was scared of any lifting of the metal bin lid. Not garbage collectors or men, just that lid. You would think he had been repeatedly bashed with it, but he hadn't. (and btw I learnt to padlock gates). These days I would realise he was in a puppy fear period and counter condition the emotional response - back then I just avoided exposing him to the lid. Pretty sure if he ended up in rescue (I and all my family would have to have been dead, lol) people would assume he had been bashed with a bin lid.

Edited by Diva

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Out of more than 1000 shelter dogs I've observed for my research there is only one that clearly sticks in my mind. Any time I picked up a piece of equipment this dog hit the deck and just blinked rapidly and constantly - like it was just bracing itself for the worst. It was the dog's lack of reaction (probably learned helplessness) that struck me most. The staff could not walk it back to the pen after temp testing (he passed BTW - sweetest dog ever) so I did (the dog knew me). He was walking hesitantly when the leash brushed his cheek and he just hit the deck and froze. The vet thought he had some nerve paralysis around his face that may have resulted from being beaten. When I left the shelter they were looking for foster care for him as he really did need some rehab.

My gut instinct (not very scientific I know) is that the vast majority of dogs I see in shelters that are highly fearful are simply poorly socialised/bred, not to mention receive inconsistent interactions from humans.

Edited by The Spotted Devil

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Steph M   

I guess abuse is a pretty broad term too, safe to say if a dog is showing signs of being anti-social or incredibly nervy would it be fair to say some sort of abuse has likely occurred, be it physical, neglect or a serious lack of socialisation or any training?

(I'm talking a serious lack, not just a 'my dog doesn't like bikes as he hadn't seen one before age 5' type thing, I mean dog lives in a backyard from 6 weeks to 3 years)

The boots thing would have me agreeing too. Good way of answering them too MUP. You can only work with what you have and what you know from there on. No crystal ball, unfortunately.

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~Anne~   

I don't think you can determine if abuse has taken place irrefutably. Your statement that unless you see it is the only way to know is what I would consider a correct response.

I have known dogs that are hand shy, but not been hit. Dogs that will cower when a male walks into a room, but they've not been abused by a man.

I've seen dogs that have been physically abused and they show no fear of people, hands or anything else.

There are too many variables to make any conclusive judgement.

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tdierikx   

It's hard to tell as far as I have experienced... some abused dogs (from known abusive backgrounds where the owner was prosecuted) are the happiest and most trusting souls I've ever met - and some from non-abusive backgrounds are reactive to their own shadow...

I think a lot of people would like to believe that they have rescued or adopted a dog to "save" it from some perceived abuse. It makes them feel good about themselves, and also allows them to explain away behaviours that need a fair bit of work to correct.

I'd say the starved pair from Gundagai pound you recently helped into rescue were definitely abuse cases... but others we have no background on... VERY hard to say with any accuracy.

T.

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minimax   

I had a dog who hit the ground everytime you came near him with a harness or collar, and he lived with me from the minute he was born so I know he was not abused. Out of context, someone may have said he was hit with a leash or something and that's why he hit the ground - but he was just a bit strange :laugh:

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Diva   

That make sense to me Raineth, if I had to pick one behaviour indicative of chronic abuse it would be learned helplessness.

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When I was working at a shelter, quite often people would adopt a dog and be convinced it was abused, whether it's behaviour indicated that or not.

I think people believe that abandoned/rescue dogs are always neglected or abused but I don't think it's the case at all and I have seen, as others have said, abused dogsthat showed no signs and well looked after dogs who you would swear have been beaten.

So in saying all that, I agree there's not much point worrying about what has happened to a dog, but just working with the dog and it's current behaviours.

Edited by Aussie3

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Rebanne   

I guess abuse is a pretty broad term too, safe to say if a dog is showing signs of being anti-social or incredibly nervy would it be fair to say some sort of abuse has likely occurred, be it physical, neglect or a serious lack of socialisation or any training?

No. My incredibly nervy, spook dog was born that way. I knew where she came from, how she was raised, saw her frequently before she came home and if you saw her reaction to picking up a mop/broom/stick then you would think, yes she has been abused. But she wasn't - 100% guaranteed.

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I agree there's not much point worrying about what has happened to a dog, but just working with the dog and it's current behaviours.

*nods*

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I'm getting to the stage where I would ask "why do you ask?". Because this need to have an abused dog and save it is something that I've become increasingly worried about, why do people want to think their dog has been abused? Ultimately we should be aiming for a society where all dogs are wanted and well cared for.

Anyway, like the others I agree that you just can't know with behaviour you haven't seen. Obviously physical stuff like cigarette burns and collar damage is visible, but again, agreeing with the others, I've had dogs in the house that were previously living in appalling conditions and their temperament was so good that they came out of it smiling.

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Diva   

I'm getting to the stage where I would ask "why do you ask?". Because this need to have an abused dog and save it is something that I've become increasingly worried about, why do people want to think their dog has been abused?

I think it makes people feel heroic and virtuous. Whether that bears any resemblance to the reality appears irrelevant. Good for getting dogs rescued I guess, which is great, but to me just another way some people use dogs to address their own emotional deficits. Might need to crack out my flame suit, but I have seen it play out in ways that are not good for the dog.

Edited by Diva

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Just an example of a dogs reaction reaking abuse but never being abused ... My beautiful boy Rogue , as a pup my partner accidentky let the end of his lead flick down and tapped rogue on his side .. After that and to this day ( he is almost 2) rogue drops to the ground as if he has been belted if either his lead or someone else's lead that they are holding hangs down , swings ,whatever .. I feel like I have explain to people that he rely has not been beaten .... Quite embarrassing when I see their faces !!

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Torque my kelpie has a naturally fearful nature and is often insecure around men and will stick her tail between her legs and run if they look at her the wrong way. It's quite frustrating constantly explaining that she hasn't been abused all the time. I need to get a coat that says "I'm not an abuse case just a headcase"

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*kirty*   

I got my dog Maisie at 5 weeks old and she was terrified of men and other dogs. Pretty safe to say nothing terrible happened to her in her short life to make her so fearful. She came good with lots of help from a good trainer.

Another example was my Dane Phoebe (RIP). She was not abused but she was very neglected. She lived her whole life in a shed from birth to 5 months before I got her. She had learned helplessness but it was from her extremely sheltered life, not abuse. She also improved with work but never fully recovered.

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Torque my kelpie has a naturally fearful nature and is often insecure around men and will stick her tail between her legs and run if they look at her the wrong way. It's quite frustrating constantly explaining that she hasn't been abused all the time. I need to get a coat that says "I'm not an abuse case just a headcase"

Great idea! :)

I know a kelpie who if she gets put on a leash to stop her going with her owner around the farm while he drives off yelps like she has been beaten.

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