PTSD in Rescue Dogs

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We, humans, are used to dealing with stress, induced from situations that are traumatic in nature. But there are situations where the trauma is so much that it induces a disorder and handling it becomes difficult. That reaction to trauma is called PTSD- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Just like us humans, dogs who have had bad and stressful experiences in the past, go through PTSD and that changes their behaviour completely. You can find PTSD in rescue dogs a lot of times. These poor angels go through so much trauma in their past that it changes them completely. This also changes the way they deal with stress.

 It is important to first identify the signs of PTSD in rescue dogs and treat them accordingly. So let us first talk about the signs


I would like to give you an example by talking about Lily. Lily was rescued by mom from a foster home. Her foster mom told us that she was found on the streets and she must have been bullied by other dogs and beaten by humans because she exhibited some weird signs. She didn’t like to be left alone or she would howl and cry for long hours and would be extremely vigilant and scared while going on a walk. It was as if she was scared of getting attacked by someone. She also snaps a little if you touch her while sleeping. 

Identify the signs of PTSD in rescue dogs:

  1. Being hypersensitive towards the outside stimuli.
  2. Peeing and pooping under stressful situations
  3. Getting aggressive by meeting strangers and strange dogs.
  4. Shaking consistently and tail between the legs
  5. Issues in diet
  6. Physiological issues
  7. Reacting to loud noise or bangs
  8. Crying or howling when left alone
  9. Being destructive when stressed
  10. Snapping if touched during sleep
  11. Disturbed sleeping pattern
  12. Being sullen and quiet after losing someone
  13. Biting or gnawing themselves or limbs
  14. Hiding during a stressful situation
  15. Aggressive towards male members or getting triggered by specific things that caused trauma in the past

How to handle PTSD in rescue dogs:

Positive reinforcement: 

You have to be extra patient and positive towards them and reinforce their sense of security. Being patient basically means not scolding them if they do something weird like chewing on your furniture or destroying any of your artefacts. If they are prone to such behaviour then there are special spray for biting. If you spray it on your furniture or valuables, the essence in the solution averts them from chewing. A homemade spray made out of Neem juice is excellent for such situations. The moment they taste it, the bitter aftertaste will make them realise that the furniture is not chewable.

Using solutions that help them relax and feel positive when facing a stressful stimulus like soothing essential oils, scented candles, a comforting toy, blanket or a chew stick work like a charm. 

Desensitisation of the negative stimuli:

Here you will have to see to it that you slowly make the pet face his fears little by little. The key is to reward him with treats and positive affirmations like head pats, compliments and belly rubs everytime he makes progress. This way, you won’t eliminate the threat but he will be a little better in dealing with a negative situation. 

Show love and care:

Love and proper care can do wonders and this will help your pet to another extend all together. No therapy can help as much as love and special care can. It is important to make feel at home and make him a part of his family. This will enable a change in him and he will start connecting emotionally with the family. Love can’t eliminate the scars of the past but it can surely heal the wounds.

Give him space and time:

All traumas take time to heal. You need to respect his space and give him time to heal. Don’t be impatient and try to change his behaviour in a haste. Love is miraculous but it demands a lot of time. This way, he will trust you more. Let him come to you instead of being adamant. 

Training and exercise:

A lot of animals need to tire out their extra energy and that way they feel less aggressive and more positive. The best way to keep him away from negativity is to keep him active and focused. Training him daily with different kinds of exercise routines or taking him out on nature hikes, treks and swimming will add an element of fun and give his life meaning. This will also help you understand what activities they like.

Adopting a rescue dog is wonderful. Seeing them change positively and be their happy goofy self is super rewarding. If you are planning to adopt a pet then this is the best time ever. They love us unconditionally and make us feel so special. 

If you are thinking of adopting an Indian dog breed then here is an article about the Top 10 Indian Dog breeds in that are super cute and perfect for your lifestyle and home.

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