How to handle trauma in a dog.

amber95 asks: Hi Shirelle. About 6 months ago I adopted a purebred Pomeranian from my local SPCA. She is my first proper pet, and she is my best friend. We were told that she was used for breeding purposes, but we think that she has psychological issues. Can these be related? And is there anything I can do to help her?

Hi amber95 –

First of all, may I offer my heartiest congratulations!  A first pet is a glorious thing, and I’m so glad that you’ve managed to become best friends within six months.  You should have years of joy ahead of you with this great little lover!  And may I add, thank you so much for getting her from the SPCA – they do such great jobs of saving and rescuing animals, I just love ‘em!

You ask if her psychological issues might be related to her original “job” as a dog for breeding.  I imagine there are specific issues about breeding that could result in emotional damage to a dog, but of course I have no way of knowing about this specific case.  What’s important is that you’re seeing that the dog does have psychological issues, and that you want to do something about them.  And the answer is… very possibly.

What you’re really talking about is Trauma.  Did something happen to your dog when she was younger that has affected her ever since?  That’s a very normal thing, and probably you can’t “erase” it, any more than we can “erase” the damage that’s done to a traumatized person.  But what you can do is to teach the dog how to live in her current world.

For example, some dogs have had some trauma that makes them scared of children, or tall people, or men, or people of a certain race.  These are all heartbreaking, and never fully go away.  But over time, those dogs can be taught to be allright with certain children, tall people, men, etc.  Also, the dog can be trained in how she deals with the people she doesn’t trust.  At least to the degree that she won’t, say, bite a nice kid.

There are really two things you can do.  One is to write me back and tell me specifically what problems she’s having.  And I’ll be happy to throw any advice I can your way (and maybe some of our readers can help too).  But the other is to find a really good trainer, who understands her problem, and can help her with it.  It’s really amazing what a truly gifted trainer can do.

Pomeranians tend to be high-strung, but they should be smart enough to be pretty trainable.  And you have given her the best pre-school there is, which is six months of love and care (besides whatever good stuff she got from the SPCA).  So I’d say to go for it – see what training she can get, to make her happier.  After all, you’re planning on staying together till death do you part, right?  Well, this “marriage” will be a lot better if she’s a happier “spouse!”
Thanks, congratulations, and good luck!


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