How to tell if a dog is being abused?
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Thread: How to tell if a dog is being abused?

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    How to tell if a dog is being abused?

    My younger sister recently got a dog (thought to be a lab/boxer/pit cross). I've not met the dog yet, but am concerned about it because I know my sister and the living situation. My sister is very irresponsible and has been known to have a violent temper. Her boyfriend who she lives with is also abusive and has criminal record which includes physical assault. I know I shouldn't automatically assume the dog is being beat on, but usually people who have tempers and are physically abusive to other people aren't the kindest with animals.

    I plan to meet the dog and I'm wondering if there are some things I can do that might indicate whether or not the dog is getting hit. I've heard of things like lifting your hand up and seeing the dog's reaction (I've read that dogs who are hit will often close their eyes and shrink away from your hand).

    I'd like to know this so I can hopefully put my mind at ease, not to have reason to incriminate my sister. She has absolutely no experience with animals or training, so I'm going to offer to help her with basic obedience.

    TIA!

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    Senior Member Annamarie's Avatar
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    Re: How to tell if a dog is being abused?

    There's really no way to tell unless there are obvious marks on the dog (welts etc). It really depends on the dog's temperment. No one has ever laid a hand on my min pin but he's terrified of everyone, and if you raised your hand to him he'd flip out barking and running around terrified. I've seen dogs who have come from abusive homes who would still greet their abuser with a wagging tail.
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    Senior Member Namrah's Avatar
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    Re: How to tell if a dog is being abused?

    Obvious marks are clear. But I think some body language things can be threatening to dogs, abused or otherwise. Elka and Milton both shy away from the kind of hand gesture you're mentioning; and I don't believe either have been abused.

    What I would look for? How the dog interacts with the owners. Is he scared of them? Shaking them off, tail between legs, yawning, lip licking, not making eye contact, those kind of calming signals? Or does he happily interact with them, feeling totally at ease?

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    Senior Member spotted nikes's Avatar
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    Re: How to tell if a dog is being abused?

    Any chance you could give your sister a "baby" shower dog basket filled with treats, id tag, dog training books, dog training video, Enzyme cleaner, brush, etc.

    Maybe highlight important parts of the book and point out to her that you did it to help her be able to browse through it quickly. (And you can touch upon important things like "And this is where it explains how to housebreak, and that dogs shouldn't be scolded or have their noses rubbed in it, since that is old school and doesn't work".)
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    Senior Member GottaLuvMutts's Avatar
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    Re: How to tell if a dog is being abused?

    Quote Originally Posted by Namrah View Post
    Obvious marks are clear. But I think some body language things can be threatening to dogs, abused or otherwise. Elka and Milton both shy away from the kind of hand gesture you're mentioning; and I don't believe either have been abused.

    What I would look for? How the dog interacts with the owners. Is he scared of them? Shaking them off, tail between legs, yawning, lip licking, not making eye contact, those kind of calming signals? Or does he happily interact with them, feeling totally at ease?
    Agreed. Kit will close her eyes and shrink away from a raised hand, but her personality tells me that she was never abused.

    I also agree that you want to watch interaction with the owners - everything Namrah said.

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    Senior Member yappypappymom's Avatar
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    Re: How to tell if a dog is being abused?

    Were you to come into my home, w/o any prior knowledge, you would be met head on with a happy, wagging-tailed boy just dying to tell you "hello"...but, would you actually raise your hand to pick him up, he would cower, & back-track, out of your reach. He simply doesn't want to be picked-up. It makes his feel "crowded" I suppose. BUT, were you to pick a spot on the floor to "flop" onto, that same boy would be using you as a trampoline for gymnastics practice.
    My point here that I am trying to make, is that sometimes dogs exude different expressions due to their circumstances...trying to "pick apart" some things, I suppose that you COULD wind up w/different assumptions, unless you REALLY know the dog that you are trying to "access" at that time.
    I would look for try to focus my attention to the dogs obvious health/wellbeing...is the dog nice & friendly, or scared, & looking at the owners with shifty eyes for "approval"?..Is the dog under weight? Does the dog have obvious signs that it needs to see a vet? What does the dogs coat look like? Is it nice & brushed & clean, or, is it full of dead hair, & stinky?
    There are LOTS of things to keep an eye out for, but, sometimes, just getting down to your "gut feelings" too will come in handy...remember this though - before you go crying "abuse", you MUST have SOME sort of "concrete" proof prior to, or else your effort will be for naught.

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    Senior Member LazyGRanch713's Avatar
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    Re: How to tell if a dog is being abused?

    Quote Originally Posted by Namrah View Post
    Obvious marks are clear. But I think some body language things can be threatening to dogs, abused or otherwise. Elka and Milton both shy away from the kind of hand gesture you're mentioning; and I don't believe either have been abused.

    What I would look for? How the dog interacts with the owners. Is he scared of them? Shaking them off, tail between legs, yawning, lip licking, not making eye contact, those kind of calming signals? Or does he happily interact with them, feeling totally at ease?
    I would look for learned helplessness. Dogs IME who have been (seriously) abused aren't necessarily head shy. They've learned to just sit there and take it if that makes any sense. If I suddenly raised my hand at my 3 dogs, I bet all 3 would duck their heads, and none of them have been hit in their lives (I've had them all since pups).
    A new dog who doesn't make eye contact with their new owners wouldn't make me point fingers and scream "dog abuser"...

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    Senior Member Hallie's Avatar
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    Re: How to tell if a dog is being abused?

    As the others have said there isn't any sure way to know. It's not like the dog can tell you it has been abused. I've had dogs that would pee if I lifted my hand to them, they were extremely submissive dogs. Not abused it was just their personality. I too suggest watching how the dog interacts with the owners, this will give you the most accurate Idea of how it's been treated.
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    Re: How to tell if a dog is being abused?

    Before making any assumptions about your sister from the dog behaviour, remember the behaviour could be a result to the dogs previous situation.

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    Senior Member LazyGRanch713's Avatar
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    Re: How to tell if a dog is being abused?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hallie View Post
    As the others have said there isn't any sure way to know. It's not like the dog can tell you it has been abused. I've had dogs that would pee if I lifted my hand to them, they were extremely submissive dogs. Not abused it was just their personality. I too suggest watching how the dog interacts with the owners, this will give you the most accurate Idea of how it's been treated.
    Not always. The OP said that her sister "recently" got the dog. If her dog is acting shy, nervous, etc, it could be from a change of environment. Mom's newest little dog goes flat as a board on her belly when you go to pick her up. I would sure hate for anyone to point fingers at my mom and suspect she's "abusing" her dog. A lot of dogs are uncomfortable with eye contact as a general rule, a new adult dog in a new home/new owners/new environment who doesn't automatically throw themselves at their owners in a display of gratefulness isn't automatically being beaten.

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    Re: How to tell if a dog is being abused?

    My dog dosent like it if you hold your hand up to him but he is a totally ok dog. My aunts dog dosent even come to the door like the rest of her dogs and he always backs off and gets all defensive and scared when you approach him, but they rescued him from a puppy mill so if there are any guests he will be afraid, but when its just her and her husband, he's crazy and totally fun.

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    Re: How to tell if a dog is being abused?

    If you really care about that dog than you should go to her house at least once a month and check up on the dog. I mean she IS your sister. It wouldn't be bad if she dosent live too far away

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    Senior Member Amaryllis's Avatar
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    Re: How to tell if a dog is being abused?

    I agree that the dog's behavior in general isn't indicative of abuse. Some dogs that were never abused will pee and run away if someone looks at them, and some dogs that were horrifically abused will greet a stranger with a wagging tail and a kiss.

    Look for signs that the dog is being cared for. Is there fresh water in his bowl? Is there food for him in the house? How clean are his bowls? What about treats? Does he have toys? You can buy toys at the dollar store, he should have a few. Is there a brush for him and does his fur look like someone cares for it? Has the house been dogproofed, or do they just take their chances?

    If you see a dirty, empty water bowl, no dog food, no toys and a neglected coat, at the very least they're neglecting him, and there's a good chance they're abusing him at least occasionally.
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    Senior Member hanksimon's Avatar
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    Re: How to tell if a dog is being abused?

    I agree. I don't know a reliable way to tell by behavior. I've never hit or yell at my dog and he usually doesn't duck. But if I hit my thumb with a hammer, he'll slink away ... and if I shake my hand b/c of the pain... he may do a submissive "alpha roll" I've never done anything to encourage this, perhaps b/c it's unusual.

    On the other hand, a friend of mine has a 100 lb Pit bull that he beats with a newspaper as a game. The Pit loves it!!! However, if the Pit does something wrong and the owner whispers at the dog - "bad dog" ... the dog will cower and lower his head... as if he were being beaten with a newspaper :-) And, I'm fairly confident that the dog has ever been hit in anger... might never realize it if he were....

    So, I don't think behavior can tell you about abuse.

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    Re: How to tell if a dog is being abused?

    I wonder what happened...This Thread is 2 years old..

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