How to Train a Traumatized Dog

Consistency is important. Work with your dog each day.
dog image by Ergün Özsoy from

A dog can be traumatized for many reasons, such as havine had an abusive owner, time in an illegal dog fighting ring, brain damage, or too much time as a stray. The decision to adopt a traumatized dog is a noble one; however, it will take a lot of time and patience when working with the dog to help her get over her trauma. It may take a lot of work, but most traumatized dogs eventually turn into happy pets.

Step 1

Identify "triggers" that make the dog feel scared or nervous, such as loud noises, too many people in the room, other dogs, or anything else that intimidates and frightens the dog. Work on eliminating these factors, at least until the dog has become comfortable with her surroundings.

Step 2

Reward desirable behavior every time it occurs -- give the dog treats, talk to her in soothing tones, or pet her for a few minutes. If your pooch isn't yet comfortable with walking up to you and being petted, place a few treats between you and the dog and allow her to come to you. Refrain from speaking, rather allow her to make the decision to eat the treats and allow herself to be petted.

Step 3

Get down on the floor when talking to the dog or otherwise working with her. This is especially important if the dog seems frightened by people standing over her.

Step 4

Be patient. While you might want to scold your dog for undesirable behavior, do not yell at her -- severe scolding is likely to traumatize her further. It is essential to establish a calm setting where your dog will feel safe. Avoid making loud noises or sudden movements until the dog has become comfortable. Once the dog is comfortable, however, you can gently scold her if needed.

Step 5

Use relaxation techniques to help the dog get used to you and her new surroundings. Sit quietly with the dog next to you or in your lap if possible, for about 20 minutes. Pet her and talk in soothing tones, and give her a toy to play with if she seems to be feeling more comfortable. As the dog's nervousness level diminishes, you will be able to gradually introduce assorted "loud noises" back into your home, such as running the dishwasher or clothes dryer, vacuuming, or using a blender. Give the dog treats while such "noises" are occurring so the dog will not associate the noises with fear or other trauma.

Step 6

Walk and feed her at the same times each day, which gives the dog a sense of routine and stability.


  • If your dog suddenly begins acting nervous or otherwise scared of you, it could be due to head trauma or other medical issue, which will require veterinary care. Signs of head trauma in your pooch include disorientation, stumbling while walking, sluggishness, bleeding in the ears and nose, seizures, changes or loss of consciousness, and head tilting.


  • Introduce a dog that is about the same size as your traumatized pooch as a playmate if you feel your dog will benefit from a canine friend.

An Item You Will Need

  • Treats



About the Author

Kent Page McGroarty has worked as a writer since 2006, contributing numerous articles to various websites. She is a frequent contributor to the health and fitness sections of the online magazine EDGE Publications and holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Saint Joseph's University.

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