How to Tell if a Dog has Been Abused

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An abused dog won't always show the physical scars of her past trauma. Instead, the signs that a dog has been abused might be subtle, such as shyness around strangers. Consulting with an animal behaviorist or dog trainer can provide some clues about a dog's history. If it's your dog you're not sure of, you can study her behavior. If the dog belongs to someone else, you might see indicators in the animal's physical condition or living environment.


Signs that a dog has been abused might be subtle.
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Social withdrawal in dogs

Some abused dogs are so fearful they shy away from interaction with people or other animals. For example, a dog might hide in the corner of the room, too scared to explore her surroundings or initiate contact with others. She may even resist leaving the house.


Some dogs will turn away from attempts to distract them with treats, toys, playtime, or affection. You may notice a dog has her tail tucked between her legs, and she may even become frightened and cry out, cower, flinch away from you, or flee.

Clinging to humans

Many abused dogs hide.
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Some abused dogs' behavior is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Instead of avoiding social interaction and bonding, they cling too tightly to their human caretakers. A dog might exhibit signs of separation anxiety, or become anxious and even destructive when left alone. Some dogs might be fine when their human companions are present and only act out when they're gone, or might insist on being on someone's lap or on the couch next to a person at all times.


Aggressive behavior signs

While some abused dogs are so traumatized they withdraw completely, others take it out on the people and animals around them. They might develop aggression as a defense mechanism, learning early on that a growl or snarl can deter an attacker. An abused dog might overreact to stimuli such as a child attempting to pet her or the veterinarian trying to examine her. She may associate physical contact with harm, lashing out in an attempt to protect herself.


Physical signs that a dog has been abused

If you're worried a dog belonging to someone else has been mistreated, you might see signs that a dog has been abused in the animal's physical condition or living environment. For example, multiple wounds, wounds that appear untreated, or signs of wounds in different stages of healing can indicate ongoing abuse. Trouble walking also can suggest physical abuse.


In addition, the way an animal lives can be evidence of overall neglect. This could include being chained up outside in inclement weather or without food and clean water, or housed in dangerous or unsanitary conditions. Dogs may appear too skinny and appear sick or unwell. Neglected dogs may have an unhealthy, dull, or matted coat or fur loss. You may also notice overgrown nails or that the dog's collar is too tight.


Report animal abuse and neglect

If you see a dog that is being neglected or abused, take photos of the pup and the location if it is safe for you to do so. Then report the incident. You can file a report with local law enforcement, animal control, humane society or animal rescue.



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