Q&A: Dogs with a traumatic past


My family just took in a maltese that had been rescued from a neglectful home.

She is wonderful with our cats and our children. My eight year old actually seems to be her favorite person. She is quite sweet. However, she is very skittish, fearful of the leash and of putting anything onto her, making going outside difficult.

She is small and had most of her fur removed due to a flea infestation prior to our adoption. She needs to have some layers put on and to be comfortable with putting a leash on her, especially because she is house broken. However, she hides under the table whenever we try with either.

How do we get her to be less skittish, especially with layering up for the cold and using a leash?


Hi Lynn.

It sounds as if your poor little dog has had a traumatic past.

She is probably not used to being handled, and then when she has been handled, she may have been treated roughly.

You mentioned she really seems to like you child. It may be a good idea to have them make some attempts at ‘dressing’ her.

The dog needs time to build trust with you and gain more confidence. Often rescue dogs are skittish because of their past. The best thing you can do for her is be very calm and patient.

Never try to do anything quickly, or make any sudden or loud movements around her.

Use a confident tone to reassure it is ok, do not feed into her insecurity by using ‘baby talk’ with her.

Try and find a treat she really likes and lure her into the jacket/collar and leash with the food (you can try peanut butter, cheese, sandwich meat, etc) Maybe have your eight year old hold her while you try and do this. Again, remain calm and confident, and be very patient with her.

This will get easier in time, she just needs to understand that you are not going to hurt her.


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Junior Watson

Junior is the DogTrainingBasics.com resident "Top Dog". He enjoys walks in the park, chasing invisible cats, and of course... bacon strips!

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