Neglected but on the road to recovery

by Dan
(Erieau/Ontario/Canada)

Where do i start first off thank you for having a site dedicated to these great dogs.

Today i took ownership of a 2 1/2 y/o rottie. The previous owner treated it horribly. When i discovered "Baxter" he was living in an abandoned house, living conditions were appalling. He is soooo underweight and very timid . since i have brought him home i have noticed that he growls a lot, understandably from the conditions he was living in. But why i am concerned is if i let him on my bed as soon as he is laying down He starts to growl even when i am gently petting him or just laying still, I have never been afraid or nervous around dogs but Baxter when he growls it is extremely hard to tell if it's a play growl or if he means business, i am assuming in the situation i described he is on the more serious side and i don't know what i should do to ease this beautiful dog,and to let him know he is very loved now and lives in a good home.

should i be worried about him biting? I have layed on the floor and while he growls i start to play with him to feel him out, but like i said at times it really makes me wonder if her is serious. Even as he lays with me with his head on my chest he growls.

Any info on how to help this majestic K-9 would be soooo appreciated.

Also because he is sooo malnourished what would you suggest to get him back on track as safely as possible without making him sick.Im sorry i don't yet have a pic of Baxter.

Thank you again Dan.



Hi Dan
It sounds as though poor Baxter has had a horrible start, but I'm so glad that he's found you and that you are so willing to take the time and effort to give him a second chance at a happy life. It will definitely take time, effort, patience and a lot of love, but you'll be rewarded a thousand times over I'm certain.

First of all, I want to make sure that Baxter is actually growling at you, and not 'grumbling' or vocalizing the way Rotties do. Many times people who are unfamiliar with the breed get these two confused. It's difficult to describe this 'talking', but it's sort of a rumbling, grumbling sort of sound in their throat - almost groaning sometimes. Most Rottweilers do it, but some do it more than others. It's not a bad thing, in fact I think of it kind of like a cat purring - a sound of contentment. The reason I'm wondering if this is what Baxter is doing is because my dogs do it as soon as I start petting them, and it sounds as though this dog is making this 'growling' noise when you are petting or interacting with him. You can check out my Rottweiler Facts page where I mention this and a lot of other info. that you might find useful.

However, if it is actual growling that Baxter is doing, it's wouldn't be surprising given his very rough start in life, but it definitely would need to be curtailed asap. In that situation I would recommend not letting him up on beds, sofas or chairs or getting down on the floor at his level. Both of these situations are likely to give him an indication that he's higher up on the ladder of authority than he actually is and could lead him to believe that he can challenge your authority.

Any corrections you make with Baxter should be firm but loving, no raised voice etc. as that will frighten him and could lead him to react stubbornly, even aggressively if he feels threatened. It's possible that he's been treated badly physically as well as neglected, and he will need time to overcome the side-effects of his previous care.

Rotties are very intelligent, very loyal, and tend to be one-man dogs a lot of the time. These are very good things, but it means that it can take a long time for a Rottweiler to 'warm up' to a new person, or to learn to trust them. You will need to be very consistent and patient with Baxter as he adjusts to this new situation. You may also want to talk to a dog behavioral specialist who could evaluate him and give you some hands-on help in terms of understanding his behavior and finding the best way to communicate with him. Your vet or a local dog obedience school may be able to point you in the right direction in terms of finding someone who could help.

I'd recommend teaching him to 'sit', if he doesn't already know how, and ask him to sit before you feed him, give him treats, pet him etc. etc. This helps him to understand that YOU are in control, not him. Rottweilers are very big, powerful dogs though so as you aren't familiar with this guys habits or temperament, tread carefully and never do anything that he could interpret as a threat because it's impossible to predict how he may react. If he's a bit fearful (not surprising) if he's cornered he could act aggressively out of that fear.

It will be a delicate balance as he mustn't feel you are afraid of him as that will undermine his confidence in you, but you also don't want to be too overbearing. In order to be able to relax a bit he needs to feel confident in your ability to lead him, so be firm, loving and always project an air of 'calm authority'. You've probably heard of Cesar Millan and I think you might benefit from some of his advice. I'd recommend checking out this page Cesar Millan - Dog Whisperer as it has lots of information on his methods of dog training and interaction and links to books and DVD's that you may be interested in.

As he's been neglected and is underweight etc., do be sure to have him thoroughly checked out by your veterinarian right away if you haven't already done so. He could well have canine worms and probably needs to get his vaccinations up to date. Rotties are very susceptible to Parvovirus and even an adult can get sick if not properly protected by vaccination.

As for food, I'd recommend a premium food such as Solid Gold, Blue Buffalo or Innova for example. Although Baxter is an adult, personally I would give him a large-breed puppy food to start out with as he needs the extra nutrition they provide. You can learn more about the best foods on the market on my Best Puppy Food page. After about 6 months you could then move onto a premium large breed adult food.

I hope this helps some, if you have any other questions feel free to submit them... and I'd love to see a photo of Baxter when you have one. I wish you both the best of luck and hope that this dog finds his 'happy ever after' ending.

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