Pack Method Prep and its sister company Zoe’s Dog Training have been helping rehabilitate rescue dogs since 2009. The following information is what we have gathered through our focused work with rescued “Meat Trade Dogs” over the last 3 years. We do not claim to be experts but we have noticed some similarities between cases and hope our knowledge can be your gain.
What is a Meat Trade Dog (MTD)?
If you do not know what the Dog Meat Trade is, there are many organizations that can educate you better than I can. To start, here are a few links:
What Is The Difference Between a “Soi Dog” and a “Meat Trade” Dog?
The word “Soi” translates to “Street”. A Soi Dog is a dog that was living on the street and was in many cases feral before being rescued. Many of the Meat Trade Dogs are indeed Soi Dogs, but not all Meat Trade Dogs came from the street
Where Do Meat Trade Dogs Come From?
As stated above, some MTDs are Soi Dogs and came from the street. However, capturing ferals is unfortunately not the only way the Trade gets their canines.
You may never know your dog’s complete history, but there are some personality traits common to each origination category that can help you identify which dog you most likely have. These are the MTD origination categories as we know them:
Also known as a “Soi Dog”, was most likely feral before being captured into the trade.
Street Dogs constitute the majority of the Trade. They are usually relatively dog savvy. They understand dog body language well, having lived with the street packs their whole life. Unless they come to you with visible scars, they will probably be dog friendly or at least dog tolerant. On the other hand, depending on whether they were born on the street (feral) or just lived there for a long time, they will have a relatively high to severe suspicion/fear of humans.
Is a dog that was originally in a home but either escaped to the street or was stolen before being taken into the trade.
Pre Owned dogs may also be dog friendly, but they are identifiable by being visibly more trusting of humans. These dogs will most likely take less time to bond with a new owner and therefore less time to rehabilitate.
Is a dog that was most likely born within the trade.
Born In dogs will have the most physical trauma from spending so long in a cage, such as a deformed body structure with splayed feet, curved spine, atrophied muscles, etc. Because of their lack of any experiences outside the trade, they can be the most antisocial upon rescue making them the hardest to reach emotionally and, as a result, the longest to rehabilitate.
ALL MEAT TRADE DOGS
Although there are some significant differences, we have also found that there are some truths across the board. Check out the next section,“Is Adopting/Fostering a Meat Trade Dog Right for Me,” for a list of common MTD Traits.
Is Adopting/Fostering a Meat Trade Dog Right for Me?
These dogs need your help! There are too many dogs in need and not enough homes. However, if you are going to dive into Meat Trade rehab, it’s important your expectations of the dog are based in reality. If you are a first-time dog owner and you have been dreaming of your bouncy canine kid playing fetch with you at the dog park, hanging out with you at the local pub for yappy hour, and getting love from all your friends on game day… these are not the rescues for you. This is not to say that some MTDs aren’t capable of getting to this, especially if they were Pre Owned, but it is VERY unlikely.
If, however, you can identify with a being that has undergone a trauma, if you are open to moving at their pace with optimistic goals based on what the dog finds rewarding (not what you think the dog SHOULD find rewarding), and if you find joy in small successes and love in the slow burn of trust building over time… then you are in the right place!
More than anything, MTDs need stability, patience, and to be loved for who they are, not who you want them to be.
If you still aren’t sure if adopting an MTD is right for you, or if you are just a bright bulb and want to be prepared, here are some aspects of MTDs that differentiate them the most from any ol’ rescue. No matter where your MTD originated from, it is likely they will be afraid of children, fear the leash, and prefer the outdoors. Additionally, in the first few months at least, you will see the following:
- Shut Down — As stated above, dogs have the ability to squelch their individual wants and needs when they are trying to survive. The longer the dog was in the trade, the more likely it is that their voice was silenced because of it being unsafe for them to emote. A shut down dog will often be prematurely diagnosed as “calm”, “tolerant”, and “nice”, but it is crucial they are allowed a period of time to decompress before they are evaluated with any real accuracy. We have found it can take close to 3 months for the most traumatized dog to become a dog with “personality”. It can take a year for them to be truly confident.
- Potentially Racist and Sexist — MTDs will be shy or even terrified around humans but can be especially sensitive to men and people that look like their previous captors. If adopted by a male/female couple, the dog will often choose to bond with the female, and if they can get what they need from this relationship, they may never have the necessary motivation to bond with the male.
- Won’t Play — Playing requires a great deal of ease. These dogs have had months or years of high stress each and every minute. It is rare to find a MTD that is happy go lucky enough to play in the first 3 to 6 months if at all.
- Won’t Come/No Recall — This one should be obvious. They are afraid of you! They will not come to you until they are bonded, and this can take months. It is for this reason they are at a VERY HIGH RISK of bolting. It is imperative that they are kept in an enclosed property or on a leash with a secure collar WITH A TAG at all times. If they get away from you in the first few weeks they will be very difficult to catch.
- Weird with Food — All MTDs will be hesitant around food and seem to have low food motivation. They may be especially reticent of dog food/kibble and prefer human food/junk food. The more extreme the trauma is, the more likely it is that they will refuse to eat completely except at night when all the humans are asleep and the house is completely quiet. As you can imagine, this low food drive makes it that much harder to form a bond.
Still not sure if you are ready to adopt/foster an MTD? Scroll down to read some MTC rehabilitation success stories! Transformation IS possible, and when it happens, it has been described as the most rewarding rehabilitation experience in a rescuers’ life.
I Just Adopted a Meat Trade Dog, What Do I Do Now??
Ok! So you adopted a MTD. Before you start, rehab can be helpful to identify where your rescue is on the trauma spectrum. Below we have included some examples of behaviors that tend to coincide with different trauma levels. On a scale of 1-5 is your dog…
LEVEL 1 – Shy but Moldable
Some sound sensitivity, human friendly but sensitive to direct approaches, will eat at any time of day but may still find kibble foreign, shy around male humans, bonds quickly to one member of the family, biddable and motivated to work for food and affection, more comfortable outside, sensitive to changes in flooring or foreign objects like cardboard boxes, fireplace, plastic bags, etc. Our guess would be this dog was Pre Owned before getting captured.
LEVEL 3 – Emotional and Scared
Most of Level 1 quirks will still apply with some added challenges such as visible signs of fear or aggression (lunging, growling, snapping, biting, tongue flicks, trembling, anxiety-panting, etc.), very sensitive to loud sounds, may only eat at night when it’s quiet (3 a.m. seems to be the time they all choose), unfamiliar with the leash and afraid of any leash restriction (may bite at leash or even become reactive towards dogs when on leash), and may have flat teeth that presumably were filed down from chewing on a crate for prolonged periods.
LEVEL 5 – Practically Catatonic
All the same fears as Level 1 and Level 3, but none of the same outward signs since they’re completely shut down in this level. Additional signs are they refuse food for more than 48 hours, don’t urinate or defecate for more than 48 hours, sit and stare at a corner, cower and widen eyes when approached but won’t react in a way that brings them any more attention, avoid human contact at all costs, prefer to pee outside but will do so quickly to avoid uncomfortable sights and sounds, may not pull on/seem fine with the leash since they will avoid leash pressure out of fear, may have the physical deformities common in Born Ins.
Rehabilitating a Meat Trade Dog
Which level of trauma you have helps determine how long you need to spend in each stage of rehab. When you think you’re ready to move to the next step, spend two more weeks in that moment of success. Speed is not the name of this game. The extra time will often be just what was needed to solidify your trustworthiness in the dogs mind.
STAGE 1 – Decompression
All MTDs require a period of decompression. How long you have to stay here depends a lot on how traumatized your dog is. The more shut down, the longer this will take, but you should plan on spending at least 3 to 4 weeks here with a Level 1 dog and maybe 2 to 3 months with a Level 5 dog. Here is what you do during this time:
- Ignore Your Dog – I know. This sounds crazy. Most of you will want to shower your pup with affection to make up for all the affection they didn’t get in their past. DON’T. MTDs have spent weeks/months having interactions they didn’t choose for themselves. If you want to build trust, it is crucial your MTD believes fully that you are not just another person forcing your will on them and that you are not a threat. Don’t look at them, don’t call them, and don’t approach them if you can avoid it. Limit your interaction to what is absolutely necessary, and GIVE THEM SPACE to decompress.
- Leave Them Leashed – Since some MTDs will have a sensitivity to leash pressure and human proximity, you don’t want to have to approach and reach over them constantly to leash and unleash them. Let them drag a 6 to 8-foot leash around (assuming you’re home to supervise). This will give you some security in case you need to grab them for safety reasons and will allow them to begin to desensitize to the leash itself.
If you are wondering if your dog is ready to move out of this stage, look for these key signals:
- Your dog willingly approaches you for anything at all (curiosity, food, affection, etc.).
- Your dog eats during daylight hours.
- Your dog is vocalizing complaints.
STAGE 2 – Bonding
After the decompression stage, you will want to start forming a bond with your dog. Depending on their level of trauma, this could be harder. A Pre Owned dog will have had experience with human bonding before, whereas a Born In has never had a positive experience with a human before.
- Don’t Pet Your Dog – This may go against your first instinct, but DO NOT pet your dog. Even if you see it as a sign of affection, MTDs may see it as a sign of aggression and won’t understand your intentions. It may take a while, but wait until your dog is asking to be pet. If they approach you first wanting to be pet, then you may. But even then, make sure it’s on the side of their face or body or their back. These are non-threatening locations to your dog.
- Hand Feeding/Treat Trail – In order to build an initial bond with your dog, you can use treats. There are two ways to do this: hand feeding and a treat trail. With hand feeding, you can offer them a treat from a short distance away from your hand. If they approach you, it can help build a bond. If they don’t approach you, that’s okay. They aren’t ready for that. You can also create a treat trail by lining up treats in a formation for them.
STAGE 3 – Obedience
Once decompression is done and a bond has formed, you’re able to take the next step with your dog. When expectations are off, you can start with the third stage: obedience.
- Positive Reinforcement Only – MTDs have a sensitivity with human authority, so you want to make sure to make them as comfortable as possible while teaching them obedience. To give positive reinforcement means to reward behaviors that are good, and ignore the behaviors that are not. You never want to punish your dog in any way, shape or form. Positive reinforcement can come in many different ways: treats, praise, walks, etc.
- Desensitization and Counterconditioning – Desensitization means exposing your dog to a stimulus beginning at a very low intensity. Counterconditioning is to train your dog to reach differently to such stimulus. In order to be effective, desensitization and counterconditioning MUST be used together. To begin this process, you must take it very slowly. Determine what is stressing out your dog, and devise a way to make this less stressful. You may even find you can pair it with something your dog finds positive. Don’t move on from this process until your dog is fully comfortable. Remember: This is a slow process. Treat it as such.
STAGE 4 – Happiness
So you’ve decompressed your MTD, you’ve formed a bond, and you taught them obedience. The final stage of rehabilitating your dog is happiness. Determine what makes them happy. Is it jogging? Car rides? Other dogs? Once you determine this, you can introduce it into their day to day.
Beware when it comes to dog socialization; sometimes it can be necessary for an MTD, but other times it’s bad for their state. You may need another confident dog in the home to help with this transition.