Dealing with a scared dog is common when you adopt a rescue or save a lost or abandoned dog. The first impression you make with your new furry friend is a lasting one, so make sure you get off on the right foot -- or paw.
Avoid eye contact. Stand, crouch or sit sideways to the dog while being quiet. Do not approach, face or look at the scared dog. Let him come to you. By doing this, you are taking a nonthreatening position.
Hold some treats. Training treats you can buy from a pet store or small bits of hot dog work well. Extend your hand with the treat in it, drop the treat on the ground and leave your hand extended. You want the dog to take the food, even if he immediately retreats. Leave your hand out, but don’t try to reach for the dog.
Extend your hand with a treat in it a second time, but do not drop it on the ground. See whether the dog will take it from your hand.
Attempt to pet the dog on his neck, chest or under his chin. Many dogs are scared when someone tries to touch the top of their head, so do not try to do that yet.
Make eye contact by just glancing at the dog while you are petting him. Don’t stare at him yet because that could frighten him.
Set up a den or a crate for your dog. He can use this area as a retreat when he feels nervous or anxious. Put in a blanket, a toy and a water bowl.
Bring your dog with you when you go out so he can be socialized around other people and animals. This builds your dog’s self-esteem. Be observant on these outings so you can control a potentially threatening situation. For example, if a child asks to pet the dog, make sure your dog is not displaying fear or growling. If your dog appears calm and happy, instruct the child that she can slowly pet your dog’s back if she is gentle. Explain that your dog is a little shy. But if a child comes running over, stand between her and your dog as you explain that your dog is nervous.
Walk your dog daily. Exercise helps relax a dog and acts as a stress reliever, which is helpful to a shy and scared dog.
- Be patient. It might take several sessions before your dog progresses to new steps.
- Speak in a soft voice. Loud voices can be frightening.
- Do not coddle your dog when he displays fear. That reinforces the fearful behavior.
- A scared dog might bite.
Laura Agadoni has been writing professionally since 1983. Her feature stories on area businesses, human interest and health and fitness appear in her local newspaper. She has also written and edited for a grassroots outreach effort and has been published in "Clean Eating" magazine and in "Dimensions" magazine, a CUNA Mutual publication. Agadoni has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University-Fullerton.