What You Should Know About Adopting a Shy, Frightened Dog

30 Jul

With the number of stray animals in the world and hundreds of thousands of them are put to death each year, it is no wonder humanity has wrapped its arms around rescuing dogs through groups or shelters. It is a way to meet the needs of both the animal, that needs a second chance at life and the companionship people crave. Adopting an animal from a shelter or rescue group is not always a walk through a meadow, it can be hard in helping the animal come to terms with its past and adjust properly. Often time’s people may find their newly adopted dog is shy and even frightened in different scenarios. If this is the case, check out the ideas below to learn how to help your newly adopted pet overcome his or her shyness and develop into the fun-loving pet you know they really are.

Quality Time

The best way to help your new shy dog adjust is to spend some good old-fashioned quality time with your dog. Allow your dog to become comfortable with you and his new surroundings and understand that you are the new alpha dog that will fulfill all of his needs and desires. Spend time on the ground playing with your dog and working on simple obedience commands like “sit” and “stay”.


If you find that even after time with you, that your dog still shies away from certain people, place or things you may need to help socialize your dog to break through his uncomfortable feelings with those situations.


For a dog to be well rounded, it is important that the dog be around to different people, animals and places. This is an important process for all dogs not just the one that is already nervous and shy. That being said, you should introduce your dog to socialization slowly and consistently to help your dog gain more confidence in uncertain situations.


If your dog is nervous around strangers or certain types of people (men, women or races) invite someone of that stature to help break the ice, so to speak, and teach your dog that there is nothing to fear. In a confined area, have the person offer a treat while not making eye contact, as that is less intimidating for your dog. You can be in the room, but should not react or try to comfort your dog – as this helper needs to be the main source of comfort and praise for the dog. Any small accomplishment should be rewarded with a treat. Depending on how frightened your dog is, this process may take a few weeks to work, however consistency is the key to accomplishing this socialization.


If your dog is nervous around other animals or dogs, you may want to enlist the help of a professional, or an very calm and relaxed dog. Like socializing with people, the dogs should be placed in a room with leashes and collars and just be asked to coexist, as the dogs become more confident around each other they should be rewarded and you can begin trying to unleash them. Please note you should never try to socialize a frightened dog that has not had obedience training, as there will be a time when you will need to control your dog by voice only. Again, it is best to leave this scenario to a professional.



If your dog becomes nervous around new places, it is important to get out with your dog more often. Simply start by taking more walks in your neighborhood. Try new routes and make sure that you are relaxed when walking your dog. As your dog becomes more comfortable in the neighborhood, look into visiting other areas that you can also take your dog for secluded exercise. Eventually, work your dog up to running errands with you and even visiting a local dog park! Again, make sure you reward your dog for small accomplishments – always keep the treats handy.

Patience is Important

Remember to be patient as you work on correcting your dog’s shyness, it is a process and you never know what has happened in your dog’s past that may be causing his extreme caution and uncertainty. It is best to work on your dog’s schedule, read his cues and advance once he has become comfortable to a situation, and most importantly remain persistent in his socialization skills.

A devoted veterinarian, dedicating her professional career to the care of family pets. Susan Wright, DMV is a dog bark collar expert and has authored books focusing on dogs and their care.

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Posted by on July 30, 2012 in Animals & Birds


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