Tips for Fostering or Adopting a Shy or Fearful Dog
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If you’re thinking about fostering or adopting a shy, fearful dog you are about to embark upon one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. Shy and fearful dogs need lots of help to build confidence and learn to live a happy life. There are no quick fixes – progress will be made slowly, over time.
Lots of thought should be given to the special needs very shy dogs have before you make the decision to take one home with you. Shy and fearful dogs tend to react out of context to common household occurrences. For example, if a door slams, a confident dog will be startled for a moment but will quickly recover from the experience. In contrast, a fearful dog may submissively urinate then run and hide under the bed for the next hour. Or he may turn and snap at the person standing closest to him. A visit the vet to rule out medical factors which might be contributing to the behavior is a good place to start.
Next, build confidence by establishing a close relationship and by providing a calm, orderly and predictable environment.
A few ideas that may help:
Provide a kennel crate for your dog. Have the dog use the kennel crate for naps while you are home, for sleeping overnight, and whenever you are not home. This will help build confidence because the crate is a place of safety and security for the dog. It will also help prevent destructive behavior and housebreaking accidents.
For the first few days with any dog who is new to your home, it’s a good idea to keep the dog on a leash inside the home. Keep the dog tethered to you and have him follow you from room to room as you go about your daily routine. This is especially helpful with a shy or fearful dog. It has a comforting effect, helps build trust and shows the dog that you are his leader and his protector.
Do not let the dog run loose in the backyard during the first few days. Fearful dogs may be hesitant to return back inside the home before they have settled in. Instead, walk the dog on a leash, even if your back yard is fenced, until the dog feels “at home” in his new surroundings.
Take the dog for at least 2 daily walks for exercise. Daily walks help strengthen the bond between dog and owner.
Play with your dog every day! Play is a natural behavior – dogs need to play in order to build confidence.
Sudden or fast movements, shouting, children racing through rooms etc. should be avoided.
Instruct guests to completely ignore the dog until he approaches them. If the dog approaches them, they can reach out and scratch the dog under the chin or on the chest. Avoid eye contact and frontal alignment at first. DO NOT PAT the dog on the head. DO NOT hug the dog around the neck or head.
If the dog is afraid of something or someone, do not force the dog to approach. Instead, provide distance and redirect the dog’s attention.
Provide a daily routine including daily obedience training.
NO physical punishment. Tactics such as rolling a dog on its back, hitting a dog or pinning a dog down only serve to frighten them. These tactics can quickly break down the bond between a dog and its owner.
Never take a dog back to a housebreaking accident and put his nose in the mess. The dog will have no idea why you are doing this and it will hurt, not help, your housetraining efforts. Instead, prevent accidents from happening in the first place, by using a dog crate, providing constant supervision and taking the dog outside for frequent potty breaks.
Dogs with serious fear issues will benefit greatly from professional assistance and training. Canine Dimensions can design a program to help your dog gain confidence and live a happier life.