How to Help a Scared Rescue Dog Acclimate to You

January 16, 2015


Adopting a rescue dog is a wonderful way to bring a new canine family member into the home. However, some rescue dogs are frightened by humans because of bad experiences with previous owners or homelessness which did not give them any bonding experience with humans. It takes patience and understanding to deal with a scared rescue dog and to help them acclimate to you and to their new home.

A skittish rescue dog may show his fear by being overly timid, withdrawn and untrusting or displaying signs of depression. Some may feel threatened by new people, situations and surroundings.

Warm Up to a New Home

When you first bring home a rescue dog, keep them confined to one area so they don’t feel so overwhelmed. Let them slowly get used to the new smells, sounds and sights around them. At first, your new rescue pet may seem jumpy, unsure and unable to relax. Keep the environment stress free for them. Use gentle commands, soft voices and quiet surroundings until they feel more at ease. They will eventually get used to the stimulation, but in the beginning, keep it a controlled non-threatening environment for them. As your dog begins to explore and perhaps timidly reach out, they will learn that your home is their home and it’s a safe place to be.

Provide Consistent Food

Make sure you put your new pet on a consistent feeding schedule so they can get used to the fact that they will have food at a specific time of day without struggling for it. They have to learn to trust you to be the provider of their food and to know they can count on you when they get hungry. Feed them healthy dog food that will help to improve their overall wellbeing; CANIDAE premium quality dog food gives the proper nutrition without the unhealthy fillers.

Reward Good Behavior

Many rescue animals have to learn how to behave around humans in a normal home. It may be a struggle both teaching them the right way to behave and unlearning any inappropriate behaviors they adopted in order to survive in less than happy surroundings. The new skills may be learned in smaller steps with verbal praise, physical rewards like gentle petting, and food rewards like CANIDAE dog treats. A skittish pet may need lots of encouragement to accept their new way of life and accept you. All the positive reinforcement and rewards will help them learn that this new life is a good one in which they can be happy.

Provide a Safe Spot

Always provide a new dog with a safe spot they can retreat to when they feel overwhelmed or frightened. They need to know it is okay to retreat when they get scared or are unsure, and that this spot is a place they can go to at any time. It could be a special bed in a quiet area of your house, a crate with a comfortable interior, or a blanket they can burrow under for security. Whatever works for your new dog, allow them time in their safe spot and let them approach you when they start to feel comfortable. Don’t force it before they are ready.

Patience and Trust

Much like a human child who has been neglected or abused, a scared rescue dog needs love, patience and understanding to learn to trust you. A simple daily routine such as feeding may seem like it should be non-threatening since you are giving your new companion something they want and need, but they should be given their food in a calm soothing manner. In the beginning, they may be more comfortable with you simply putting the food out and then retreating from the area so they can eat in solitude and feel unthreatened.

Teaching a dog to be leash trained or even to wear a collar may remind them of bad experiences with those items, or they may never have had one in their life before they came to you. Think back to how frightening it was for you as a child to be thrown into a totally new situation and let that memory guide you in the treatment of your rescue pet.

Watch their behavior and their body language for clues on what is most frightening and threatening to them. Show them gentleness and love when dealing with these situations. Whether it was mistreatment or neglect they experienced before you brought them home, they have to learn that the bad experiences are not going to be repeated in this new place with people who care for them.

When you do win over your new rescue pet, it is a rewarding feeling to have achieved that level of trust and love with them. It might take time and may not be easy, but the joy of helping an animal that has experienced a previously unfortunate life is worth the effort. In the end, you will both benefit from the experience.

Top photo by zmtomako/Flickr
Bottom photo by Juan Antonio F. Segal/Flickr 

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