Tips to Help a Skittish Rescue Dog Adjust to Your Home
16 December, 2015

If you adopted a dog from a shelter or animal rescue group, there is a chance that your dog might be skittish or fearful of people or other animals. Some dogs adapt quickly into their new home while other dogs need a little help from you and your family. If you take the time to understand what the dog’s fears and/or needs are, he or she will adjust in time.

All newly adopted dogs need to be taught what they can chew, how they may greet you, where to go to the bathroom and other house rules. If your adopted dog is afraid of novel people or new situations, he will also need some extra help from you to adjust to his new home.

Below are some tips to help your dog relax with you and your family.

Give your dog freedom to adjust to his or her new surroundings

Allow your new dog to get the feel of his new home and if you have other dogs, allow the dogs to socialize without too much input from you. Too much attention or protection could cause jealousy. Watch carefully from the sidelines and try to not show favoritism. Your dogs should establish their family first. Allow your new pup to explore, find a favorite place and learn what is what in your home.

Moderate your voice and movements

Dogs are intimidated by fast, jerky movements and loud, low voices. When you’re working to gain your dog’s confidence, speak in soft, even tones and move slowly. During this time, it’s important to keep young children away from an extremely timid dog since the rapid, spontaneous movements of a child can be intimidating and may even provoke a shy dog to bite.

Try to understand your dog’s body language

Recognize your dog’s body language. Yawning and licking lips can be signs of nervousness. Your skittish dog might sit off to the side while you cook dinner or do your household errands as he or she watches while yawning and licking her lips. Ignore her behavior at first. After a few days, look at your pup, smile and say her name in a soothing voice. Calming her and helping her feel safe is important in helping her heal.

Give your dog some time to come to you

Give your dog some space, but also make sure to spend time with you new dog. You need to show your dog that you will not hurt your pup when you touch him or her. Take your dog on a morning walk and spend some time with him or her after. Start by simply sitting with her on the floor at his or her level. As soon as she is comfortable at this level, stroke her head and say her name, working up to a fully body pet and hug. Be patient and don’t take it personally if she doesn’t want the attention.

Be very lenient with accidents or strange behavior

Try not to overreact to accidents or strange behavior. Expect that your dog might pee in the house and do your best to just clean it up and not punish your new pup. If you act like it is not a big deal, your new dog will get over it faster. Sometimes, the only attention some rescue dogs have ever received from their owners is punishment. Dogs are social and they will do what it takes to get some human interaction. Your new dog may have learned that accidents mean attention, so you’ll need to show her that she only gets attention from good behavior.

When training your dog, always use positive reinforcement

The shy or fearful dog can be frightened and even traumatized by forceful training methods. Today, the emphasis in the dog training world is positive, reward-based training, even for confident, untroubled pups and dogs. So for the best experience for you and your shy dog, focus on gentle, positive methods.

For example, instead of giving a leash correction when your shy dog engages in nervous barking, ignore the barking. Try to redirect your dog’s attention to you. As soon as your dog stops barking, give your pup praise and a tasty treat to reward the “quiet” behavior. Eventually, your dog will realize that nervous barking is not an effective response to whatever triggered her fear.

You need to be patient with your new dog

Be forgiving and patient with your new dog. There will be setbacks and you and your dog will make mistakes. However, with time and patience, your dog will come around. Dogs are inherently social so he or she will enjoy the love and compassion. And always reward your dog for good behavior. Positive reinforcement is the best way to gain your dog’s love and trust.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that some dogs take longer than others to adjust. But, with time, love and patience, you and your dog will be the best of friends and his shy days will be a thing of the past.

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