How To Settle A Scared Dog Into Your Home
Scared dogs are wonderfully rewarding to live with, and watch grow. We have rescued a number of worriers and to see them become bright and cheeky, confident and sparkling with humour is second to nothing. It can however feel a little like we are getting things terribly wrong before we start getting them right. So, here’s my experience and how you can use it to improve yours.
Fearful dogs all have one thing in common, they don’t feel entirely safe. The first thing we must do for them is create that feeling of safety.
Space around them and freedom of movement is so important in the task of creating a feeling of safety and yet we humans naturally want to do the opposite.
It’s completely natural to us to touch and check, check and touch and so on when we are trying to make someone else feel safe. That’s human language though and dogs often feel safer when they are not paid too much attention at all. The key to providing emotional security with a scared dog is to not only give them physical space but emotional space too. We should be there for them, but always let them make the first move towards us wherever possible.
Freedom to carry out natural behaviours such as toileting and eating/drinking is part of allowing a dog to settle. When we watch them, we should do it through side eyes and pretend we are looking somewhere else. A direct stare is so intimidating for a worried dog that if we are watching them, they might not feel comfortable enough to eat, drink or even relax.
We love to touch and soothe as humans. Dogs find being touched without giving their consent an uncomfortable process. Don’t get me wrong, all dogs who feel secure and happy like physical touch but it’s only fair to let it be on their terms. Scared dogs in particular may need weeks to feel comfortable to ask for a scratch of the ears but they will get there. The key is to respect their space and the time they need to feel safe and trust us. I promise, when they do finally ask for physical touch, it’s a wonderful feeling.
Like all of us, scared dogs need time, space and freedom to start to feel secure. If we share the living space with them and move around them gently, quietly and pressure free they will naturally trust us in no time at all.