First Aid for Scared Dogs

At the moment, adoption numbers are increasing tremendously. People and dogs are finding their way back to each other. Of course, that’s great, because, in the process, even so-called “hard-to-place” woofies are finding homes more often. If the adoption is well done, fresh dog parents know what is coming. The character of the dog was described, in the best case several meetings took place to get to know each other, and “quirks” (health problems, behavioral problems) were openly communicated.

But often something completely different happens.

People fall in love with a cute photo or description. The animal welfare organization cannot or does not want to make a truthful statement about the character, and the disaster takes its course.


I don’t want to blame the organizations at all, because often a dog can only show its true nature when he arrives in a new family. Or sometimes the dog could be traumatized by the transport.

This is unfortunately unpredictable and happens even with great organizations.

Sometimes, to put it harshly, it’s just bad luck.


And even if you know what is in store for you, living together can then be totally different from your expectations (keyword: trainability).


So what can you do if a scared dog moves in with you?


As with any adoption, the magic words are QUIET/CALM.

Everything is new for the dog… environment, smells, furnishings, possibly food, caregiver. That means he has a lot to do with processing all the new impressions. This is quite exhausting and needs all the more sleep.


If your dog is afraid and hides, let him do so. You can pass him by from time to time and lose food. Eventually, he will pick it up, it doesn’t have to happen right away 😉

The association human=great because food appears just happens.

Go ahead and put water and food in his hiding place and set up a toilet for him nearby. He might not use it, but at least he has the opportunity.


This is a big challenge at the beginning and should not be talked down here, because there can be very bad smells. In addition, one worries of course, and the pity scratches at the nerves.

But it is absolutely worth it.


It is important, especially in the beginning, that nobody wants anything from the dog. The human is simply there, good things are happening around him and that’s it.

You can also sit in some distance to the dog, read a book and now and then roll a chunk of food into his hiding place.

Do not reach in though.


Also, a marker word could possibly already be introduced. The dog does not have to do anything for that. You just say the word before the food rolls into the hiding place.

Here is a small video:


You can see a more advanced training session. We started with chunks of food in the crate and I was with my back to her, at the greatest possible distance.

Here it is important to make the hand movement small enough that the dog is not frightened (if possible).

In addition, no motivational conflict should arise (which would favor aggression), so the dog should not be lured closer under any circumstances.

You can additionally increase the distance with body language by leaning away from the dog.


In the beginning, walks are really unnecessary.

If your dog is ready to go outside to toilet, you can do that of course.


Alrighty, and last but not least


A dog that hides, or shows strong anxiety/fearful behavior in whatever form, should definitely get medical help.

To fight against the fear without medical supervision is insanely frustrating and for the dog, every day he has to experience being so scared is a disaster.


I’d suggest contacting a good vet behaviorist and discussing openly what is bothering you and your dog.

It may be possible to try treatment without seeing the dog, possibly pre-medication can be used to allow a treatment/examination. This will be discussed individually.

Please do not shy away from it, you are giving your dog a gift 😉


And in those moments when your emotions are on a roller coaster, try to take yourself out of it for a bit. Do something that is good for you. Don’t worry, it’s not selfish.

Because when you’re doing well, you can provide the best support for your dog.

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