We have adopted a problem dog from the local dog rescue who spent the first 18 months of his life locked in a barn of a puppy farm. He is of a beautiful nature but has not had any socialization and is a nervous wreck. He is scared to death of anything and everything and even has a problem going into the garden as he is terrified to leave the sanctuary of our kitchen. He is basically a dog with agoraphobia and we could do with advice on how to proceed with him. He is neutered and is two years old and otherwise very healthy.
Margaret from Swansea UK
we have a bulldog that would NOT go downstairs for the longest time. He weighs about 60 lbs.. but everyday, i'd spend at least 30 minutes playing with him and stuff, and one day, i walked downstairs, and he just looked at the steps.. So i nudged him down a little bit, then carried him down to the stairs. now, he comes down the stairs ALL the time. I think most of it is just time and praise. He'll get there, with time.
By guet (Guest Post) 03/29/2005
I agree. All he needs is a lot of love and patience. My dog came from an abusive situation and it took her a year to wag her tail and play with us. She was afraid for me to touch her when I first got her and still 3 years later is wary when I have any object in my hand even if it is a plastic bag or something silly. Food was a great way to get her to trust us. I just talked to her and petted her gently on her terms and spent a lot of time with her and gave her treats. We allowed her to have her own space at the top of the stairs where she felt safe. She actually took to my husband first and she started walking around with her tail up instead of tucked under. It was heartbreaking to see her so sad and her spirit broken. Then I got her to play ball a year after we got her and we were ecstatic. Now she is very sweet and loves for us to pet her, but hides behind me when around other people. Let him open up on his own time. I'm sure he is incredibly grateful to have a wonderful home now and will be a sweet and affectionate companion with time.
By Patty (Guest Post) 03/29/2005
Bless you for adopting a dog that really needed a home! Many people have no idea of the conditions these innocent creatures must endure so someone can make a buck.
All the advice given so far has been excellent. This poor dog will require all the love and patience you can muster. Take it very slowly, reward every positive step with praise and treats, and give lots of love. Be consistent and predictable.
You might also want to contact the national rescue group for that particular breed. Go to this webpage:
There you'll find a list of rescue groups by breed. Many have their own web groups, where you can ask questions and get lots of advice and support.
By Susan in Oregon (Guest Post) 03/29/2005
I am not a dog expert but I have had many abused animals over the years. Recently, I have adopted four dogs from a chow rescue. Two have come from puppy mills/farms. One is similar to what you have described with your dog. My experience with traumatized animals is that they need lots of time to heal and learn to trust. Food and hand feeding is a good way to build trust. To socialize, take him on short walks, very short to start with, and keep extending them until he becomes comfortable. This will take a long time because you only want to advance at the dogs pace (when the dog is ready). Go with him outside and spend time talking to him. Eventually, you will see a changed animal but it takes lots of loving time.
I wish you the best and the world needs more loving people like you to take in abused/traumatized animals. He will learn to love you and you will not find a more devoted pet.
Susan in Oregon, USA
Find your local health food or organic store and get something called Rescue Remedy. I would also purchase from the same line (BACH Flower) Aspen and Mimulus. You can add all these to his water or give directly by mouth. You also might want to try some Valerian Root.
I found this Web site with some information on Bach Flower remedies.
Hi Susan in Oregon,
Susan from Washington State here. I adopted Maggie who is a Chow Mix through the PNW Chow Rescue. She came from Oregon.
Maggie was very, very shy and withdrawn at first but after a few months of lots of love and care she became just like a pup. We had to train her just like a puppy because except for house training, she really didn't have any training for coming when called, sitting, lying down or any of the basic commands.
She's now very comfortable with everyone in the family and checks to make sure all of her "people" are accounted for.
It just takes lots of time and patience with rescue pets but they are well worth it.
Susan from ThriftyFun
By windfeather (Guest Post) 03/29/2005
We also got a dog that had spent the first part of his life in a crate. He also was not socialized. After the first few months I despaired of keeping him. I had been unable to housebreak him, he was destructive of any loose object, and most ominously would never look us in the eye. If his head were held, he would roll his eyes back in his head to avoid eye contact. The thing that ultimately helped time along a little was the (I felt) drastic and draconian measure of wearing a belt and attaching a 3 to 5 foot length of rope to my belt and his collar. But I was at my wits end. It actually had a very calming effect on him. He was essentially housebroken in 2 days, but I did this for a couple of weeks, and being actually with me, he did start to make eye contact. It might calm an agoraphobic dog as it will assure him you cannot get lost from him. Our dog had been in this situation for almost a year-2 years will probably take more time. He's very gentle with family members. The neighbors think he's vicious as he's so protective. I bought the biggest wire crate I could find so he could move around and see out. He's never taken to it as a "safe" den as some dogs will as he was kept in one for so long without relief, but he tolerates it very nicely when we have company.
By (Guest Post) 03/29/2005
Do a web search on "clicker training" for dogs. This method is used very successfully to rahabilitate traumetized horses. I am sure there is someone doing it with dogs too. It is totally based on positive reinforcement and anyone can do it.
Most scared dogs don't like to be touched and even some normal happy hyper dogs too. Wait till they are just about to go to sleep and very quietly, gently, sweetly caress them, lightly stroking them all over. It's relaxing for them & very bonding. ( this works with people too :)
By margaret from swansea (Guest Post) 04/17/2005
thank you all for your advice given. I am using the rescue remedy and started clicker training which surprisingly due to his noise aversion, he is quite comfortable with. He is giving us trouble with housebreaking as he is used to using his living area for doing puddles but he is getting better. We took him for a walk yesterday with our other lab and his tail went up and he enjoyed himself. hates going into the van though as he has an aversion to vehicles and/or noise. We have noticed a big change in only one month and we start puppy classes next week so thanks everyone once again
By Olivia (Guest Post) 08/05/2005
My aunt and her friend that lives with her, adopted a female mix (poodle with a terrier) They adopted her 2 months ago in June. She was abused for 2 years by her last owner. When ever anyone goes near her, she runs and scampers under my aunts friends bed (they live togther) Now, My aunt's friend was the one who held her on the way home from adopting her. Maggie (the dog) will always run to her, and no one else. She will stay by my aunts friend's side. ALWAYS. And sleeps under her bed or with her on top on the bed. When she is gone out Maggie stays under the bed. And will not come out for food when my aunt or I are in the kitchen. My aunt's friend is going away soon and I am worried because Maggie will not come out expect Gert (aunt's friend) what should she do to make the dog more used to her and other people. ( shes tried hand feeding her and petting her) nothing helps!!
By sue (Guest Post) 04/14/2006
I too have just found 2 abondonded puppies. They are currently 12 weeks old and are brothers. My situation is that the younger brother is completely dependent on the other. Reno, the dominant dog is beginning to come around, although is not yet consistent when I approach him. He is house trained and very smart. Cameron, on the other hand is a mess. He pees everytime I approach, and shakes all over when I hold him (which we do everynight for 1/2 hour). I do not want to seperate them because they managed to survive on their own for weeks, but I am not sure what to do.
By Matt from Manville, NJ (Guest Post) 09/15/2006
I have a 3 year old beagle that we just adopted 3 weeks age from a shelter. I was told she lived in a cage outside her whole life with her sisters and the owners never named her. She will not even come close to me. Is there any advise out there as to getting her to come to me?
Editor's Note: I think it would be wise to get her a crate, leaving the door open but letting her retreat to it. She might even feel safer with the door shut. Give her treats through the door and let her know that you won't hurt her. It will take some kindness and understanding. She really hasn't had much of a life and once she feels safe, she should come around but expect it may take several months.
Susan from ThriftyFun
I commend you for adopting a dog that obviously needed a loving home.
I find that I am in a similar situation as you: In December, I adopted a chihuahua/beagle mix named Cooper. He is scared of everyone and everything - especially the sound of paper and ANY unexpected noise.
We have had him a month, and the main improvement we've seen is that he now ventures downstairs - when for the first three weeks, we had to carry him everywhere.
I will tell you what I keep telling myself: these dogs have had a lifetime of bad treatment, and only a few weeks or months of being loved. Hopefully for both of us, it will just take some time and patience.
By Nicole (Guest Post) 01/20/2007
I just adopted a lab puppy and she is very scared of me and my fiancee, she will not eat and every time that one of us tries to pick her up she runs from us. I don't know what to do with her and we are getting aggravated because we wanted a playful, fun loving water dog. What should we do?
<b>Editor's Note:</b> Dogs from puppy farms quite often are not used to humans. They've basically been locked up and not cared for well. Let her come to you and please have patience. She has had a rough start and it will take a while. She needs to learn that you are her friends and family.
By (Guest Post) 06/03/2008
I have a Maltese Terrier who is now over a year old. We bought him from a private sale. We saw both parents as well as his siblings, he seemed to be a playful Pup.
When we brought him home, he was playful as well, though a incident occurred and he has never been the same since. When he was approx 8 weeks old, my 3 year nephew left him hanging from the couch hand rest. it wasn't for long as my mum saw him and quickly picked him up. He hasn't been the same since.
He hides behind me and sometimes even from me. He doesn't really go to the other family members, Just when he wants to. He is scared from all other dogs. We bought a Rabbit not long ago and that seems to be the only thing he isn't scared of as he chases the rabbit around and plays with it. My cousin's cat attacked him from inside his cage and my dogs heart started to pound.
I feel greatly for him as I have had other dogs in the past which have not been like him and feel really helpless.
I don't know what to do. We give him all the attention and play with him. He is sometimes ok with me and my brother and mum & dad, but not with any other family or friends.
He sometimes even hides from us.
I've read a lot about abused dogs, but he doesn't fit into this caliber.
Could that few seconds hanging off the couch done this to him?
I don't know how to make him feel better and safe. I just want him to be a brave dog. I want him to feel safe, secure and loved.
By Barbara from Vancouver Island,Canada (Guest Post) 10/16/2008
In March of this year I adopted a 9 yr old breeder dog rescued from a puppy mill. She wouldn't come out from under the car the first week. She cowered in the corner and made herself as small as she could get. I bought her a crate/kennel - which she loved since she felt safe there. After a few weeks I took the top off the crate so I could pet her more often. Eventually, she moved to a bed and the crate is only used for transport. It took a while. Patience, love, attentiveness work. Keeping a journal helps you remember "back when" when you feel discouraged.
Last week or so she started walking outside without constant encouragement. But unexpected noises and strange places still cause her anxiety. She does recover more quickly these days. Don't lose heart.
I set up a blog so the other people involved in her rescue could keep track of her, and it's my journal. It's at http://(no w's)fur-licity dot blogspot dot com
By Lee (Guest Post) 10/20/2008
I adopted a 2 yr old abused Akita who is afraid of even the airconditioner when it turns on. For over 2 weeks now I even have to carry her outside to go for walks. What seems to be helping is our nightly visits to the dog park. I do not take her inside yet but walk the outside of the fence and the other dogs come to her and smell through the fence. She gets the interaction but still feels safe. She watches the interaction between the other dogds and the dogs and people. Seems to be getting it slowly. Go figure, a scared Akita. Just goes to show you any dog can be scared if abused.
By Judi (Guest Post) 01/08/2009
I recently received for Christmas a 6 month old chocolate lab. He is a beautiful dog but he is scared of everything. He has bonded with me a bit but my husband nor anyone else can come near him. He is afraid of everything and I just don't know what to do. I want to keep him and bring him around. I want him to be a part of my family. I already love the dog and it hurts me so bad to think why is he like this. Any suggestions?
Email is- Judipajd AT aol.com Please help!
By Cathy in Connecticut (Guest Post) 02/14/2009
I'm so glad to hear we are not alone. We adopted the most adorable Mastiff a week ago. She's 50 lbs and will not move without us carrying her. Oh our backs. She came to us from a puppy mill. She is afraid of her own shadow and everything else. We have to crawl on the ground to get near her. I was very happy to read the postings that all we have to do is continue being patient and loving her for her to come around. THANKS!
By Brittany (Guest Post) 02/16/2009
My mom and i welcomed a new member to the family five days ago. Charlie is a three year old lab/husky mix who is small in size and loving at heart. He was a stray from a local shelter and no one knows his history or where he lived the first three years of his life. At first he seemed fine he was getting over his kennel cough and his appetite started to pick up but he quickly became terrified to go out the front door.
The front porch felt like he was walking the plank. I have to end up picking him up and putting him down on the ground down the way from the house just so we can get a little walk in. He immediately races back for the front door begging to go back inside. I cant figure out why he wont go outside, and every time he hears something and his tail goes right in between his legs. I'm worried about him and want him to be happy and come around so we can socialize.
This can be tough. I rescued my dog a little less than a year ago and before then, he spent 4 years being beaten with his owners and being tossed into a rescue shelter. Time and training are very important. 2 years old is still pretty young so he can be trained. With a dog this nervous/anxious, you may want to call in a professional, because it can be hard to 'make' your dog do things that will have him anxious, but it will help 'break the anxiety' he is used to.