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Rescued Dog Has Not Warmed Up to New Owners

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Choosing to adopt a rescue dog can have its challenges. These abused and neglected animals need lots of patience to become good household pets. This is a page about rescued dog has not warmed up to new owners.


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August 9, 2008

I just got a 7 year old poodle rescued from a puppy mill 1 week ago. She has bonded well with my other dogs but is extremely scared of us (humans). She will follow the lead of my other dogs, but if we try to approach her she runs away from us. In the beginning we had to leave the room when she would eat, but she now lets us in the same room as her.

Yesterday was the first day she took a treat from my hand, but once it was in her mouth she ran to the other side of the room and ate it. Does anyone have any suggestions that can help her. I do not want to have to return her to the rescue but I don't know how to deal with a pet I can't touch

Nancy from Allentown PA


By wildwood waitress (Guest Post)
August 10, 20080 found this helpful
Best Answer

The best way to bond with your dog is by taking frequent walks. Don't be discouraged if the dog isn't enthusiastic at first. Just take short walks and be calm and assertive. Good luck!

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August 10, 20080 found this helpful
Best Answer

I take in a lot of rescues and every so often get a real shy one. Sometimes it helps just to almost ignore them and go about your business. It makes them nervous if you keep trying to give them attention. They almost feel they are being chased. Then I just toss treats at them every now and then and try not to look or stare at them.


Every day I toss the treat a lil closer and gradually get it where they take it from my hand. I have one that's been here for 4 years and still can't touch him though. Hope that is not the case with yours. I find cooked kidney cut into small pcs works the best, just something about that kidney they love and it is cheap. Every dog is different. I once had a small nervous mix breed and with it, I just started carrying it around with me every chance I got and that cured it. I found a home for it and did not have the luxury of taking my time.

Some dogs are afraid of people wearing glasses too, so if you were them try taking them off. I even had one that hated men wearing hats. So if one thing does not work just try another. 7 years is a long lonely time for a dog to be in a puppy mill. It's no wonder it's afraid. Good luck.

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By soquili (Guest Post)
August 15, 20080 found this helpful
Best Answer

Congratulations and Thank you so much for adopting a mill dog. I work with mill dogs on a daily basis and most of the previous info is good, but you need to look at it from the dogs point of view


You dog was more than likely kept in a cage that she barely had room to turn around in. She had never stepped on grass and in fact most are afraid of it when they first come out of a mill. The only time these dogs are touched by a person is when they are grabbed by the scruff of their neck usually roughly and given a shot or other treatment or thrown from one cage to another

Crate training is a must for these dogs. You don't say if she is house trained yet or not. Most normal rescues really have little knowledge of working with mill dogs. A word to all those that made the statemnt that the dog is just shy, that is not true. The dog is terrified and rightly so.

And to the one who said to take it for a walk you have to be kidding. How do you take a dog that has never been on a leash or anything for a walk. They totally freak out if you put a leash on them. It is a long process, but a very rewarding one.


One thing you have going for you is your other dogs. Most of the time they are the best teachers. I have two mill dogs that I am fostering right now that was with a big rescue group for 5 months and they didn't get very far with them. I have had them for a month now. When they came to me they would huddle in the back of there crate with total fear in their eyes and shake. They had been worked with by a good foster mom for a large part of the time they was with the group. One of them Mr. B had come a long ways and once he got to know me for a few days was pretty outgoing, but still would not take food from me no matter how hungry he was. Mr. E was still very terrified. To get him out of his crate I had to crawl half way in there and pull him gently out while talking to him all the time.

I kept them crated part of the time, to help with potty training and also their crates are there comfort zone and security. They had frequent potty breaks, and I would let them run around in what ever room I was in with my dogs. My dogs are used to these scared fosters and are very good at bringing them out of their shell. Just today both those dog were on the couch chewing happily on a chew bone and will let me pet them and even jump up for attention. They are still a bit shy when you first reach for them but are a lot better. Mill dogs are a big flight risk amd will take off if they get a chance. Now these two go outside with me off leash to do chorse around the farm or what have you and in and out of the house. Most mill dogs are afraid of doors and going through them also. These two will be headed to a dear friend of mine in another state who will complete their training and give them a home till they are adopted. Working with mill dogs is the greatezxt reward and some are easier than others.


Just keep loving your dog, don't make direct eye contact as that is a treat to them. The fact that she took a treat from you is a big step for her. Just handling her gently and talking quietly to her while putting her in and out of her crate helps to show them that you are the good guy. Some mill dogs will come around if you ignore them, but a lot will just stay aloff if you don't gently force the issue.

They also have tons of health problems and at 7 probably doesn't have very many teeth or what she has are in really bad shape.

Just keep loving her and she will eventually come around and celebrate very little tiny step as it is a big one in her mind.

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By kate (Guest Post)
August 20, 20081 found this helpful
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I have 3 rescue cockers. None of them came from a rescue society. They are all dogs I've found on my own and learned to deal with on my own. Little Cocker #1 was sitting beside the road because she was dumped. At 22 pounds she was a full 10 pounds underweight. In the peak of summer her little body was a crust of mats about 2" thick. It took her a whole year to recover. I too put her bed in the back of a closet of her choosing. She would appear at the door and watch.I would talk to her very softly and eventually she began to come around on her own terms. She now tells ME when it's time to go to bed and nags until I do. She then jumps on the bed, grabs her pillow, re-arranges it to her liking, snuggles under the covers and snores like an old man! It's been a GREAT 8 years with many more to come!


Little Cocker#2 came from a puppy mill where she was bred every time she came into heat for the first 3 1/2 years of her life. The pregnancies all ended in a c-section.She came to me with her big, sad brown eyes just hanging out of her head in terror. Having never been out of a crate in a barn she was understandably horrified of our rural lifestyle and people. She still hates men. Both of my little girls went to work with me everyday where she had the advantage of 45 sets of old fingers and soft voices willing to help her transition.

She arrived unable to walk properly as she had been kept in such close, un-clean quarters her feet were so packed with her own feces she could not walk normally. She did not have any sense of play or toys or fun. She had just been abused and bred. One day, after being here 8 months she looked at me and said " HEY! I just realized I'm here to stay and you guys love me!" From that day things haven't done anything but improve. She sleeps in the bend of my knees with her squeaky toys, is my teenager and my silly girl.She's been here 2 years and is just wonderful!

Little Cocker #3.Well, He's been here 9 months now and we're really still working hard at things but it's beginning to improve. I've had a lot of days where I've had my doubts about his success but that has changed. He arrived at age 8 so badly matted it took 5 trips to the Groomer to get him cleaned up. His nails were embedded in his pads so badly he could not walk. it was just too painful. As a result, he was more than 15 pounds overweight. It's a lot for a dog who should weigh 35 pounds! He is blind. The people who had him did not have any patience for him. He had been hit, kicked, pushed, prodded, dragged by his leash and shoved around so much every time you touched him he would drop to the floor and refuse to move.

He has been my biggest challenge but he is beginning to come around. He is beginning to quietly sneak up on me and lightly nose my hand. In 9 months he has learned to ask to go out and to walk the 3 steps to the ground, get in and out of the car, he has learned to respond when I loudly say head. He stops and thinks before he runs into something. He has learned to let me help him and that he isn't going to be hurt.

He has had the benefit of Little Cocker #2. She's a good Mom and he needs that. They've bonded. He's also learned he loves the water and to swim (on a long leash ) I have praised him for even the smallest accomplishment. I always make sure my praise is exaggerated. Every time he walks down those 3 steps by himself I am standing behind him applauding & praising & whistling & cheering as 8 months ago I was dragging him down them on his belly while he had a panic attack.

This is to say, each of my little dog babies are individuals. They have developed and healed at their own pace. Each has suffered a different level and type of abuse.

A week would be a painfully short amount of time to expect any of my little guys to recover. With time and patience they are my greatest friends. I think a year would be a more appropriate time frame. My kiddos would probably agree. Good Luck and hang in there, be patient and gentle, speak softly and use praise.

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June 22, 20100 found this helpful
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My dog was rescued as well. You have to think about where he has been. He only knows humans as being 'the bad ones' and mistreating them. If he follows the dogs and gets along with them, that's great! You can use that. Play with your other dogs and slowly try to incorporate your new dog. If he sees you playing with the dogs he trusts, he will come around and see that you are okay. Also, time is huge. Just think, he was mistreated for years. It will take some time to be able to trust humans again. At first, just try to get his attention through playing with the other dogs. Don't force it because he will just get scared and run. Once he starts warming up through the other dogs, begin trying to call him over, play with just him, and get closer to him only. I promise things will be okay. It will just take time! Good luck!

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September 26, 2019

Considering returning a dog to the shelter can be distressing. There are good reasons that require rehoming a pet. If you must take your dog back, check to find a "no kill" shelter. Perhaps as an alternative, a good friend may be looking for a loving pet.

A dog at a shelter, hoping for adoption.

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August 9, 2008

Four days ago I adopted a rescued dog and he has not warmed up to me or my son at all. My son is 3 years old. He follows my wife around but cowers down from any physical contact. He will not let you pet him, play with him, or do anything with him for that fact. He is about 2 years old, and we were wondering if maybe he was a victim of abuse? Any suggestions on fixing the problem?

Paul from Toney, AL


Rescued Dog Has Not Warmed Up

Just by reading your post, it sure sounds like the poor dog was abused by the previous owner. I believe within time that the dog will warm up and respond to your family. The dog is just being cautious and he's quite not sure of his new surroundings.

Marge from NY (09/21/2007)

By Marjorie

Rescued Dog Has Not Warmed Up

My husband and I also adopted a rescued dog a year ago. She had been abused so we knew it would take her a while to warm up to us.

My advice to you is be patient. It took our dog, Nellie (an English Foxhound) MONTHS to make up to us. We never pushed her or forced her to be with us or play. We left her do things at her own pace. We gave Nellie her own "space" by putting her doggie bed in a secluded corner of our bedroom. she knew that it was her corner and no one bothered her in there. Little by little she started coming out of her shell and today, we have a happy, very loving, very well mannered 4-legged fur-baby who we wouldn't trade for the whole world.

Best of luck! (09/22/2007)

By Denise Owens

RE: Rescued Dog Has Not Warmed Up

Rescued Dog Has Not Warmed Up

Lot's of patience and love should do the trick, and using food for positive reinforcement always helps. (09/22/2007)

By Natalie

Rescued Dog Has Not Warmed Up

Don't force yourselves on him also watch that your son doesn't startle or grab at him, he may nip in fear, I agree with the other person about a quiet spot for him however a crate might be a better choice also you could cover it with a blanket to add extra privacy. Also always be positive, speak to him every time you are near him ensuring him that he is wanted and loved. I got a puppy mill pup and she was not socialized at all she was comfortable with me but shied away from my husband and children even though they are older (11 & 14) she has been with us for about 3 weeks and she is getting a lot better. If you are committed to keeping him hang in there with enough positive reenforcement he should come around. Good luck and keep us posted on his progress. (09/22/2007)

By michaela

Rescued Dog Has Not Warmed Up

We found a dog on a hiking trip to the Great Smoky Mountains. It was about 4o yrs ago. It was during the hippie era when teens were wearing boots. She was terrified of those boots! I felt she had been kicked. She warmed up to us but for a long time she hid from all who wore the boots. We had to lay down the law about taking off the boots in the house. We named her Smoky for the mountains where she had been dumped and she made a wonderful neighborhood pet. A very popular doggy. (09/22/2007)

By Marty Dick

Rescued Dog Has Not Warmed Up

I love animals, and as others have stated, give the pup time to warm up to you. It will take time and realize too that this little dog may not be the social butterfly you had hoped for. He may always be shy but hang in there and accept him as a part of the family. You will be rewarded in ways you cannot imagine! (09/22/2007)

By cookiepom

Rescued Dog Has Not Warmed Up

I agree with the others, it will just take some time. The dog obviously feels safe with your wife, because you are family to your wife, he will adopt you also in time. It may have been a man or a child (or both) that abused him. Our dog Maggie (about 1-2 years and a rescue with unknown background) was very shy for a few months then gradually became a happy dog. Keep us posted on how he is doing.

Susan from ThriftyFun (09/22/2007)

By Lewissan

Rescued Dog Has Not Warmed Up

If there's a treat that the dog finds highly desirable such as pig ears, dry food with bacon grease on it, a piece of liver, should be the one to start giving him treats just because while talking to him in a calm and soothing voice. If he will not approach you even when you are holding a really great treat, then put it down on the floor and leave the room. You may also want to squat down or kneel while holding the treat. Don't try to pet him, just praise him while giving him the treat. Do this repeatedly and he will begin to associate you with the best treats and in time will realize you're also a nice, loving person! Good luck! Found dogs or rescued dogs are the most loving in the long run! (09/22/2007)

By Guest

Rescued Dog Has Not Warmed Up

We have 3 rescues and each has their own personality. Two of ours were seriously abused. It just takes some serious love and devotion and a lot of patience to deal with rescued dogs. You never know what they have lived through to get to your house. Love and praise and good treats and just some basic kindness go a long way when it comes to rescues. A lot of organizations will not adopt out a dog to a house that has a child under 6. Be careful with your child and make sure that the dog and child are good to each other. If the dog follows your wife around, then he is starting to bond with her and may have been abused by a man. I would be real conscious of my movements as far as my feet go and I would not raise my arm above the level of my heart around the dog. Kicking and hitting are hard things for dogs to forget. On our first rescue dog, we were told that it takes about 6 months for a dog to settle in to a new environment and to figure out the structure of the house and what goes on and the dynamics of the family. Four days is not very much time at all. Give him a chance and shower him with lots of good things like praise and love and he should come around. The thing about rescued dogs is that they know and appreciate what a good home is because they know what it is not to have it. You will never find a more faithful companion than a dog that knows how good he has it and rescues appreciate the good things in life in a way that you wouldn't believe. You might consider doing some research on crate training. When dogs feel that they have a "safe" place to be such as their crate, they have a refuge when they feel threatened or stressed. It works well at night and with house training also. A favorite toy or snuggly blanket in there works wonders. Good luck to you and don't give up on your dog! (09/24/2007)

By Darlene Boone

Rescued Dog Has Not Warmed Up

The place you got him from should have given you info about the dog - hoping they got some. Watch the dog and see how it responds to noise and sudden movements etc. Observing the dog will tell you what you need to do. Don't give up or worry only 4 days after getting the dog. Try talking quietly to the dog and have your son talk to him softly as you never know what the poor dog has been through. Usually dogs are curious - once they feel safe - so they will approach you when they are ready. Good luck as the poor thing needs you on their side! (09/24/2007)

By LJSmith5

Rescued Dog Has Not Warmed Up

#1 - I want to thank you for rescuing a homeless pet. I work with shelters & it saddens me when people feel they must get a pet from a breeder when there are millions of adoptable, homeless pets in shelters ready to be put down. #2 - Give the dog time. It certainly sounds like this dog was abused & dogs are "pack" animals so he is trying to figure out where he stands in this new "pack" (i.e., your family). All of the pets I have adopted were adults with unknown histories. I can tell almost all of my pets were abused & with time, patience & a stable, loving home, they became the best pets a person could ask for. They follow me around the house (both my cats & dogs) because they know they are safe with me. #3 - Most animal shelters/humane societies have animal behaviorists on staff who can give you free advice. They want to make sure you have a successful adoption. #4 - I'm sure you already know this, but until you get to know the dog better, I would keep a watchful eye of the dog with your child, especially if you think your child might get physical with the dog (run up & grab him, pull his fur, etc.).

I'm sure a year down the road, you'll look back & be grateful you didn't give up on this dog. Good luck! (09/26/2007)

By Victoria

Rescued Dog Has Not Warmed Up

Talk to him! Talking helps him get use to Your voice. It may take several days or even weeks. My last rescue dog was this way. I didn't try to pet him right away. After a few days sit near him and talk to him. If he moves, fine. But eventually he won't - then comes the petting ! (10/05/2007)

By Turtlechell

Rescued Dog Has Not Warmed Up

I agree with others who say be patient. We took in a dog with no collar or tags that had been running through rush hour traffic but couldn't get near her for several months, even with food; we had to put the food down and get away. She is still shy but so sweet, everyone wants her. We took her to Petsmart today to get her fitted for a halter. We thought she would try to get away with the leash as she had before but she was so good, even with the automatic door. She 'shopped' after getting her harness. (11/06/2007)

By Pat

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