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  • 1.  Shy and Nervous foster dog help

    Posted 03-31-2020 05:25 PM


    I am a new foster parent and I got my little guy yesterday. I know it’s only been 24 hours but I am looking for tips and input. This guy is maybe around 15 pounds and is some kind of terrier mix. He is EXTREMELY shy when it comes to people. He is comfortable around my other dogs and will even follow them around a little bit. He barely lets me pet him and runs from me. When we put a harness on him at the shelter we had to put a blanket over him to grab him and pick him up because he will turn around to bite out of fear. 

    I can tell he’s not aggressive because he will sometimes follow me around the house in curiosity. I think he just needs to learn how to trust. I’m winning him over by giving him pieces of hot dogs as treats and that’s when he lets me pet him. Barely. He is so so so gentle when taking treats. Even more gentle than my own dogs. 

    He’s scratching a lot because he’s not used to a collar and he’s trying to get it off. I’m also keeping a harness with a leash on him just in case I need to catch him. He does not walk on a leash so getting him inside and outside is an issue and I have to pick him up to move him or I would have to drag him. Both options seem traumatic. I can’t leave him in the yard because he’ll paw at the fence and I’m scared he’ll dog out. Today he sat in the courtyard grass and this afternoon I could hear him whining. He was just sitting there so I’m guessing it’s stress. 

    likeni said, I know it’s only the second day but I’m open to tips and tricks to help him feel better. 


  • 2.  RE: Shy and Nervous foster dog help

    Posted 03-31-2020 08:47 PM

    Hi J, congratulations and thank you for fostering! Such fun! Setting up a consistent daily routine, and obedience training can really help. It helps to eliminate some of the unexpected for him and sets boundaries and clear roles; helping him to feel more secure. He will use up energy and relax more with training sessions and anticipated daily events such as meals, walks, play, etc. 

    Some of Cesar Millan's ideas about incorporating another calmer and more stable dog can work well. Maybe you can walk them together (Dog#1's leash goes on first). We have had success with our little senior dog (Pennie) that was NOT used to a leash, by walking backward and congratulating her as we looked at her and praised her for every step she took. Even squatting and reeling her in gently towards me, along with anticipated praise and petting once she arrived, worked! She walks wonderfully now. While we generally use a 6ft leash for walking we used a 10-foot leash for this exercise. This was done in the safety of a fenced-in area. Another option if you can not get him to walk yet-is to pick him up and carry him to the farthest end of the yard and start walking him towards the house from there. He is walking and therefor he gets praise and is getting used to the leash and collar at the same time.

    Walking-trotting is very good- the opposite way a dog is looking, without alerting them that you are about to walk, is a great way to get a dog to learn to focus on you and to get moving as well. This is done with a slack line/leash, not a taut one. It creates a little abrupt jolt that works wonders. (We agree not leaving him unattended is very wise).

    Possibly just having a set time for just the two of you in an office or while doing laundry every day (=routine) can get him used to you. Just going about doing your chores/work without engaging him-hopefully he would eventually seek this out-allows him to see you without having to interact. He can learn a lot about you that way.

    We are grateful on his behalf for your efforts and willingness. Thank you! Sarah


  • 3.  RE: Shy and Nervous foster dog help

    Posted 04-01-2020 08:18 AM

    I find that calling your dogs over and giving them attention as you would normally do may help. You can kind of ignore the new guy and let him just observe the other dogs.  I have seen this grow confidence and trust  in a shy dog Good luck . 


  • 4.  RE: Shy and Nervous foster dog help

    Posted 04-03-2020 04:42 PM

    Agreed use your dogs to show him the way,  and give him lots of time.  I had a foster terrier (cute as a button)  but no one could reach dowb to pet him,  he would snap wiyjout any warning.  When he was dropped off to me he was on leash and I just let him be,  when he was ready, he came over to me and was fine (with me from that pont on.  Fortunately I found an adopter with fearfil terrier experience, who also gave dog time to come to him.  This (giving dog time) needed to be repeated when I pet sat for adoprer   several months later, but shorter time, jusy a few minutes, but dog definitely needed to feel he had control.  Patience and other dogs will hekp a lot showing foster there is nothing to fear.


  • 5.  RE: Shy and Nervous foster dog help

    Posted 04-06-2020 07:11 AM

    It's so great that you are willing reach out for help so early on. And, as always, thanks for fostering!

    I've had several fearful fosters (one mom dog who didn't wag her tail for 3 weeks) and here are a few tips I picked up

    1. Don't approach him directly. You may have to avoid eye contact and approach him in a less threatening way (eyes averted, sitting or lying on ground, body sideways, slow, lazy, disinterested steps toward him)
    2. Hand feed all of his meals. Sit somewhere that he feels relatively safe and offer food in your hand (make it really good, wet w/ dry, hotdog bits, etc) and allow him to approach you. You may have to avoid eye contact, at first, and the slowly build up the 'challenge' by holding your hand a little closer to your body or talking to him or touching him. If the other dogs make him feel safe, they can be nearby but be sure they don't have access to you so there's not chance for a squabble over food.
    3. Play calming music. It has been proven that both humans and animals benefit from calming music or nature sounds. It will both drown out some of the other new 'scary' sounds in your house and feel calmer. Here's a great commercial free playlist
    4. Don't give him too much freedom. He is new to your house and needs to settle in a bit. It is OK for him to spend a little extra time in his crate or small pen. Make it cozy and den-like with a blanket over the top. If he is antsie in there, give him food stuffed toys. As he gets more used to you and your house, you can start to give him more space. Keeping his leash on is a GREAT idea.
    5. Spend time around him. Read a book, watch TV, etc. while in his presence. More time around you gives him the chance to size you up and see that you're not so bad! You don't even have to acknowledge him. Remember, if you're in the presence of something scary, the last thing you want is for that scary thing to look at you.
    6. Starts all over with a new person. After a couple weeks, he should start to come out of his shell a bit and trust you a little more and may be ready to meet new people. If there are other people in your house or ones you can invite over (once that is appropriate) ask them to hand feed him, too. They are starting from square one with him, in all likelihood, so they should follow recommendations above.

    Hope some of that helps. Good luck!