How to Welcome a Fearful Dog Into Your Home

You puppy-proofed your home, signed the adoption paperwork, overloaded on puppy pics, and purchased just about one too many doggie toys. It's official: you're ready to be a dog owner.

A dog that licks the owner's hand
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A dog can make for a remarkable, life-long companion, but with over 3.3 million entering the shelter every year, not all canines get the best start to life. When you adopt a pooch into your family, she may bring along some of her fears, insecurities or bad habits from her past. But not to worry! You and your furry friend can overcome these initial obstacles and have a wonderful, tail-wagging time together.

Here are some tips to instill confidence into your new buddy so you can start off on the right paw.

Take your time

Always proceed slowly and with caution when approaching a fearful animal. You are both in a new situation and must take your time to acclimate to each other. Never force anything, and if need be, contact a professional or your veterinarian for further advice.

Tips

Let your pup sniff your hand before you approach her, and get down on the floor with your dog so as not to intimidate.

Routine is key

Bouncing from shelter to shelter makes it hard for a dog to relax and settle into their environment. Thusly, setting a routine for your new dog is crucial for her well being and sense of security, especially in these first few months. Make sure to establish consistent meal, walk, play and bed times, so that your new pup has a sense of predictability throughout her day and a chance to build lasting trust within her new home.

Small dog hiding behind owner
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Welcome to my crate

In addition to being a great potty training tool, the crate can reduce any lingering anxiety by functioning as a safe haven to which your dog can retreat. Make your dog's crate the ultimate crib and fill it with blankets, toys, treats, chews, and an old shirt or two: your dog will take comfort in having your scent close by.

Tips

According to ASPCA, crate training may or may not be the best solution for dogs with severe separation anxiety. Test it out when you are home with your pooch. Other options include play pens, or closing off a smaller room with a baby gate.

Chew, baby, chew

While different dogs have different preferences, at times, a nice bully stick or rawhide can do wonders for an anxious dog (and it can keep them busy for hours at a time). Make sure to be present and monitor when your dog is chewing. Some dogs chew more quickly than others or have food allergies, and you will want to keep a watchful eye.

Food is love

The way to a person's heart is through their stomach, so why should it be any different for your dog? If there is anyone in the household that your pooch is a little iffy with, try having this person feed them at meal times to establish them as nurturing and the keeper of "the good stuff." Your pet may be fearful to eat on his own, so be sure to set up a safe, quiet space for him to chow down.

terrier dog hiding under a bed.
credit: Vanessa Van Ryzin, Mindful Motion Photography/Moment/GettyImages

Tips

If your pet is hesitant to eat, you can (carefully) try hand-feeding him until he has the confidence to dig in on his own!

All the treats

Cookies make everything better, right? When welcoming a new dog to your family, you can never have too many treats. You will start making good memories and associations, and can even get a head start on your training!

Sit! Stay. Kisses!