It's common for dogs who've been rescued from a shelter or rescue organization to hide under tables at your house instead of playing with you. Any dog who has been abused, neglected or just hasn't been socialized properly will likely mistrust you, at least in the beginning. It's sad to see a dog cowering in fear or afraid to explore his environment, but with a little time, you can build trust between the two of you.
A rescue dog can be shy and timid for many reasons. It could be that he wasn't socialized as a pup. If he wasn't introduced to people, other animals and places during the prime socialization period of between 4 and 12 weeks, he might fear these things. He also could have been abused or neglected. It's best for you, the dog and anyone who might encounter the dog to teach him to be trusting and confident. Fear can cause dogs to bite.
Other behaviors common to rescue dogs are picky eating habits and a fear of loud noises, sudden movements and unfamiliar objects. If dogs haven't been exposed to anything much besides living in a crate, they tend to fear anything new. Some dogs display compulsive behaviors such as spinning and pacing, which can also happen from being caged too much.
Help your timid rescue dog by giving him plenty of exercise. A daily walk accomplishes much. Besides giving your dog a chance to experience what he might fear, it tires him out, and a tired dog is a happy one, according to veterinary behaviorist Nicholas Dodman at PetPlace.com. Your dog will likely see other people and animals out on the walk. If you demonstrate that you are in charge, he should begin to trust you won't let anything harm him. When you are taking your new rescue on his first outings, come between any people or animals who want to greet your dog. Explain that your dog is shy and isn't ready to meet people yet; if another dog approaches, walk the other way or stand between your dog and the newcomer.
Make your house a pleasant environment for your new housemate. Set up a quiet place for the dog where he can go when he needs to get away. Meanwhile, if you have other family members, instruct them to play it cool when the dog comes in. A lot of excitement and gushing over the new dog will likely scare an already timid and fearful pup. Sit down near him in a room with the doors closed. Don't face him; sit sideways to him instead. Have some treats, put one in your hand, and offer it to your new dog without looking at him. He should slowly come around.
By Laura Agadoni
Partnership for Animal Welfare: Dog Tip -- Help for the Shy and Fearful Dog
The Humane Society of the United States: Life Outside the Cage -- Helping Puppy Mill Dogs Adjust
PetPlace.com: How to Care for an Abused Pet
About the Author
Laura Agadoni has been writing professionally since 1983. Her feature stories on area businesses, human interest and health and fitness appear in her local newspaper. She has also written and edited for a grassroots outreach effort and has been published in "Clean Eating" magazine and in "Dimensions" magazine, a CUNA Mutual publication. Agadoni has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University-Fullerton.