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13 Tips To Help A Rescue Dog That Is Scared Of Everything

Rescue Dog Scared Of Everything

Bless you and your soul.

I mean, not all fur parents would adopt rescue dogs.

It can be daunting and challenging.

Especially if your pooch came from an abusive place.

And what usually happens if a canine was traumatized in the past?

Most of these dogs are scared.

With just about anything.

Is there a solution to this?

Will your pooch be able to live a normal and fearless life?

Continue reading to find out:

  • How to pet a scared canine.
  • How to calm down an aggressive rescue dog.
  • 13 tips to help a rescue that is scared of everything.
  • And this is just the beginning…

How do you help a terrified rescue dog?

You can help a terrified dog by studying what triggers their fear. Minimizing noise in your home can also help them become less fearful. When talking to rescue dogs, you should use a gentler voice. Giving your canine their own space can also help them be more relaxed and calm.

Rescue dog scared of everything – 13 tips

#1: Try to study what triggers your pooch

The first step to calming down your dog is to know what scares them. This way, you’ll know what NOT to do.

So you don’t trigger your pooch. But don’t worry, the time will come when you won’t scare your dog anymore. The goal is to make them comfortable with you. No matter the situation.

We don’t want our fur babies to be afraid of cuddles forever. Or whatever it is that scares them. But we can’t make them comfortable with us in a snap.

Learning what triggers your fur baby is important. They could be having anxiety. That’s why they are acting scared.

Anxiety can be caused by different reasons. A few of these reasons would be:

  • Separation.
  • Age-related anxiety.
  • Fear of their surroundings.

And your dog could’ve developed all these due to an abusive past. Their past parents may have neglected their needs. Or used punishment during training.

There are times when punishments work. But for long-term disciplining and training, never. We’d want a longer-lasting training routine. And we also need to keep them from being stressed.

Your fur baby will be scared and will do the desired behavior because of punishments. However, when you’re not around, they might regress. 

Let’s take potty training as an example. You might wonder why your pooch pees inside at night. This can be because, in their previous home, punishment was used in their training.

Your dog’s last parent may have physically hurt them when they pee inside. Or they got screamed at. If this happened to your canine, it’s possible that they didn’t learn that peeing outside is good behavior.

What some dogs usually do when they get punished is just watch out for the abuser. They would still do the undesired behavior when they’re not around. In this case, peeing inside the house.

You can counter this by training your pooch properly. Use rewards and prizes to make them pee outside. Or do any other behavior you want them to carry out.

#2: Minimize noise in your home

Do you listen to your music loud? Is the volume of your T.V. always full?

These minor things could startle your dog. Especially if their trigger is loud noise. 

“Why would my dog be scared of these things?”

Well, your pooch could’ve received punishments associated with loud noises. One mistake and their previous parents screamed at them.

Or maybe your dog’s training involved stomping and banging sticks on surfaces. These make loud sounds that can startle them.

And if canines frequently hear loud noises in your home, they might remember their abusive past.

Try to see if your dog is too sensitive to sounds. Like you walking around loudly. Or when you talk at a higher volume. Maybe when something drops, they react.

It can be normal for dogs to respond to these sounds. However, if they show signs of fear, it might be due to trauma. Examples of these are:

  • Shaking.
  • Whining.
  • Barking and growling.

To avoid getting your fur baby stressed, keep noise at a minimum. Since loud sounds can affect most dogs. Given that they have sensitive ears.

According to Dr. Gibeault, there are frequencies dogs hear that humans can’t. 

And that’s why most canines react during thunderstorms. Or when the 4th of July fireworks fly.

#3: Bring them toys and leave them on the ground

Bring Your Rescue Dog Toys And Leave Them On The Ground

Keeping your dogs active and engaged is hard if they’re scared. You can’t go on runs with them. Playing fetch isn’t an option, too.

But this doesn’t mean fur babies can’t have fun. They can still play without being fearful.

What you can do is leave your dog toys on the ground. Let them come and interact with the playthings.

Some canines might even be hesitant at first. It could be their first time seeing toys. Or any object that isn’t used to harm them.

Let your dog study the toys first. And it’s better if you aren’t near them when they do. 

Your fur baby could be scared of you. And consequently don’t trust the toy you have for them.

Don’t stare at your canine when they approach the toy. Some of them might find it rude. The AKC states that staring is considered a threatening act by wolves.

And your pooch might think this way, too. Try to act as if you’re “ignoring” them when they interact with the toy.

It’s also important to give toys that won’t trigger their fear. Avoid ones that make sounds. This can scare your pooch.

You should also avoid playthings that look like long sticks. Your pooch could get scared when you approach holding something stick-like. They might associate it with getting hit.

Here are playthings you can give to a scared pooch:

You may also wonder: 9 Reasons Why Your Dog Cries When Carrying Toys + 7 Tips

#4: Use treats to make them come to you

Approaching your pooch can be stressful for them. Especially if they’re not used to human interaction.

If you push for an interaction with a scared dog, they might get aggressive. And worse is, they can attack you. 

So what you can do is make your fur baby come to you. But this might take a long time if you just wait. To make them come to you effectively, you can use treats.

If you already have a fur baby, you know how irresistible some treats are. Especially those that are smelly.

“Aren’t kibbles enough?”

Dry treats are tasty to some canines. But it might not be, “OOOHHHH I HAVE TO COME TO YOU” effect on some. The best kind of treats to use for this is high-value treats.

They’re smelly and full of flavor. These might be offensive to the human nose, though.

But not to worry, dogs perceive scents differently. What’s bad for us can be good to them. 

Ever caught your dog smelling like poop? Yep, they might’ve rolled on some fox poo. And they like this.

When it comes to treats, it can be the same, too. What I mean is, some dogs are easily attracted by food with strong scents.

Here are good examples of these treats:

By using treats, your pooch will also associate you to good things. This would be beneficial in building a relationship with them.

Read next: 7 Reasons Why Dogs Like Treats So Much + 5 Dangers

#5: Relax when you’re around your dog

One way a dog gets scared is if they sense someone around them is stressed. Canines have the ability to detect our stress levels. And when they do, they become wary.

Dogs might act out if someone is upset around them. Even if you don’t show your distress toward your fur baby, they can still detect it.

“How is this possible?”

Well, imagine this. Your parent or partner comes home. You notice that they’re stressed and a bit agitated.

A little increase in their talking volume might startle you. Their heavy steps could make you scared. Every little thing is highlighted and you can easily notice them.

Does this sound like you?

If yes, then you’d understand how stressful it is when someone around you is stressed, too. Dogs may react in the same way.

Research shows that canines can detect our cortisol levels. This hormone is released by our bodies when we’re in distress.

Consequently, canines feel unsettled when they’re stressed. They could be pacing around or whining a lot. In the study, dogs with high levels of cortisol kept on standing.

Ever seen dogs that run around like crazy? It could be because they’re stressed.

Your adopted fur baby is already scared of everything. And if you add to their stress, they’ll get more fearful.

Try to lessen stress by going out on short walks around your neighborhood. You can do this before coming home. Or do breathing exercises before you go near your pup.

What works for me is reading a crime book to take my mind off things.

#6: Gently talk to them

Words have power. And the way you deliver them matters a lot, too. If you want to soothe a scared dog, you can use words to calm them down.

Especially if you tell it gently and calmly.

Your dog might not fully understand long sentences, but they can detect emotions. When we talk, dogs know if we are portraying sadness or happiness.

Research shows that a canine’s right brain hemisphere analyzes negative emotions. And the left side processes positive ones.

Just watch this scared dog calming down after their handler talked to them gently:

Dogs recognize our emotions through our faces. And when we talk to them, they see how we look.

That’s why it’s important to be mindful of how we talk to our dogs.

Try to be more calming when conversing with canines. Show a friendlier face. And you can also use a more soothing volume in your voice.

You can also start by talking positive words to them such as:

  • “It’s okay.”
  • “Good boy.”
  • “I love you.”
  • “You’re safe here.”

Don’t underestimate the power words have on dogs. After all, Dr. Coren says that dogs have the mental capabilities of a 2-year old child.

Impressive, right?

#7: Give your dog their own space

Getting scared at a new place is pretty normal. And this might be the situation for your pooch.

Your dog might’ve come from the streets barely surviving. And they’re wary of new experiences. So having a new home could get stressful for them.

“But they’re safe in my house. I don’t mean them no harm.”

Yep, even if you want your pooch to be guarded, they can still be defensive. That’s normal and shouldn’t worry you.

Give your dog time to be comfortable in your home. And you can do this by giving them their own space.

This is a spot where your dog can hide and rest. Or be by themself if they need to. Don’t force them to interact with you immediately. Give them time to adjust.

You can opt to buy your pooch a playpen. This way, they have their own space. 

Playpens are also helpful if you want to keep your pooch safe. Especially if you live somewhere with a busy road. Your dog could run across the street and get hurt.

Playpens can also help your new fur baby stay away from your other dogs. It could get overwhelming for a canine to socialize.

If you have a smaller place, dog beds may be a better option.

You can use treats to lure your pooch into their spot. 

It’s also beneficial if you put their food and water near their spot. Especially during sleeping hours. This way, your pooch can go to sleep in their corner after eating.

You might also be interested in: 15 Reasons Why Your Dog Wants To Be Alone (What It Means)

#8: Let them explore your home

Dogs are naturally curious creatures. You might notice some dogs sniffing around when they’re out on a walk. This is because small things can quickly catch their attention. 

Curiosity would also keep them from being scared. Wouldn’t you feel safer if you knew your surroundings?

Your dog might feel the same way, too. They’d be less scared if they were able to roam around your house. You can try to go with them if they seem comfortable with it.

Bring your pooch outside and let them get acquainted with your yard. Let them sniff and run on the grass.

You can also bring your dog to your room. And let them play on your bed.

“How does sniffing around help my dog?”

Scents are very important to dogs. This is how they mainly learn about their surroundings. And that’s why it can help to let them sniff around first.

You might’ve seen dogs smell each other’s butts. This is pretty normal behavior for canines. It’s a way of greeting each other. And a method of learning more about their friends.

Through smells, dogs can also detect illnesses. And those who are ready to mate. A canine’s nose is a very important tool for survival.

And when it comes to fearful canines, it’s helpful for them to know that your home is a safe place. This can happen if they don’t sniff an aggressive dog’s scent in your home.

Your fur baby may even rub off their smell on your stuff. If they do this, just let them. However, be on the lookout for peeing and pooping. They might do these to mark their territory.

#9: Be careful how you pet them

Be Careful How You Pet Them

When you try to touch your pooch, be mindful. Sometimes, they might feel overwhelmed by the way you hold them.

Most dogs want pets. Some even crave our attention so much they try to nudge us, It’s one of the ways dogs get our attention.

But resume dogs are different. They might not be used to a loving touch from humans. These canines may have been abused in the past. And don’t want any interactions with us.

That’s why we can sometimes trigger their fear.

“Oh no. How, then, should I pet my rescue dog?”

Here are a few tips:

Tip #1: It’s best to let your dog come to you first. You can also go to them if they ask for your attention. As much as possible, never initiate any contact with them first.

Here are a few signs that a dog is friendly:

  • Wagging tail.
  • Tapping their toes.
  • Shows a playful head bow.
  • Intentionally showing their bellies.

However, if a dog doesn’t want to play they do these:

  • Walking away from you.
  • Their bodies get very stiff.
  • They let out a low warning growl.

Tip #2: Try to avoid petting your fur baby in sensitive areas. Examples of these would be their head, paws, tail, and ears. 

They can get overprotective over these parts. Some dogs get uncomfortable and aggressive. And here are ways some dogs show uneasiness:

  • Whining.
  • Barking.
  • They do the “whale eye” or the “side eye.”

Tip #3: If you want to establish touch, do so in safe body parts. You can pet their chest and shoulder. Or you can also choose to rub the base of their heads instead.

When you pet your pooch, do so from their side. Some canines don’t like it if you reach over their head. And when you rub them, do a light massage. Slowly petting your pooch can calm them down.

A good way to rub your dog is to pet along the direction of their fur.

Tip #4: Don’t let any stranger pet your canine. They might not be ready for any interactions yet and may get aggressive.

Tip #5: Don’t hug your pooch. I know it can be tempting. But this action can make your dog feel trapped. It would also be best to avoid hunkering over your dog.

#10: Let them interact with anything you want to make them wear

Are you a fur parent who loves dressing their pup up? Or maybe you want to go on walks with them using a leash?

Well, you might need to slow down on these actions. It’s not that these things are bad. But your pooch may not be used to wearing clothes and leashes.

It can feel disturbing to dogs. And it can make them feel uncomfortable.

However, I do understand why you want to make your fur baby wear clothes. Or leashes for that matter. It’s for their own good and safety.

There are canines that are not built for cold weather. And they need extra layers of protection. We don’t want them to get colds, after all.

Examples of these dog breeds are:

  • Pug.
  • Boxer.
  • Whippet.
  • Chihuahua.
  • Greyhound.

Leashes are also excellent in keeping your pooch away from danger.

“What do I do before I make my fur baby wear these things?”

Here are a few simple and easy tips:

Tip #1: Make your canine sniff the items first. And while they do this, try petting them and giving them treats. This way your dog will associate rewards with clothing and leashes.

Tip #2: Slowly wear the clothes on them. If you rush them, they could get uncomfortable.

Tip #3: Give them rewards after they put on the items. Using positive reinforcement is an effective method of training your pooch. 

Note: Research shows that punishments can stress your dog. This is in the context of training. If you want to encourage good behavior and fearlessness, use rewards e.g. treats.

#11: Don’t overwhelm them during walks

Most rescue dogs haven’t been interacting with the outside world. Especially those who’ve been in kennels for a long time.

Dogs may not know how to react when they see their surroundings. And that’s why it’s best to limit new experiences. Mainly ones that are scary for dogs.

This can include the following:

  • Meeting new dogs.
  • Swimming with your canine.
  • Introducing them to humans.
  • Passing through a loud street.

If you can plan your route, the better. Make sure that you don’t pass by areas with a lot of wildlife. Meeting unfamiliar animals can trigger your dog.

If you have a hunting canine, watch out for their prey drive. They might run after small animals like rodents and squirrels.

“What can I do instead?”

Well, you can start by walking with your pooch in your yard first. If you have one. This way, they’ll get acquainted with the activity first.

You can also use this time to train your dog how to walk with you. At least, in this case, you’re in the safety of your own home.

Do slow paces first. Then increase the speed of your walk gradually. Avoid pulling on your dog’s leash as a way to direct them. Let them explore the area first.

Read next: 11 Weird Reasons Why Your Dog Cries During Walks + 5 Tips

#12: Give them food and water

This might seem pretty obvious. But some fur parents look over the importance of food and water for canines.

It’s not about making sure your canine is healthy. But rather, it’s about establishing yourself as the main provider. It’s one of the quickest ways to create a bond with your dog.

And if you create a strong relationship with your fur baby, they’ll be more comfortable with you. And be less scared of you.

When this fear subsides, you can start doing more things with your pooch. However, making them eat and drink can be challenging. This issue happens more often to new pups.

“My dog doesn’t want to drink. What should I do?”

There are easy tricks on how to make your canine drink enough water:

  • Provide cold drinks.
  • Change their drinking bowl.
  • Give your dog ice shavings.
  • Drop pieces of treats in their water container.

#13: Reward them when they show less fear do something nice

Rescue dogs may lack positive interactions with humans. But if you start rewarding them, you’ll slowly but surely rewire their mind.

You can try giving them rewards and prizes when they show less fear with you. Examples of these would be:

  • Letting you pet them.
  • Coming to you if you call them.
  • Willingly going on walks and other activities with you.

Rewards can also help create a loving environment. This is way better compared to one that is full of punishment.

How long does it take a rescue dog to stop being scared?

Rescue dogs sometimes take 6 to 8 weeks to adjust to stop being scared. This is a good amount of time for canines to adjust to their new home. During this period, you need to be patient and loving towards them.