Safe and Stress-Free Ways to Gain a Shy Dog’s Trust

Adopting a dog has got to be one of the most exciting moments in life. You can’t wait to bring the puppy home and create memories with them. However, some dogs, especially those who have been abused or neglected, can be very shy and wary of humans. Your first interaction should have their consent. Do not touch them, especially when you notice that they cower away or are barring their teeth to you. Dogs may tend to shy away or get defensive due to anxiety, fear, or when their trauma is triggered.

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It’s never easy for a dog with trauma to adjust quickly in a new home. Forcing them to socialize will only aggravate their condition and may end badly for both of you. If you are determined to build a relationship with them, you should know where they are coming from. For this reason, before you adopt the dog, you must be aware of its story. From there, you can slowly gain their trust and befriend them.

By incorporating these safe and stress-free practices into your daily interactions, you’ll show your dog that you are not a threat. Let them know that you are trustworthy and they are safe in your home.

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Take Things Slow

As mentioned above, physical contact with your dog during the first day will be hard. For a traumatized puppy, everything looks like a threat to them. That’s why when you take it home, ensure that everyone in the house knows this. Do not overwhelm the dog — slowly introduce people one by one. Praise your canine if they start to make a move. They’ll need all the support they can get to get out of their shell. Let them socialize at their own pace and whenever they feel comfortable.

Daily Walks

Gaining your dog’s trust is a process that must start in your home first. Once your pup shows they feel safe with you, it’s time to take them out for a walk. It’s advisable to walk your dog in a quiet neighborhood or during park hours when there are few dogs, decreasing the chance of getting into trouble with other canines. Taking your fur baby outside helps them get a different outlook on their surroundings. Dogs are innately observant, so they’ll have fun going outside and learning new things. Sooner or later, your pup will get used to the routine, and it’ll be the one to ask you to go outside.

Photo: Unsplash/Trac Vu

Careful Movements

Anxious dogs tend to get easily shocked or feel threatened with sudden movements. For this reason, make sure you slowly give a signal by making small gestures to get your dog’s attention. This helps them be aware of your movements and not mistake it as a triggering sound based on their trauma. Also, being careful with your actions around them helps them feel secure that you won’t do anything harmful.

Photo: Pexels/Karolina Grabowska


The Pat-Pet-Pause technique will help you determine if your dog likes to be approached or not. You can do this by patting your knees to call your dog and see if it will walk toward you. If not, then the dog clearly doesn’t want to be petted. But if your pooch approaches you, pet it three times, then pause for three seconds. Observe how it responds; if it looks relaxed rather than tense, you can pet it again. Repeat the whole process and try different types of petting each time you do it. The Pat-Pet-Pause technique is the safest way to avoid getting bitten by your dog whenever you try to pet them.

Level with Your Dog

Since your dog has lost its confidence, it can be quickly intimidated, mainly when towered over by someone else. Dogs might immediately see you as a threat or anticipate that you’ll do something to hurt them. For this reason, you must spend time with your dog by getting on their level. You can sit down or kneel beside them, but do not initiate physical contact. Let them get used to your presence, and they’ll gradually move closer to you. Ensure you sit somewhere close but not near enough to invade their personal space.

Photo: Unsplash/Ruby Schmank

Avoid Eye Contact

If you love to look at your fur baby’s adorable eyes, ensure you avert your gaze after a few seconds. Staring will only intimidate them and may trigger their fear. Dogs do not know the meaning of eye contact for humans, so they’ll most likely get anxious when you stare at them. If you don’t immediately move your gaze, your dog will start acting defensive and might even become aggressive if you don’t back away.

You should remember these practices before adopting or interacting with a shy, anxious dog. After providing them with a home, your next priority is to help them gain back their confidence. A fur parent’s guidance and support are both significant contributors to breaking a dog’s trust issues. Help them see a brighter world where they are far from danger. Consistency in making them feel understood and safe can bring out their playfulness and natural sociable personality.

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