- Pet forum for dogs cats and humans 


Just adopted dog, she's scared of me

Brad P
July 1st, 2009, 07:49 AM
Hi all

My wife and I just adopted a 4-year old Lab/Sheppard mix from an animal shelter. She's a nice dog, well behaved but scared of men. It's been a month now and she is still scared of me when we are alone. Some days aren't so bad, most are not good. I am home most of the time as I am on sick leave so I figured by now she be more receptive to me. I've tried treats, praise, I don't chase her to get a leash on as I let her come in her own way, I slowly approach her to pet her but often she backs away, etc

When my wife is home, she doesn't mind me then as she figures my wife can protect her. She loves my wife, she goes crazy when my wife comes home from work etc, follows her around the house everywhere, etc.

Sometimes I will take her for a walk by myself. When I manage to get a leash on her (one day it took 40min of convincing her to get close enough), she is easy to control and we can go for great walks. But we get back inside the house and she stays clear of me. She gives me this nervous look, especially with the eyes and its heart breaking!

Can anyone offer any advice here? Other dog owners say "oh she will come around in time" but thats not very reassuring.

We had her spayed last week and during her recovery from surgery, she was much easier to get along with as she never had the energy to get away from me. lol


July 1st, 2009, 07:55 AM
awww, poor girl. THANK YOU for adopting from a shelter! :grouphug: When I read the first part of your post, I thought "Oh, this must be new, give it some time" but 1 month is quite a while. I can imagine it must be hard on you as well! I guess the only thing I can suggest is don't give up! This beautiful girl must have bad memories of men and isn't willing to give in just yet. Maybe try to get your wife involved, since the dog seems to be comfortable around her- stay close to your wife while she treats, praises and plays with your dog. Keep EVERYTHING positive- your tone of voice, body language, etc.
I am sure other members here will have some great ideas- this is a common situation. Has she shown any sort of fearful aggression?
By the way, what is her name? She sure is a beauty!!!

July 1st, 2009, 07:56 AM
Brad,I cannot give you any advice,someone else will,I am sure..
I just wanted to say,I can read between the lines you love this girl,she obviously has had bad experiences with men:sad:
It must be heartbreaking for you,but I am sure it is a problem that can be solved.
She is beautiful:lovestruck:

Jim Hall
July 1st, 2009, 08:18 AM
1 month is nothing give it at least2 more do you get down on the floor and talk to her u can also try some lavender soap on your hands that very calming we once ha a deog like that it took almost 6 months till she was comfortable with me

Brad P
July 1st, 2009, 08:29 AM
Thanks for the quick replies!

Her name is Sadie and she is 4 years old. She is a great dog. It is my first pet and I am quite pleased.

It is somewhat difficult for me as I try and try and make little progress. We started obedience training this week and hope her confidence builds up with that.

My wife and I will praise, pet, and play with her at the same time to try and get her to get use to me. If my brother/male friend etc drops over for example, she will growl at least, sometimes bark but calms down after a few minutes. They will offer her treats and she will often take them and will be more receptive as the visit progresses.

I guess I will continue to have to be patient. This coming weekend my wife is going out of town so hopefully we get along ok lol

July 1st, 2009, 08:34 AM
Don't get discouraged. This is not an unusual story at all. There is a period of adjustment which can take up to 6 months. It sounds long (which it is) but it will work out.

You are doing everything right by the way. As I read it, I also do some things that you do with my fosters that are frightened. Please try hotdogs. I know that sounds nutty - but it works.

Building trust is what is important. Some may say that she suffered hardship from a man. I can tell you that this may not be the case at all as I have had foster puppies that were never abused but have reacted negatively with a man.

Be confident around your dog - just be yourself however use a softer tone of voice. Keep your posture and be normal. Your confidence will be picked up by the dog and this will have a positive effect.

Do not dote over the dog at all. Coddling, overly softness, patting gently, hugging, cradling does the opposite effect. Be upright and when the dog does good as being leashed, be energetic and upbeat. One stroke under the chin to bring the head upward with an energetic 'good dog' or whatever you say and get outside. Walk briskly and talk to the dog in an upbeat tone. Have fun and encourage fun.

If the dog does not respond to you in the home, ignor the dog. The dog will come to you in time and that is when again you give a good pat on the side and not those little gentle ones. Confidence.

Your wife is your ticket as well. Do things together but you hold the leash, you feed the dog, and you play with the dog - all with your wife's presence if that is possible.

The key is being upbeat and do not give sympathy. A strong person is what this dog needs. Being strong also means being understanding (which I can see you are) and loving but not mushy loving.

I hope this helps. If you do this, you may see a difference in behaviour after a few days or weeks.

Bendyfoot or Tenderfoot should be able to give you wonderful advice when they log on. You cannot go wrong with their advice but also understand that it is difficult to provide accurate advice without seeing the behaviour. If there is anything else you can provide (details) please let us know.

Thank you for adopting this soul. :)

July 1st, 2009, 08:37 AM
Great advice, BenMax!
There are so many knowledgable members on this site!
I just wanted to add- be careful with the growling around strange men. Keep an eye on her when new people come to the house, you do not want that to go any further.
Please keep us updated on how things go this weekend!

July 1st, 2009, 08:41 AM
What a cutie! Welcome aboard!

Benmax couldnt have put it any better! :thumbs up

Let us know how things go!


July 1st, 2009, 08:41 AM
Bless you for adopting her. She has obviously had a traumatic experience and sounds like may have been abused by a man.

I recently saw an episode of Underdog to Wonderdog on Animal Planet. They were looking for a home for a dog like Sadie, who had a fear of men. I think they used a lot of positive reinforcement. Like doing fun activities with men around, so the dog would associate good things with men being around.

I know it's been a month, but put yourself in her place. Who knows what kind of life she had before she was put into that shelter, and then the confusion once she was there. Now she's in a new home with people she's still not sure about. It took me almost 6 months to get my last cat who was a stray, comfortable enough to be around my other cats. It just takes time.

Brad P
July 1st, 2009, 08:50 AM
Thanks BenMax for the advice! And for the replies everyone. This seems like a good community :thumbs up

July 1st, 2009, 09:54 AM
I would try the "ignore" technique too like BenMax mentioned. I've never had a fearful dog but I had a fearful cat who spent almost two weeks inside a linen closet after we adopted him from a rescue. As hard as it was, I totally ignored him, never talked to him or attempted to approach him, but made sure he had food/water/litter box and he would venture out on his own to eat or potty when he figured all was quiet. Then one day he decided to jump in my lap and has been a great kitty ever since who loves his snuggle times and chin scratches.

For a dog I would probably sit on the floor and let the dog approach on her own. If I were to try and put myself in the dog's position of being afraid of men, I would run away too if someone tried to come after me all the time.

If she's food or scent driven, I would have some real tasty smelly food and make yummmmm! nom-nom sounds as if it's the best stuff ever. Like maybe bacon, as this creates quite a smell in the kitchen as its being cooked. Or cheese. This may seem really weird to do if you're alone, but it works great with another person that you can share food with and the dog sees all this going on. Then "accidentally" put little bits around you on the floor and then even on your knee if you're sitting down with legs crossed or straight out in front. Don't pet or talk to her and wait to see what she does. This especially works I think if she hasn't had her meal yet and is hungry. Some people might see this as teasing but I think it would allow her to associate you with yummy snacks and that only good stuff happens with a male human.

Something similar probably happened thousands of years ago when wild canines would smell what people were cooking and were curious, then the people started to toss food at them.

July 1st, 2009, 10:15 AM
Just wanted to say thank you for adopting this sweet girl from the shelter. I don't have any advice but would love to offer you a :grouphug:.

July 1st, 2009, 10:59 AM
Hey and welcome!!! Thank you for adopting this sweet girl!! It will take some time and patience but you will get there. Don't give up :grouphug:

July 1st, 2009, 12:13 PM
Well Done you for adopting Sadie, she looks a lovely girl :lovestruck:

I am sure given a bit more time she will come round and love you too :goodvibes:
You sound a kind, patient, loving person and thats what your girl needs from you :goodvibes:

Good luck with your Gorgeous Girl :fingerscr

July 1st, 2009, 12:44 PM
Its nice to see adoptions going to good homes :thumbs up
I'm thinking that if maybe you have not tried this yet
try sitting on your legs and keep your arms in close to your body
to "look" less intimidating. Entice Sadie by speaking softly and offer lots of
yummy treats.:fingerscr

I know that my neighbor had the same problem before and this is the method he used with great success. Please keep us updated on the success or lack of we'll keep rooting for ya!:grouphug:


July 1st, 2009, 01:36 PM
My first dog Duke was terrified of men too. My husband would sit or lay on the floor read books/newspapers to Duke in a soft but happy voice. Sometimes he would lay down with a ball and just roll it back and forth between his hands and once he saw that Duke was showing interest he would roll it too him, he would also have treats sitting beside him. He found that Duke wasn't as scared when he was sitting on the floor because he was more Duke's size and he also felt more comfortable outside so they would spend quite a bit of time out in the yard. Duke started sitting beside him but didn't want to be touched yet. Eventually Duke would lay beside him and bump him with his nose when he wanted to be touched. It took 3 months and a lot of patience but well worth it. There were still some days that he would be a little nervous. My husband would get frustrated but he kept telling himself that Duke had been through hell and he needed to earn his trust to show Duke that not all men are the same. Another thing is that he could not just sit there and look at him because it would scare him so my husband would always look somewhere else. It has been 6 yrs. and couldn't ask for a better dog.

July 1st, 2009, 01:51 PM
Good for you for going the adoption route.
I have fostered a few dogs who have had the same behavior as yours.
The only other thing that I would suggest that I don't think has been mentioned yet. Is that you should always be the one feeding her, treats and all.
She will come to know that you are not there to harm her and will probably slowly gain confidence.

July 1st, 2009, 02:32 PM
Great advice above so nothing else to add! :thumbs up

Just wanted to say she is a beautiful girl and thank you for rescuing her. You're certainly on the right track and it will eventually get better :)

July 1st, 2009, 04:47 PM
Hey Brad: We also rescued our St. Bernard puppy (6 months) a year ago, and she too suffers from tremendous fear of men. My dh couldn't get near her for the first month, as she'd empty her bladder every time he came in the same room, and then hide until I came home.

What we found out worked (and this may or may not work with your dog), was I did all the "boring stuff"-vetting, things like that, and dh became the fun, playful guy. He found it very difficult for the first while that she'd exhibit such fears, but he ignored her, and let her approach him. It may or may not work as there's so many good suggestions on here, it'll probably take awhile to figure it out.

Good luck and keep us posted!

July 1st, 2009, 04:49 PM
Thank you so much for rescuing this cute little girl ! You are doing the right things so far , keep it up , you will see changes in her I garantee !

My first foster from a puppy mill was so afraid of everyone that , some of my friends who met her at my house , thought she would have been better off dead .... after a month , she left with her new family and it did take them time but , after a year , she was comfortable and loving with them , and playing with their kids and their other dog. As I saw the pictures , I couldn't believe this was the same dog I had at my house !

So keep it up , it might take time but ... she will come around :)

thanks again for giving this dog a second chance at life ! :thumbs up

Brad P
July 13th, 2009, 07:38 AM
Hey guys

Thanks for the advice. I have been the one to feed her since day 1 and give her treats throughout the day when she has enough trust in me to take it. I am currently on disability so I spend much time at home, with Sadie, so I figured she would be more use to me by now.

The weekend I was alone with Sadie was quite good. We had a good weekend. But when my wife came home it was like we lost the progress we made. She still is more comfortable with my wife than with me, by far.

She is not only uncomfortable with me but still there are many things that can scare her. Yesterday my wife and I were watching her eat/drink from her dishes and for no reason we could see, she got a scare and ran away from her dishes. We also took the BBQ cover off the BBQ yesterday for the first time this season and she seems scared of the BBQ. In these instances, I'm not sure how to help her get over these fears.

In the meantime, she doesn't seem as scared of as many things as when she first came here so perhaps patience is needed.


July 13th, 2009, 08:06 AM
Brad P - all this is normal behaviour from a dog that was never exposed to everyday life. I deal with this with most of my fosters.

The way that I help these dogs is usually with another well balanced confident dog. If you do not have one then you are going to be the connection to help her.

If no dog to assist, I would keep this dog on the leash and really establish trust. If things are uncomfortable for the dog do not force it but 'baby' the dog in baby steps to learn about and accept new obstacles.

Very important question so that I may assista alittle further on how: Is there anything that is high value to her such as food or a certain toy?

July 13th, 2009, 09:46 AM
Is it all men or just you? Sometimes when pups are taken away from the litter too soon (ie. less than 8-9 weeks old) they can develop fear or insecurity around men. But, you seem to be doing the right things, and she sounds like she just needs to build some confidence. You can do this by exposing her to new things, new situations, new places, new sounds. Even if you sit outside a Starbucks, enjoy a coffee and introduce her to everyone that wants to pet her. Do it in short stints at first, as you don't want to overwhelm her. Also, at times that she's more comfortable with you, try attaching the leash around your waist and just going about your normal day. Encourage her if you need to, and praise her when she's doing well, and just make it a goal to spend time with her. The good thing about tying the leash around your waist is that she's spending time with you, but you don't have to be in physical contact with her if she's uncomfortable with that. She sounds like a sweetheart, I hope things get easier for you soon!

July 13th, 2009, 10:13 AM
sounds like you are doing all the right things so far. Just keep spending time with her and praising her like crazy for all the little milestones- like approaching you on her own, wagging her tail at a stranger, laying down near you, etc etc. Also lots of TREATS! give her yummy treats with any new situations- hairdryers, vacuums, doorbells etc to establish a positive association.
Good luck, keep us updated! :thumbs up

July 13th, 2009, 10:21 AM
sounds like you are doing all the right things so far. Just keep spending time with her and praising her like crazy for all the little milestones- like approaching you on her own, wagging her tail at a stranger, laying down near you, etc etc. Also lots of TREATS! give her yummy treats with any new situations- hairdryers, vacuums, doorbells etc to establish a positive association.
Good luck, keep us updated! :thumbs up

Great advice.:thumbs up

July 13th, 2009, 10:24 AM
oh- I think this may have been mentioned already but also wanted to add- don't "baby" her or coddle her if she is being timid or unsure- ie- if she's afraid of thunder, don't let her up on the couch with you and snuggle up with her- this will just "reward" her for being insecure. Just a few sooting words in that situation is enough.

July 13th, 2009, 11:13 AM
oh- I think this may have been mentioned already but also wanted to add- don't "baby" her or coddle her if she is being timid or unsure- ie- if she's afraid of thunder, don't let her up on the couch with you and snuggle up with her- this will just "reward" her for being insecure. Just a few sooting words in that situation is enough.

True - when I say 'baby' I mean to couch her to whatever she is afraid of. You do this by also using a high value item. Coddling is the worst thing to do with a insecure dog.

July 13th, 2009, 11:52 AM
True - when I say 'baby' I mean to couch her to whatever she is afraid of. You do this by also using a high value item. Coddling is the worst thing to do with a insecure dog.

understood! :thumbs up
Molly is an insecure dog, so this is all very familiar to me.
Also, find something that your dog enjoys doing- playing fetch, maybe enroll her in obedience or agility? This will all help build her confidence. :dog:

July 13th, 2009, 11:55 AM
If the pup (a cutie by the way) seems to be gravitating to your wife out of insecurity, I'd be asking your wife to completely ignore her for now, as much as possible anyways (I understand you're on disability and perhaps there are some tasks that she takes on?).

I'd try speaking to your pup as little as possible. Use confident body language and a leash (as others have suggested) instead to communicate with her (including praise...BenMax's marvelous suggestion of a stroke under the chin that raises the head into a more confident posture is just great!). Use the umbellical approach (keeping the dog tied to you)...with little verbal "noise" getting in the way, and you at her side, she will naturally be inclined to start watching you closely and follow your lead, all of which will help grow her confidence in you and your leadership role...once she realizes that you ARE her leader (a consistent, fair, gentle leader who also establishes rules and boundaries), I suspect you will see her insecurities start to melt away.

If you're able to, walk walk walk walk walk with her. As much as possible. In as many different places as possible.

July 13th, 2009, 12:15 PM
Aww....she's such a lovely looking dog. Sounds like she might have encountered bad experiences with a man/men. Give it time like everyone else suggested, one month is nothing. Ignore the dog for now but I think if you were the one to always do the feeding that would be a first step. Treats in your pockets at all times. Sitting on the floor makes you less threatening but just ignore her. You can bounce a ball , roll a few toys around but don't even make eye contact. The dog will eventually become curious enough to come to you but remain firm and confident, no coddling. Roll the ball gently and if she goes for it let her have it, if she doesn't bring it back that's fine too, she will eventually. You can leave teats around your feet and close to you, she will probably come and sniff and might try one, don't show a reaction, eventually she will take them from your hand. Go along for the walks but let your wife put the leash on her and let her and you the leash. This dog will sense the love you have for her and will come around, just give her time, you'll have a friend for life.

July 13th, 2009, 10:58 PM
I'm going to disagree with the not making eye contact. In fact I encourage it. I'm not talking hard stares here but, rather "soft" eyes (like when you're smiling). If she looks at you directly, even for a split second, reward her "Good girrrrl" and give her a high value treat (these particular treats should only come from you). This is another wonderful confidence building exercise to do with shy/undersocialized dogs.

Yesterday my wife and I were watching her eat/drink from her dishes and for no reason we could see, she got a scare and ran away from her dishes.

Is she wearing a tag? Could it be 'clinking' against the bowl? Is the bowl moving around the floor while she eats? Our foster dog does the same thing, regardless of the type of bowl we use (glass, metal, plastic). So far, she seems more comfortable with a heavy, shallow glass oven pan. You may want to try switching her bowl.

July 14th, 2009, 10:24 AM
My dog Luna was a scared outdoor dog. When she became an indoor dog she had a few issues, none with people but, issues nontheless.

All I did, was instead of focusing on any bad behaviours, i would give her the chance to do a good behaviour. When she did what i wanted i would praise the heck out of her. Like, she still has some fears, but when i notice she is feeling anxious i just ask her to do something she knows, like sit, and then give her praise for it. Getting them to do somethign they know in a situation where they are afraid is also a good distraction from the situation.

I realize she might not have much training, but there will be some things she does on her own that are good behaviours, like laying down on her own on her bed or whatever... Focus on the positive and ignore the negative. it worked for Luna :)

Good luck!