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Newly adopted dog - scared of us

(62 Posts)
Dinahmo Fri 16-Feb-24 14:58:19

My lovely Ruby was put to sleep just after Christmas because the cancer finally got her. Ronnie, our other blind dog was adopted 3 to 4 years ago and fitted in well with us. Sadly he got out - a gate although closed was not properly latched. We hunted every where, leafleted and put up posters but very sadly he was killed on a road the other side of our village.

I'm one of those people who needs a distraction when a pet dog dies and I was looking for a new companion for Ronnie.
I had found one, a 7 year old Griffon Vendeen, in a refuge. We decided that we would adopt her and collected her on Tuesday. Apparently she had been badly treated and was wary of men. Last year she was adopted by a young woman who had been doing well with her but sadly, her new owner is now in hospital with cancer and so Zelie was up for rehoming again.

Previous dogs that we've adopted have got used to us very quickly but Zelie is wary of us and we cannot get close to her.
We only managed to get a lead on her yesterday. We have left it on so that we don't have the same problem again.

Perhaps it's because we don't have another dog in the house?

I know that we should not force our attention or affection on to her but wait until she comes to us. If we leave the living room she will follow from a distance.

So any ideas of what to do next?

kareneades Fri 16-Feb-24 15:01:56

I would do exactly as you’re doing. Let her come to you when she’s ready. The fact that she’s following you is a good sign. Poor wee thing, she must be very sad and confused. She is very lucky to have found you to care for her.

V3ra Fri 16-Feb-24 15:05:17

I agree. Keep calm, keep to a gentle routine with her and she'll gradually learn to trust you and understand that she has a loving home ❤️

Knitandnatter Fri 16-Feb-24 15:06:08

Just keep doing what you're doing - be patient with her and talk to her, I am sure she will get used to you. It sounds as though she has had a poor start in life and her second owner had to give her up through no fault of her own.

Syracute Fri 16-Feb-24 15:08:51

She needs time . Ignore her a bit . Remember not to look or stare at her at first . Maybe , a high value treat once in a while . It takes literally months for some dogs and at the very least a few weeks . Maybe a harness would be good to start off to clip from the top .

Iam64 Fri 16-Feb-24 15:16:50

Good advice from Syracute. T
I was always advised 3 months before my fosters or rescues could feel secure enough to be able to begin to trust and show their personality.
She sounds like a girl who needs space and quiet. There is good advice on line x

MayBee70 Fri 16-Feb-24 15:17:16

Well that’s a breed that’s new to me so I looked it up. It’s most notable trait is having endless stamina and endurance so I assume it’s a dog that needs a lot of exercise? A friend of mine has just taken on an ex puppy farm dog and although she has bonded with my friend she’s still wary of her husband. Would the refuge know of how she was living with her previous owner: what routines she followed etc?

ExDancer Fri 16-Feb-24 15:33:38

I got a lot of good advice from


especially regarding advice to be careful not to stare into the dog's eyes as they perceive this as aggressive, so a timid dog will be afraid.
Ask visitors not to do this - a lot of people seem to imagine that holding out a hand and making eye contact is a good strategy, but its not. In fact the 'hand of friendship' could well receive a sharp nip in return.
Food is a good sign of friendship (without eye contact - difficult I know, but worth the effort).

ExDancer Fri 16-Feb-24 15:36:40

Sorry that didn't scan - try

Germanshepherdsmum Fri 16-Feb-24 15:47:26

I wish you many years of happiness together. She will learn to trust in her own time with a calm and loving routine. For rescues, routine is security.

Grandmabatty Fri 16-Feb-24 15:47:57

I follow Rory cellan Jones on twitter and his journey with his rescue dog. It might be worth looking at what he and his wife do.

Iam64 Fri 16-Feb-24 15:54:31

A word of support for GSM ‘s recommendation on routine. All dogs feel more secure with good routines and rescues really need them x

Joseann Fri 16-Feb-24 15:55:30

I agree, it will take time after the dog's past experiences. I hope you are back telling us what a joy she is in a couple of months' time!

keepcalmandcavachon Fri 16-Feb-24 15:56:06

Ah Dinahmo , it's so very difficult isn't it when you know they are lost and afraid and all you want to do is cuddle and reassure them. As others have said let your lovely new girl set her own terms, she's already following so there's a start. Does she have a hidey place that she can retreat to? My little chap (also a rescue) sends Zelie his love x

Dee1012 Fri 16-Feb-24 16:14:31

One of my dogs was a rescue and similar to yours, came from a really unsettled background.
She'd had a number of homes and from her reaction to men, I'm not convinced that she hadn't experienced some abuse.
It took a good few weeks for mine to decompress and begin to settle down. As someone else said, a good routine is a massive help.
I'd also make sure she has a safe place to go.
Wishing you all a happy life together!thanks

Germanshepherdsmum Fri 16-Feb-24 16:15:01

Thank you Iam. I have found that even after years of being happily settled, a small change of routine can visibly upset them and require loving reassurance. Luckily, we are creatures of habit and are careful to stick to routines where the dogs are concerned. They know when we go to bed (and sleep in our bedroom), when we get up, what times outies and meals will be. They seem to have inbuilt clocks! I think that for rescues, the fear of abandonment or whatever bad treatment they received really goes away, it lies just beneath the surface and can so easily resurface. Some people have much to answer for.

Germanshepherdsmum Fri 16-Feb-24 16:16:43

*never really goes away.

Dinahmo Fri 16-Feb-24 16:18:31

Thank you for all your comments.

I'm reminded whilst reading them how kind you all are.

OldFrill Fri 16-Feb-24 16:27:40

I got my extremely anxious rescue a cage in the kitchen and covered it with a blanket, comfy bed inside and she used it as her safe place. I never closed the door and she could see or hear us wherever we were. Gradually she ventured out more and more (ultimately we got rid of it - she discovered the sofa was a more comfortable observation post). I've fostered dozens of dogs but never one as anxious. Just take it really, really slowly and in no time at all she'll have you trained!
Being super anxious and prone to flight l always double leashed her on a very secure harness for the first few weeks. I also took new experiences/visitors very, very slowly. My patience paid off, she's a fun dog who loves new experiences, especially involving biscuits.

grandtanteJE65 Fri 16-Feb-24 17:02:18

Try to make sure there are no sudden noises and no raised voices, as your new dog has obviously been ill-treated somewhere.

And don't approach her while holding a rolled-up newspaper or anything else that she might have been hit with.

Dh once automatically rolled a magazine that had got bent in the post, until he saw our one rescue cat slinking off a chair to go and warn her brother, so they could hide! He put down the paper, and followed the cat to reassure her that she had done nothing wrong.

A year later, we watched in bemused joy when the cat tore a Sunday supplement to confetti with her claws! She apparently felt safe enough to take her revenge on all newspapers!

Even worse, her brother was terrified the first time he saw me sweeping a floor wi th a broom!

Whoever could hit a cat, or dog, with a broomstick? Or a newspaper for that matter.

sodapop Fri 16-Feb-24 17:32:02

I'm glad you feel able to love and help another rescue dog Dinahmo . The poor girl has had a lot to cope with in her life and is naturally reluctant to trust again. We had a similar problem with a little dog we adopted a couple of years ago. Our dog took herself upstairs at every opportunity to lay on our bed, she didn't interact with our other dog or us. We praised and stroked her at the odd times she did join us but otherwise left her where she felt safe and comfortable. It took many months before she felt safe enough to stay in the living room with us and even then at the first sign of visitors she would go back upstairs. Now she is a much more outgoing dog who loves attention and cuddles. Time and patience will win out, good luck.

Tizliz Fri 16-Feb-24 18:26:27

I sat on the bedroom floor everyday for two weeks talking to our rescue puppy before he would come out to socialise. Three months before he put his head on my knee. So worth it as he is such a happy dog now. What his first owners did I do not know. You just have to be patient. And yes he loves routines and can tell the time!

Iam64 Fri 16-Feb-24 19:46:41

My most frightened reactive rescue became a legend in our family. You could almost see and hear him working out -I’m ok, I get fed twice a day, I sleep in a warm bed in the kitchen, I go for walks every day, no one shouts or hits me -phew

flappergirl Fri 16-Feb-24 20:07:38

Well done for rescuing dogs and not buying them. A cause very dear to my heart. As others have said, carry on as you are, be aware of eye contact and add a bit of magic in the form of treats. First in her bowl and then palm out gently and held low as you would feed a horse has always worked for me.

Dinahmo Mon 19-Feb-24 18:56:47

An update - bad and good

Saturday was lovely and warm here so we went outside to do a bit of gardening and to make sure that she was OK. We couldn't catch her and at dusk went indoors, leaving the sliding windows open for her to come in. I even left a trail of cooked chicken. We checked that she was OK, which she was until about 9.00pm we realised that she'd gone from what we thought was a secure garden.

So yesterday we leafleted and put up posters, contacted various animal rescue services and went looking. In the evening I had a phone to say that she's been spotted but at that time the person didn't know that she was missing. This morning my DH went to the nearby villages to where she'd been seen to put out more leaflets and when he got back she was standing at the top of drive. She ran down alongside the car and hung about all day within sight and sound of us but no chance of getting near to her. I put out food, at a distance, which she ate.

We were told that dogs like raw chicken. We didn't have any but a nearby friend had a piece of rumpsteak (it looked very good) which she donated to the cause. I tried laying a trail to her food bowl. She ate the pieces nearest to her but wouldn't come closer. I spent the day sitting on our front porch and was prepared to spend the night too. She ran around to the back garden (the secure one - even more so now) wanting to get in but the gate was closed. As soon as I approached she ran back to the front. So I am sitting there keeping an eye on her, making a noise occasionally so that she would move. I nodded off, briefly and she wasn't there. I went indoors to tell my DH and he noticed that she was drinking from the bird bath. Obviously thirsty because I was able to run around the outer fence and close the gate.

She is now secure but the next task is to get her back in doors. I have put her bed outside with a bowl of food (with some steak) and a bowl of water and I think that we carry on like that until she comes into the house. This escapade has set our relationship with her back but at lease she came home so she must think that this is a safe pace for her.

Before we all went outside on Saturday afternoon she came up to both of us and gently licked/sniffed our hands and at some point she nudged my DH.

My DH had asked the local shop to put hold our order for a name tag so we can now tell them to go ahead. The next task is to order one of those things that you put on the collar to tell you where she is. Any recommendations?