Please help me train/socialize my scared timid dog


11 Years
Dec 3, 2008
Sealy, TX (West Houston area)
Hi Everyone...I know there are hundreds of great dog people on this site, so I hope you can help me with my rescued shelter dog. A little background about me: I'm not a dog expert but I love dogs and have never had major problems before. Last year, I took in two 3-year old Chihuahuas who were little monsters....growling, barking mean little things. Family and friends thought I was crazy and they wouldn't come near them. But, over the last year, I've socialized and trained them pretty well. Now they're loving dogs who people are no longer afraid of. Not perfectly trained, but still sweet little pets.

Now to my current problem...a couple of months ago, we adopted a sweet mutt from a rescue group (papers say Chow mix, definitely see German Shepherd in her too). The rescue group got her from a kill shelter. She's almost 6 months old now and she's afraid of EVERYTHING. She's been that way since we got her, but I thought after she settled into our house and our routine, she would loosen up. She hides all the time, behind the couch, under tables, in her kennel, wherever she can get to quickly. I've been trying to get her to trust me and the rest of the family for 2 months and we have made very little progress. I talk to her in soft sweet tones, I give her treats when she does the right thing (like come to me when I call her). When I sit on the floor, she'll come to me and sit in my lap and let me love on her and pet her. She'll cuddle with me on the couch. But other than that, she's scared and runs away. She's afraid of's very hard to get her to walk in the door from outside, or walk out the door from inside. She's better about that now, but still difficult sometimes. When I take her for a walk in my friend's neighborhood, she's afraid of every car that drives by, every person or other dog she hears or sees, and she's afraid of walking around the corner! Yes, we get to the corner and she starts cowering and trying to back up. I practically have to drag her around the corner (short leash, make her walk next to my leg).

I have had the patience of a saint for the last 2 months...trying desperately not to scare her, but it's like taking 1 step forward and 1 step back. I can tame nasty little monster Chihuahuas, but this scared timid thing...I'm just not making any real progress. Can you give me any tips or advice on how to deal with her? I want to socialize her more (friends' houses, park, dog park), but I don't know if that will help or just traumatize her.

I forgot to add silly of me! This is when we first got her, I've posted this pic before but here it is again in case you haven't seen it:

Last edited:


Chicken Addict Wanna-be
9 Years
May 27, 2010
Piedmont, NC
She's a cutie.

I treat my dog more like a cat, so will defer to the experts here. Cesar Millan has a wonderful way to deal with dogs with issues, so you might want to check out his book(s) and whatnot. I just love his show The Dog Whisperer.


10 Years
Apr 15, 2009
Bind her to you. Do not cater to her fear.

Wear a belt and tie the leash on the belt. She will be horrified at first but do not sympathise with her in any way. I am not saying be mean to her, just be very matter of fact about 'come on, we are going to take care of the chickens now' and then just go do it. Crate her by your bed at night. Feed her from your hand only. Teach her little things like sit with a nice treat. Praise her when she acts 'brave'. Try to insist she bond with you. Sooner or later she will realize their is notheing to fear around you or your house or your yard.

Try not to make eye contact or stare at her until she is more comfortable. That is a challenge in the dog world.

This WILL work and at least make her more comfortable around the house with you and your family. This may be a long term project.

When she is more comfortable around the house with you, then you can invite one person over. She will still have to be on leash.

I'm sure there will be lots of other suggestions.
Last edited:


11 Years
Dec 3, 2008
Sealy, TX (West Houston area)
Oooh, good idea...hadn't really thought of that. I was doing something similar in the beginning. I had a leash on her all the time, so I could gently pull her through the door, or out from behind the couch with the leash. I knew I couldn't reach at her with my hands without her freaking out, so the leash was very helpful. I also praised her and gave her treats when she did the right thing. Then she chewed through her first harness, then her second harness, so she doesn't have a leash on right now. She loves to chew! She has toys and rawhide bones, but still goes for her harness. I'll try your advice, with tying her leash to my belt. I think that will help. Thanks!

Any more ideas? I'm very open minded...anything to help her relax and trust us.


Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!
12 Years
Nov 9, 2007
SW Arkansas
Quote:I will defer to Brindle's expertise, but I agree.
When I got my sweet Charlie Girl from a high kill shelter so many years ago she was covered in large welts from being beaten. It took patience, patience, and more patience on my part. It took a full year before she came out of her shell with me. It was only in the last few years of her life that she came to accept a man (my now DH); before that she was terrified of men.
Even in the last year of her life we couldn't pick up anything "long" - a broom, umbrella, a rifle - without her freaking.
Best dog I ever had, bar none.
Good luck to you and your sweet pup.


9 Years
Apr 28, 2010
Treat her like a normal dog, dont make any reaction to her fear and shyness, and if possible dont give her a choice to shy away. Attaching them to your side like brindle said actually works great on most dogs. You just need to get her out there and exposed to the world. Having a routine is probably one of the best ways to get her past this, she will learn and start expecting whats going to happen next and will gradually get out of fearing it. Get a solid routine, treat her like a normal dog, attach her to your side, ignore any fear she shows (and be very careful when and how you praise her she might be taking a step foreward but she could still be in the same mindset) and make sure she sees you as a leader instead of a mother. Shes still a baby, before you know it she will be excited about what shes fearing now. Dont try not to scare her, let her experiance things and watch you deal with them with no concern over whats happening. She will learn from you that theres no reason to be scared, she can pick up on your nervousness and anticipation and will show it in turn.

I used to manage a dog rescue, have rehabbed many of them. Each one handles and assimulates shelter life differently, some are out of control happy to be out, others are more wounded and can take longer for you to get them to realise that life is over with. They find much more comfort in a pack of well balanced happy dogs then they do in humans babying them, dogs are able to reach deeper into each other's minds then we can ever try to get and is one of the best ways to rehab. If you havent started socializing her you need to, find a dog park or doggy daycare or anything to force her to get out there and meet other dogs. They will show her she doesnt need to be afraid, and teach her how to be a dog.

Dont use a harness, use a regular leash and collar, harnesses dont give you much control other then just physically pushing the animal around. If you control the head though you control the mind. Dont let her get behind the couch in the first place, no need to be soft or gentle your not going to hurt her, do it without thinking. Nature is a tough teacher, you need to tell her not to be afraid instread of asking her. Dont give her a chance. You saved her life, you protect and feed her, she's got to do a little bit of work for you now.
Last edited:


10 Years
Nov 4, 2009
Quote:Quote:Take off her regular, buckle type collar, run it through the leash handle, then put it back on her neck, then use the leash-clip to clip the leash to the belt loop on your jeans. Then pretty much ignore her totally and go about your business. Keep a pocket full of treats and ask strangers to feed her. Every once in a while, when she's being brave (standing up, ears pricked, tail relaxed, paying attention) drop one at your feet without making eye contact or calling her attention to it.

NEVER tell her it's ok, it's ok, call her to you, cuddle or try to soothe her when she's acting fearful. NEVER give a treat to try and draw her to you, or "show her it's ok". Humans can understand these gestures, humans can be comforted. Dogs cannot.
If you want her to know it's ok, you need to show her with your body language. Ignore it. If something is no big deal, we ignore it. You and I don't jump up and carry on at every car that passes by. WE don't go and hide in the next room. Because it's ok, it doesn't require our attention. If someone knocks on our front door, we go towards it alertly, we don't freak out or scream or hide. Because it's ok.

That's the only way to show her. I know it feels awful. You have to think about it like this.
Everytime she shows fear, and you react, even though your words are saying "it's ok" or "just come here good girl" she doesn't speak English. Your body is saying hey, what is this, we need to pay attention to it, this is a big deal.
And that only reinforces her fear. Because if it wasn't a big deal, you wouldn't pay any attention, but she cringes and you react so there MUST be a reason you reacted too.

When I got my Thunder, he was a wreck. I adopted him from Animal Control. The AC officer said the case had made him sick. When I brought him for his first vet visit a few days after I adopted him, the vet's office was going to have me arrested if I didn't show them the adoption papers. He spent his first week curled in a small ball, facing the wall, desperately hoping I couldn't see him back.
When I adopted him I knew he was more project then puppy.

Over the 11 years of his life, he became such a great dog I once turned down an $800 offer to buy him. There was a list of people across 3 states who would have fought each other to take him if something had happened to me. He prevented my home from being robbed 3 times that I know of. Cared for and defended my other animals, and my DD, was my partner in everything. People would see me without him and look at me funny, "Do I know you?"
"No, you know my dog."
"Oh! You're Thunder's mom!"

They can come around.
Last edited:


10 Years
Mar 5, 2009
Humboldt County
Riverotter nailed it. I would just add that it would be good to be training him as well - sit, down, stay, come, down from a distance, anything you can think of. This shows leadership on your part, and as he learns to trust your judgement, he should become less fearful. Good luck!


11 Years
May 13, 2008
If she is six months old and you have had her for a couple of months, I doubt she suffered any abuse (not saying it isn't possible, but most 8 week old pups aren't victims). More then likely she has some mental stability issues she was born with and got from one of her parents (just like in people mental issues can run in families). I have seen dogs that have been horribly beaten, burned, dragged behind vechicles for 'fun' with normal temperments still love humans, sadly even the ones that are abusing them.
You will have a long road with this dog, and IMO will always have issues with her. Your aggressive dogs are much easier to deal with, most of them are 'normal' but alpha and let get away with things they shouldn't have. This will be different, and you will always have to 'deal' with her. Dogs with this kind of fear can turn into 'fear biters' so be very careful with strangers, especially if you have kids and they have friends come over. As the others said, don't baby her or even acknowledge her when she is being fearful, ignore the behavior and praise (no high pitched voice, just calm easy going) and reward for acting normal.

New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom