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One of the toughest issues I encountered while working at my local shelter was finding the right Forever Homes for fearful dogs.

Most fearful dogs in shelters did not come from abusive situations. Rather, shelters are receiving more and more dogs from areas with large canine populations where dogs do not need to rely on people for food and shelter; they can survive on their own. Lack of proper human socialization during those crucial first four months of their life can create a fearful, very anxious dog. And, a fearful dog bred with another fearful dog can create a litter of timid puppies. We are unintentionally breeding fearful dogs.

July 3, 2018

Understanding Your Fearful Dog:  Helping Them Succeed In Their Forever Home

A few of Jeanne's beloved "fearful" shelter dog

that she successfully transitioned into their Forever Homes.

Be Prepared – Before bringing your new pet home, make sure you have the equipment, nutrition and enrichment items you will need. Keep in mind that crates, beds, food, water and litter pans need to be easily accessible and placed in safe spots that do not block traffic into rooms.

Limit Space – Utilize gates, x-pens, crates and tethers to keep your new pet in an area that allows you to keep an eye on them until you know each other better and are used to sharing the same space.

Skip the Welcome Home Party – Switching homes can be overwhelming for anyone – imagine meeting a whole new family at the same time! Let your pet get used to their immediate family and living space first before inviting visitors over. By introducing 1 or 2 new faces at a time, you avoid possibly creating unnecessary anxiety.

Adjusting to new environments always brings a set of new challenges, but there are things you can do to ensure you start off on the right paw. Following these simple tips, puts you and your pet on the journey towards to harmony and happiness.

May 1, 2018

3 Simple Steps to a Smooth Transition

for Your New Shelter/Rescue Pet

You have chosen the pet of your dreams for you or your loved one, completed all the paperwork, passed the interview, and are so excited to bring your new family member home.

Here are three tips you can use to foster your pet’s transition from a shelter into its Forever Home:

Jeanne Clune, CPDT - KA, ABCDT, FFCT

Please email me at:    


Things that can ease your dog’s anxiety when you bring them home

  • Allow time to explore their environment with as few distractions as possible and on their terms.
  • Set up a quiet resting space out of the way of the high traffic areas.
  • Provide lots of appropriate enrichment toys, like plush animal toys and stuffed Kongs.
  • Allow quiet time at a safe distance to watch and acclimate to their new family in their own time.
  • Toss treats to them without asking for any behaviors in return.
  • Learn what your dog is and is not comfortable doing: walking through certain doorways, past certain items, being approached head on and leaned over.

Things to remember in social situations

  • How your dog feels at the moment is more important than training.
  • Know what fearful body language looks like and always act in the best interest of your pet.
  • Teach people to let dogs come to them to sniff and ask to be pet instead of allowing people to quickly approach them.
  • Ask people not to stare into their eyes.
  • Capture and reward behavior the dog is naturally displaying; like “Follow” when they are behind you in play group, or “Stay” as they sit when you leash them.

*KYLIE was transported to our shelter from a reputable southern rescue that pulled her from a high kill shelter. She was a healthy, spayed, 4 month old hound mix. But she was frozen in fear, clinging to her bed, not eating and eliminating where she slept. Her tail was curled completely under her belly and her eyes dilated in terror.

In Kylie’s case, I noticed that she would quietly thump her tail when she watched dogs playing. Fantastic! She showed signs of being interested in other dogs. I sat with her patiently in play group for days, until she finally crawled out of my lap and responded to another pup’s invitation to play. It did not take long for her to bond with another young dog. And from there, she slowly widened her circle of friends.

Now it was time to find Kylie a Forever Home, but I needed someone who was willing to visit with her several times first to make a connection. I was looking for a small family in a quiet neighborhood with another dog. And then her angel arrived….an adopter who had been watching her progress, had another dog, lived in a quiet suburban neighborhood and had the time to visit until he made that connection.

Kylie’s adopter created a home environment limiting access to things that would trigger Kylie’s anxiety. He set up a safe space for her to retreat when she needed a break. He provided multiple opportunities of appropriate enrichment and play. He played music and sprayed lavender. He took his two dogs for hikes in the woods and discovered that Kylie liked to swim.

There can be many hurdles when bringing a fearful dog home. With Kylie, these included: fear of going outside at night, fear of every new noise, fear of house guests and fear of being approached in the dark. I was able to help my adopter navigate his way through the hurdles and today, Kylie is living a full and enriched life.

* the name of the pet was changed for anonymity