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how to help a dog in fear trust you

Helping a scared dog learn to trust can be an incredibly fulfilling experience. Whether you're dealing with a newly adopted rescue, a temporary foster, or a shy stray, understanding how to approach a fearful dog with patience and kindness is key to building a lasting bond. Here’s an easy-to-follow, friendly guide on helping a scared dog trust you, which will enrich both your lives with newfound companionship.

Understanding a Dog’s Fear

It's crucial to first comprehend why a dog might be fearful. Dogs may become scared due to previous mistreatment, insufficient socialization, a distressing incident, or even genetic factors. Knowing how to spot fear—such as hiding, tail-tucking, shying away, or snarling—is essential to choose the best approach.

1. Establish a Safe Environment

Set up a peaceful spot for the dog, like a quiet corner with a soft bed, away from busy areas in your home. Providing a safe space where the dog can retreat without being forced to interact is crucial for trust-building.

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2. Approach Slowly and Steadily

Scared dogs can be easily startled by abrupt movements. When approaching them, move slowly and ensure the dog can see and smell you from a distance. Avoid making direct eye contact at first as this can be seen as threatening. Use your peripheral vision to monitor the dog while demonstrating you’re non-threatening.

3. Speak Softly

Your voice can be a significant comfort to a scared dog. Speak in a soft, soothing tone when near the dog to help calm their fears and show that you pose no threat.

4. Wait for Them to Approach

Although it might be tempting to touch the dog to reassure them, it’s better to let them decide when to come closer. By sitting or kneeling, you make yourself less daunting and can patiently wait for the dog to approach you.

5. Smart Use of Treats

Treats can be an excellent way to win a dog’s trust. Offer treats by gently tossing them near the dog rather than holding them out. This way, the dog can approach the treats on their own terms, associating you with positive experiences while maintaining a comfortable distance.

6. Engage in Light Play

When the dog seems a bit more at ease, initiate some light play. Use soft toys and keep play gentle, ensuring it’s always a stress-free, positive interaction that helps build your bond.

7. Consistency is Key

Being consistent with your routines, like feeding and walking times, helps the dog know what to expect from you. This regularity can ease their anxiety and build trust as they understand you’re a reliable source of care and affection.

8. Positive Reinforcement

Always rely on positive reinforcement. Reward the dog’s good behavior with treats, gentle petting, or praise. Steer clear of negative reactions like shouting or punishing, as these can heighten their fear and distrust.

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9. Introduce Others Slowly

Once the dog begins to feel comfortable with you, you can slowly start to introduce them to other people and pets. Keep these meetings brief and controlled to ensure they remain positive, helping the dog gain confidence in social settings.

10. Consider Professional Guidance

For dogs with deeply ingrained fears, professional advice from a dog trainer or behaviorist may be beneficial. They can offer specific strategies and support tailored to your dog’s unique situation.


As you foster this trust, your dog will begin to see you as their safe harbor in a world that once seemed intimidating. This evolving relationship isn't just about gaining a dog's trust; it's about transforming their world view from one of fear to one of safety and love. Witnessing this transformation can be one of the most heartwarming experiences for any dog owner.

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Give Back The Love

Show your love to your pets with our high-
quality, delicious and healthy meals!