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1/12/13

How do I get my rescue dog to trust me?

Question: How do I get my rescue dog to trust me?
She was found homeless and we were able to catch her using a tranquilizer. She has never growled, just runs away and won't let me pet her. She is currently in my fenced backyard. My other dogs really like her, however, and they get along great. She just will not let us humans approach her.

Answer:
She sounds insecure and not sure what to think of the humans. One rule of natural dog behavior is you cannot rush and force yourself upon insecure dogs. You are going to have to take it slow and not approach her head-on until she learns to trust you. Here is something you can do: Sit down in your backyard where the dog is. Place a bowl of tasty food a few feet from where you are sitting and read a book (or something). Do not make eye contact with the dog and don't talk to her. Just sit there quietly. Let her get used to you simply being there. Each feeding, move the bowl a little closer to where you are sitting. You can also sit down and toss something like tasty bacon her way. Remember, don't look directly at or talk to her. Just sit calmly and quietly.


You can also do it without the food too. Go outside in your yard and sit down not facing the dog. Don't look at her. If she comes over to smell you, ignore her. Let her smell you and let her walk away. She will become more and more used to you being there.

The non-threatening way to approach a dog is to stand sideways not making eye contact. Keep that in mind. Do not approach her head-on, looking into her eyes, because she'll see it as a threatening gesture.

Eventually she will become used to you being there. When you think you can do it without her bolting, slip a looped leash over her neck and take her for a very long pack walk with her heeling beside you. Bring your other dogs for some pack support for her. She may resist the leash and start tossing herself around. Let her get it out of her system. It will take time but when she is drained and tired of resisting she will start walking. You will need to be calm and assertive during this. Dogs will not follow nervous, anxious, upset, angry, unsure or scared people. She will know how you are feeling. Hire a professional to assist you if you are unsure.

She is going to need time and a strong pack leader. If you have not already, tune into the Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan. He specializes in cases such as yours and he is very good at what he does. He communicates to the dog in dog language so the dog understands what he wants.
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