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how to get a scared dog to trust you

Gaining the trust of a scared dog can be a rewarding journey. Whether you’ve adopted a rescue, are fostering, or encountered a fearful stray, helping a dog overcome their fears requires patience, understanding, and gentle care. Here’s a simple, friendly guide on how to get a scared dog to trust you, enhancing both your lives with a new bond of friendship.

Understanding Fear in Dogs

First, it's important to understand why a dog may be scared. Fear in dogs can be due to past abuse, lack of socialization, a traumatic event, or even genetics. Recognizing the signs of fear—like cowering, tucking the tail, avoidance, or growling—is crucial in determining the right approach.

1. Provide a Safe Space

Create a calm environment for the dog. This could be a quiet corner with a comfy bed, away from high traffic areas in your home. Let them have a retreat where they can feel secure without forced interactions, which is essential for building trust.

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2. Move Slowly and Predictably

Fast movements can startle a scared dog. Always approach slowly and let the dog see and sniff you from a safe distance. Avoid direct eye contact initially as it can be intimidating. Instead, use peripheral vision to keep an eye on the dog while showing them you’re not a threat.

3. Use a Gentle, Calming Voice

Your voice can be a powerful tool in gaining a dog's trust. Speak softly and use a gentle tone when near the dog. This helps them understand you mean no harm and can soothe their anxiety.

4. Let Them Come to You

It’s tempting to reach out and pet a dog to show you mean no harm, but with scared dogs, it’s better to let them come to you when they’re ready. Sit or kneel on the ground to make yourself less intimidating and wait for them to approach.

5. Use Treats Wisely

Food can be a great motivator and a sign of goodwill. Offer treats by tossing them near the dog, not by holding them out. This method respects their space and allows them to approach treats on their own terms, associating you with something positive without feeling threatened.

6. Regular, Gentle Play

Engage in gentle play once the dog shows signs of comfort. Use soft toys and invite them to play without forcing interaction. Playtime not only reduces stress but also builds a connection between you and the dog.

7. Be Consistent and Patient

Consistency is key in building trust. Try to keep a routine, such as feeding times, walks, and quiet interaction periods. Over time, the dog will learn what to expect from you and that they can rely on your presence and care.

8. Positive Reinforcement

Always use positive reinforcement. Reward good behavior with treats, petting, or kind words. Avoid shouting, sudden movements, or punishment, as these can reinforce fear and mistrust.

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9. Gradual Socialization

Once your dog starts to trust you, gradually introduce them to other people and pets. Keep these introductions short and controlled. Positive experiences with others will further boost their confidence.

10. Seek Professional Help

If a dog’s fear seems to stem from deep trauma, consider seeking help from a professional dog trainer or a behaviorist. They can provide strategies and support tailored to your dog’s needs.


Building trust with a scared dog doesn’t happen overnight. It's a process filled with small victories and possible setbacks. Patience, empathy, and consistency are your best tools. As trust grows, you’ll notice a more confident and happy dog emerging. The bond you develop through this process is unique and profoundly rewarding, leading to a loyal and loving relationship. Remember, each step you take is building a safer world for your new furry friend.

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Give Back The Love

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