A Fearful Dog Speaks

You see me in the shelters and the rescues, hanging back from the front of the cage, eyes averted yet alert with fear and apprehension. My carriage is the result of a story that you may never know, yet I still need your understanding. I need you to understand that:

You may not be the human for me. Although my eyes seem to plead for a home, I am not easy to live with; my progress is often measured in months and years not days and weeks.

My fears are not silly. No matter how they seem to you, my fears are real to me, forcing me to face something that you think is silly only serves to increase my fear and adds to my distrust.

My life needs routine. More than most, I need routine. It comforts me to know that there are certain things I can count on.

Patience is not a virtue itโ€™s a requirement. Of all the tools you will need to help me, patience is above all.

You may need help. I am not like other dogs, and some of the things that work for them may not work for me. You may need the help of people who have experience with fearful dogs like me.

Others may judge you because of my fear. People will often assume that you have done something to me if they see me acting fearful. You must be able to ignore this.

I may never be the dog you want me to be. Despite all your best efforts and intentions, I may never be the dog that you envision. But I can promise you that the victories we share, both large and small, will feel like nothing else in the world.

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For those of you who have, or are thinking about getting a fearful dog; my friend Debbie Jacobs over atย fearfuldogs.com has an excellent website devoted to helping you help the fearful dog in your life.


29 thoughts on “A Fearful Dog Speaks

  1. Thanks you for this post! I have an anxious dog and this post could have been written by him. It takes a lot of patience and knowing what is best for your particular dog and what he or she is comfortable with, I find it really important to keep his stress levels down. He is really such a sweet dog but I have to do my very best to protect him from situations that make him uncomfortable. I am thankful for having him in my life as he has taught me SO MUCH about dogs! Thanks for putting this out there so others can understand!

  2. Wonderfully written, Kevin. I am sharing, with your copyright info and a link back, on Scratchings and Sniffings, for tomorrow. Thank you for writing this.

  3. Thank you for this post. I can attest to your statement “I can promise you that the victories we share, both large and small, will feel like nothing else in the world,” to be so very true. I never would have imagined the excitement I felt when after 10 months my girl, on her own, smelled the back of my legs. Try as I might, I can’t imagine how it would be to live in a world where you are scared of everything. To also confirm, I learned a lot about myself in the ongoing process.

  4. Seriously, a well-written and great piece. I think it should be posted at every shelter and be on every rescue’s website. Wow. As the owner of a fearful dog, I think this may be the most important thing you could give someone before they adopt one.

  5. Hi Kevin. Would you permit this to be posted at shelters, with your copyright info on it? Thanks, Kay Elliott, KPA CTP

  6. This is great, Kevin. I’m gonna post it on my FSC facebook page. Thanks for writing such an insightful piece on fearful dogs in shelters.

  7. Excellent post! I agree with the others that this should be posted at every adoption center. It is difficult as the potential adopter not to think solely with your heart, but so important to understand that you may be taking on a project. If this were common knowledge, it would help more dogs to stay in their homes. – Nicole Wilde, author “Help for Your Fearful Dog”

  8. Love this article. I have to formerly feral dogs and they are fearful of a lot of things, but making marked improvments. Patients is the key. Calm quiet routine is next and love is a big part of it too. I’m sharing this!!!!

  9. This speaks straight from our Graycee’s heart. She is so fearful of people. I cant imagine what her original owner must have done to her. Our previous dog was a lover of people, almost to a fault, so we are learning patience too. To accept that Ms G needs time and coaxing and treats and love before she can trust the outside world. And finding something she likes more than life itself – frizbee is the bridge to her future. If you throw it, she will come! ๐Ÿ˜€

  10. Hi Kevin- I work with many fearful dogs and their dedicated parents who are striving to make their dogs more comfortable in various settings. I have several classes graduating shortly and will include you thoughts in my “good-bye” package. And next class, I plan to hand it out the very first class (with your copyright info of course) Thanks so much!

  11. I worked very hard on my Missy’s problems, but even though we had worked things out for vet visits, she pitched a fit a few times. One time I took her to a different vet for a bath and they brought me to her cage to get her out, watching how I interacted with her the whole time. The groomer wasn’t concerned, though because I told her ahead of time that Missy will pitch a fit until the water starts and then she would be like “oh it’s bath time. Is that all?” But she was so vocal the rest of the staff thought she’d been abused by me. IMHO she was temperamentally shy and fearful, then didn’t get good socialization her first 5 years. The ACE inhibitors she took for her heart @ age 14 helped her mood a lot but she still managed to threaten the cardiologist, despite a basket muzzle. For most other situations, all she needed was a script or a word to understand what was happening then she’d be manageable.

  12. Kevin, thank you for writing this, not only is it beautifully written but it speaks the truth for these special dogs who don’t have a voice and are too often misunderstood. I agree that anyone living with a fearful or shy dog or contemplating adopting such a dog would benefit from reading this and hopefully in turn change the experience for that dog to a less threatening one that allows him to grow on his timetable and not be pushed and forced in an attempt to make him someone’s idea of the dog they would desire.

  13. I wish that your piece was attached to the kennel of every fearful dog in a shelter. The upside to adopting a fearful dog is that if you do right by the dog, you will learn more about dog behavior than you ever thought possible, especially if you ask for help from the right people.

  14. Well said Kevin, well said! I wish everyone would think about this before bringing home the fearful dog of their dreams. This is such a hard road for the dogs, and you may not be able to meet that dog’s needs. More than that, I wish the shelters and rescues would think twice before they send these dogs out.

  15. “I may never be the dog that you envision.” So powerful and so right on. People have visions of Lassie, or “the dog just like my last dog.” Many, through no fault of their own, are just not prepared for these dogs just kind of existing. Not really living. Going to share on my FB page. CLICK to you Kevin.

  16. As soon as I saw this and before reading comments, I too thought this should be on the kennels..many of the kennels at the Humane League where I teach and we try to work through the adoptable dogs’ issues so they become “more adoptable”, whatever that means…Yes, if only owners were aware of the patience and dedication they will need with some of the dogs, the dogs would have a better chance I think.

  17. Oh my gosh. This is my Aaron….my magnificent foster dog…. from the very beginning, Kevin. The “patience” thing…. I totally get that. I found patience I didn’t know I had!

  18. We got lucky that our Lily was only 9 weeks when we adopted her. However, she had already spent 5 weeks crated by herself at the city pound. When we got her home, her first order of business was to run and hide under the house. It took some doing to get her out! She’s 8 months old now, and has no fear of us or our other rescue dog. When she’s out in the world, though, it’s a different story! But she’s getting bolder day by day, and just knowing that she’ll never have another day of shelter life makes it all worthwhile.

  19. This is beautiful. I have a dog that was traumatized in the first year of his life. It’s been a LONG journey for him.

    We got him at 18 months, he’s now 8 years old and just beginning to realize that he can make friends with the people at our agility classes.

    He started out as a rat terrier version of Cujo. Now he jumps up on people at the knee. I’m torn between correcting the ‘rude’ behavior and dancing in joy that he is soliciting affection from humans. He gets a little leash tug and ‘that’s good, okay – off’ after a few moments.

    Took us so much time and patience to find the balance of trust.
    I love my scaredy-dog.

  20. Pingback: A Fearful Dog Speaks by Kevin Myers « Apprehensive Oreo

  21. Thank you for this. I adopted a fearful dog about 3 months ago from a rescue. I printed out a ‘Fearful Dog Speaks’ and have it posted on my fridge as a reminder to me any time I feel that I’m losing patience. It makes me stop being selfish and try to imagine what it must be like for Toby thinking that the world is the most scary place to be. I wouldn’t trade him for the world….he’s very special.

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