How to Get a Fearful Dog to Come to You

teach a fearful dog to come

How to Get a Fearful Dog to Come, The Story of Ruben the Runaway

There is nothing more frustrating for dog owners than a dog that will not come when called.  You know the dogs that stop, turn around, look you in the eye, and then keep on trucking!  As dog lover’s we have dealt with the behavior, been furious over it, or simply worried ourselves to death that our furry friends would get hurt or never find their way back home.  As professional dog trainer’s it’s our job to figure out how  to get dogs to like us more than that squirrel that just ran across the neighbors yard. If you think getting a dog that loves you until the end of time to come near you is tough, you should try getting a dog that despises all human kind (with good reason) to love you!

get a fearful dog to comeRuben came through our Second Chance Program after being bounced from foster home to foster home and returned several times to the rescue group after being adopted.  Ruben’s time was almost up and he was a little over 2 years old with a full life ahead of him. Ruben has an adorable face but an almost feral personality since he was from a hoarder house.  Ruben was terrified of people, especially their hands, and would often bite just to keep them off of him.  When working with fearful dogs the most important thing to remember is that time is on your side.

So how do you work with a dog that will not take food, doesn’t liked to be loved on, has no desire to play with toys, and tries desperately to get away from you?  We begin integrating Ruben into our environment by watching the world from the comfort and safety of his crate.  We also keep two leashes on Ruben because if he were to get away from us, it would be almost impossible to catch him. Ruben had a look of panic when you entered his personal space, you could see him mapping out how to runaway when giving the opportunity.  It’s almost comical to see us walking with this adorable little dog on two leashes while he is clawing the ground, leaning to the point of choking himself to stay as far away from our dog trainer’s as possible. This went on for several weeks.

As time went on we began making Ruben sleep in the bed with our trainer’s and this helped him to see that people could be close and not be scary.  Ruben began taking food from a select few of us which began our bonding process!  After 4 months of hands-on interaction from our school environment Ruben was almost completely potty trained which was very difficult task to teach, especially when dogs are exposed to hoarder or even pet stores where they are allowed to go to the bathroom in the same kennel they eat and sleep in.   Ruben’s nipping had reduced to very minimal instances, and was usually do to someone startling him or simply a brand new set of hands.

fearful dachshundWell it’s been about 6 months and Ruben is still not quite the social butterfly most pet owners have and never will be.  However, Ruben has learned to relax around the humans that he trusts.  Instead of his rigid body, bulging eyes, and his tail tucked all the way under him; Ruben now begs for attention, cries to get in your lap, rolls over so you can get just the right spot on his belly!  He has even developed a little separation anxiety when he sees the ones that he loves but can’t get to them. Ruben can now walk around our dog training facilities with no leash, we don’t have to fear of him running away.  He still gets nervous with new people, he doesn’t bite when he doesn’t like them touching him, instead he simply runs away to safety (in his mind). Ruben is ready for a forever home.  It will still take a special person to be patient and let him bond on his terms but his love, cuddles, and kisses are well worth the wait!

At Highland Canine Training, LLC, we specialize in rehabilitating behavior problems and helping dog owners resolve problems with their dogs. If you need help or advice in treating dog behavior problems such as running away, shy or fearful behaviors, or even fear aggression please feel free to call us at 866.200.2207 or email us at We offer free in-home evaluations and offer affordable and effective solutions to all dog behavior problems.