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Working with scared animals can be a real task, but it is completely worth it in the end. It takes patience and a lot of empathy to connect with a dog that has been through trauma. If you are working with a scared dog, these tips might help you to break the ice and develop trust sooner.

How to Get a Scared Dog to Trust You

Source: Animal Planet/Youtube

1. Move Slowly

Any species of animal will be very sensitive to movement when they are scared. This is a common instinct that kicks in that analyzes any danger nearby. That is why it is important to keep your movements slow when dealing with a scared dog. Move too quickly, and you can very easily startle them and find yourself back at square one.

Try to stay at ground level and avoid walking directly towards them. If you need to, you can even crawl on your hands and knees to get closer to them. You will be less of a threat by moving slowly and making yourself smaller.

2. Sit with Them

One of the best ways to get any kind of scared animal to trust you is to sit with them. Don’t talk to them or try to touch them, just sit as close as they will let you. This simple act will establish a certain level of trust over time as they recognize that you aren’t there to harm them. This also gives them the chance to decide to come up to you if they are brave enough.

3. Don’t Make too Much Eye Contact

Most animals read direct eye contact as an intimidating type of body language. Even though humans make eye contact to establish trust and understanding, dogs do not work that way. Your dog may love to stare into your eyes, but a scared dog may read this as an act of aggression.

Let them look at you more than you look at them. This is another subtle way of making yourself appear smaller and less intimidating. Eventually, as they start to trust you, you can increase the amount of eye contact you make, as it will become more of a way of communication than intimidation.

Source: In Ruff Company/Youtube

4. Feed Them 

Feeding a scared dog is a great way to break down their protective barriers slowly. No matter how nervous, dogs have to eat at some point, and it is best if you are the one providing that nourishment. Just bringing them food can help to establish trust. It is even better to bring the food to them and be there as they eat.

Just sitting there and being present as they eat can help establish a certain level of trust because they have to let their guard down to eat while you are around. Eventually, you may want to feed them by hand. You can encourage this by feeding them treats or their favorite food. This will help to establish the first contact and let them know that no matter how close they get, you mean them no harm.

If a dog shows aggression while eating, you may need to hand feed them with caution or avoid doing it at all. You don’t want them to accidentally or intentionally bite you.

5. Watch Them

It is essential when working with a scared dog to watch them closely. By watching them, you will be able to tell how quickly you can move on to other steps, such as sitting closer, feeding by hand, and petting them. You will want to read the signs and their behavior to know if they are ready for the next step or not.

Doing this can help you avoid breaking trust by going too fast for them and scaring them away. The last thing you want to do is break the trust you have developed and start again.

6. Let Them Make the First Move

It can be the best option for many dogs to allow them to make the first move. Dogs are naturally friendly and want a connection, so they will usually seek that out when they feel comfortable enough. This will create a better experience for them and make it less stressful.

Source: Dog Liaison/Youtube

If you are dealing with a terrified dog, you may be forced to make the first move to break the ice. But you will want to do so with extreme caution and in the gentlest way possible.

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