Q&A: How to help former kennel dog to become active?

We just picked up a 3-year-old Golden Retriever female from a kennel who retired her from breeding. She has lived in this kennel for all of her 3 years. The problem is she is very timid and submissive to the point to where I have to literally pick her up to take her out to potty and do the same to bring her back in the house. As soon as you get close to her she lays on her stomach and will not move…even with treats. Is she damaged merchandise or is there a chance she will start coming out of her fear of her new surroundings and what can we do to help her? ~Doug

So sorry to hear your new dog is acting so fearfully! Bless your heart for opening your heart and home to this girl. If she lived in the kennel for all of her 3 years, I am assuming she must have not been socialized much and may have missed out being around people and experiencing all the sights and sounds of life outside of a kennel.

It sounds like she is intimidated and when you approach her, she freezes and just cannot function normally. When dogs are fearful, they may react this way. They may fight (act defensively), flight (run away) or give up and freeze, which sounds like your case. If you get frustrated by her behavior, things will only get worse and she will freeze even more. If the treats are not working, I am guessing that she is to a point of feeling very stressed. If she lived in a kennel for her 3 years, it could be that she never really got a chance to understand the concept of “being taken out to potty.” She likely just went in the kennel. So this is perhaps this is all new to her.

It is hard to tell if she will ever completely come out of her shell or how long it would take. I am tempted to think that eventually she will get used to the idea of going in and out of the house to potty, but there are really many things to evaluate. Here are some things to consider and options that you can try.

Many new dogs go through a period of time when they are adopted during which they are more intimidated and fearful. It may take weeks or months for new dogs to come out of their shell and behave normally.

She might be scared of being in the yard. If your yard is noisy and it exposes her to stimuli that can be overwhelming, such as other dogs in nearby yards, scary noises or traffic. If your yard is noisy or scary in any way (put yourself in her shoes being raised in a kennel most of her life) you may want to take her when things are more quiet (early morning, lunch hour, late evening).

Instead of carrying her out, try to open the door, head out and see if she’ll follow you in the yard. She may follow you if she feels lonely and vulnerable to be left alone in the house all alone. If she does come out, make sure you praise her, but do it calmly without scaring her.

Instead of carrying her back in, try to go back in the home first. She may feel vulnerable being left alone in the yard, so she’ll likely come back inside. Again, make sure you praise her when she does, but calmly so not to scare her. Carrying her in and out, may only make problems worse.

You can try enticing her with higher value treats. We’re talking about the real high value stuff, think freeze-dried liver, low sodium hot dogs, boiled chicken, some canned salmon. Don’t use the food to lure her straight out, instead, every day start feeding some near the door, then by the door with the door open, then one step out until she’s out. Baby steps!

From your description it sounds like she’s not only fearful of the yard, but her new surroundings as well. It takes time to get used to new places, new sounds, new smells especially in a dog that has likely been under socialized and perhaps never lived in a home. A DAP diffuser, may help and so may some calming aids such as a calming cap, calming treats etc.

You need to be very patient, calm and encouraging. If you get frustrated at any time, she’ll notice it and this will only cause her to become more and more intimidated and shy. Slow and steady wins the race. I hope this helps, best wishes and good luck!

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Adrienne Farricelle

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Huh?! An ear infection that make the ears irresistible for other dogs to chew on?! I hope this is not the case with my dog because his ears seem to be an object of target for other dogs whenever we are out on a walk. Most times I wonder if they are just trying to be playful but it’s obvious he hates it. I think I’ll take him for a checkup. Thanks for the side tip.

  • Woah.. A beagle and lab mix is pretty cool I tell you. They truly are the easiest and most outgoing kinda breeds. I’ve had some of them in the past and I just love how they mingle with other dogs and make them feel special. Well, my advice is that you should take the terrier away from the male dog because it would take ages for them to get along and even if they do, no telling if the old habit won’t come in once in a while. Terriers don’t do well with the company and your male dog sure would be happier without her.

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