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Timid dogs and keeping them safe!

Today we are absolutely delighted that All Black is back home. He escaped from his new home last Friday and we were all very worried. He was trapped in a garden not far from his house and was recognised by a very kind gentleman who had seen his poster. I am sure that his new mum and family will be really relieved, what a fright this boy has given us but as they say ‘alls well that ends well’!

Adopting and keeping a very nervous dog safe can be quite a challenge. You know that you have done a great thing and are full of love and encouragement but it takes time for a timid dog to realise this.  A timid and nervous dog can move very quickly and can be very determined so its very important to keep it safe.

The most important thing to be aware of is that many of our dogs were strays or hunters and have been used to living on the streets or in the spa for some time.  Given the chance, some of them may make a bid for freedom if they have the opportunity, so you need to be extremely vigilant at all times.

The golden rule is to keep your dog on a harness AND collar with either two leads or a double ended lead. This means that if the dog panics and backs away, if one fails the other should keep him nice and safe.

Collecting your dog 

It is vital that you can secure your dog on the journey home. The best way for a dog to travel home is in a crate  and will ensure that when you get home your dog won’t jump out of the car and run!

Don’t stop to walk your dog on the way home – better a wee and poo in the crate, than a lost dog!

Arriving home

Take your dog into the house using its double lead. Some dogs have never lived in a house before so may need encouraging (or carrying) into the house. Again, every dog is different but always err on the side of caution. Everything will be strange to your dog, from strangers voices on the TV to the washing machine or hoover. Keep everything really calm and low key, I remember accidently really scaring a pup by shaking out a bin bag!

In the garden

However high your fences are, keep your new dog on a lead or long line in the garden for the first few days until you have judged how likely they are to try to escape. Every dog is different, but we have had instances of dogs attempting to jump six foot fences in their panic to get away. Scared dogs become very athletic when panicking. Keeping them on the lead until they know where the door is to the house and until they are familiar with you, is a wise move. Better to have the dog on a lead in the garden for several days, than risk losing it!

In the house 

Having a quiet place for your dog will make him feel more secure. A crate with the door open and a cover on makes a great den. Feed your dog in there so that it becomes a happy place to be. Some of our dogs have food issues – they have literally been starved and even the most gentle soul may turn into a maniac when food arrives!! Feed your new dog separately from other dogs until you can judge how he will be with food. Putting up a ‘baby gate’ can separate dogs when needed, or feed your dog in the crate.


Please make sure that you are extra careful when people come to your house who aren’t used to your dog. Danger points are open doors and gates. There have been very sad incidents recently of rescue dogs slipping out through an open door or gate. It takes a split second for a dog to slip through! Don’t be tempted to show your dog off to all and sundry for a few days. He will be physically and emotionally exhausted so allow him plenty of rest and to get used to you and your family.


Don’t over-compensate in the first few days. A bland food is ideal – mine have rice and chicken for the first few days then I add kibble  gradually over a few days.

Some of the dogs have an upset tummy when they arrive – sometimes caused by the stress of travelling and changing homes. If it doesn’t settle within a very short time, ask the vets’ opinion but most upset tummies settle quickly.


I have found that the dogs are a little dehydrated when they arrive home, even though they have fresh water available at all times! Make sure that they have water available and don’t panic if they don’t wee for a day, it will happen!!


Don’t be tempted to let a timid dog off the lead until you have practiced recall and are sure that he wont bolt or run off.

As your dog settles into its new life and you begin to understand and respect each other you can relax and give your dog more freedom.The best thing is to allow them to progress at their own pace,keeping then safe as they do. It really doesn’t matter how long they take – they all get there in the end.

Double lead system…one lead attached to collar and one to harness..






About Moira


  1. Hi Moira,

    That’s a really useful checklist. Reading it, I realise how lucky I was that Echo’s nervousness was limited to certain things and not general. I really had no idea how careful one should be. For instance, had Echo panicked in the garden, he could easily have jumped the wire-mesh fence protecting the 3-4 metre drop between my garden and my neighbour’s and got badly hurt or worse when he landed. I gave him two toilet stops on the way home from the SPA, using just a collar and lead – it was in the dark and I chose quiet places with nobody around. Also, fortunately, he has never run away for fear of staying in the house or with me, it has always been in order to have more fun on his own for a while and then come back home to comfort and food. This happened most recently on Sunday, when he was away for about four hours, cheekily ran at top speed right past me at the 3 hour mark, and returned at last with happily wagging tail, tired and hungry. You may well think that isn’t a nervous dog, but he is still scared of crowds, gunshots, some strangers, music in the street etc. He always combined nervousness and cheek.

    One thing I would add to your list would be a special, waterproof, rear seat cover of the hammock type. I bought one and a harness to attach Echo to the seatbelt socket before collecting him from the SPA and it has been invaluable as, though he loves traveling in the car, he often gets car-sick. The hammock type prevents the dog falling between the front and rear seats in the event of an accident or emergency stop. The car harness I bought at first was soon binned when I did a bit of research and discovered that few car harnesses for dogs give protection in an accident and that one was useless. The one I now have (Allsafe) was about €70, but has been properly tested. Because of his shape, I had to buy one too small for Echo’s weight, but I contacted the (German) manufacturers technical person, who discussed the problem and kindly sent me an extra carabiner to reinforce the attachment to the seatbelt. It is designed specifically for use in the car and very short walks, he sits obediently on the car seat to change harness for longer walks. He loves his car harness because it means being taken for a car ride. This harness protected Echo perfectly in a minor emergency stop at 30 km/h – anything more severe and I would have checked with the manufacturers whether to replace it.

    I don’t use a crate and Echo is happier unconfined if scared. However, for those who do use them, please think what could happen to a dog in an unsecured crate in a car crash and secure the crate to the car floor or frame. Never use an unsecured crate on the back seat: that could be lethal to the driver and front seat passenger (as could a dog flying through the air at 50 km/h).

  2. I would add that that you should not leave the dog on a leash unsupervised – I know of one that unfortunately hanged itself after being tied up and left alone, then jumping over a gate with the leash attached.

  3. I have had a rescue x griffon for just over two years. She remains nervous of anything to do with hunting – horns/guns and dogs baying. So much so that certain times she will not leave our garden for a walk or get off the sofa. But heyho, she is safe now, even though she doesn’t believe it! What terrible memories she must have to make her like this! She now has more love, decent food, warmth and comfort than she could ever have imagined! In return we get the most loving creature imaginable!

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