Adopting a shy or traumatized pet can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but it also has its challenges. Here are some tips to make your furry friend as comfortable as possible in their new home.

  • Approach them slowly and gently. Shy or traumatized pets often feel threatened or startled by quick movements or by people entering their space. Instead of approaching them, consider sitting on the ground and allowing them to approach you. If they do approach you, reach out to them slowly and pet them in a gentle manner.
  • Pay attention to their body language. Animals will indicate through their body language whether they are comfortable with you approaching them or petting them. A tail that is tucked down or ears that are laid back are often signs of fear, anxiety, or discomfort. If you notice these signs, back away and give your pet more time and space to become comfortable with you.
  • Be patient. Just as we aren’t always comfortable with new people right away, it can take time for pets to become comfortable with new people in their lives. Don’t expect them to immediately want to interact with people in your family or other people coming into your home. It can take several months for your pet to start feeling comfortable.
  • Educate others about how to interact with your pet. Have a conversation with your family members, as well as other people who visit your home, about approaching your pet slowly, paying attention to their body language, and being gentle with them.
  • Provide your pet with a quiet, private space. It’s important for shy or traumatized pets to have a space that they can retreat to if they start to feel overwhelmed. Pick a space in your house that is appropriate for this and put your pet’s bed, bowls, crate, and toys in this area. If your pet is resting in this area, give them space and wait until they decide to leave the area to interact with them and pet them.
  • Establish a regular routine. Shy or traumatized pets benefit from having regular resting, feeding, and walking routines. Find a time of day that works best for you for each of these activities and stick with them.
  • Use food to bond. Food and treats can be powerful motivators for a pet, so you can use these in small amounts to help teach your pet that they’re in a safe space.
  • Ask for help. If you’re unsure about how to manage your pet’s behavior, don’t hesitate to reach out to your shelter staff for advice or help!