Tips for Shy and Fearful Foster Pets

As a foster carer it’s extremely likely that you will come across pets that are shy, fearful or anxious. This often stems from their past experiences with neglectful or abusive owners, problems with other pets in shelters, a lack of social interaction and a lack of exposure to certain experiences and situations.

To help foster pets begin to trust you and become less fearful of people and other animals, follow some of these helpful tips that we’ve learnt from the team at the Partnership for Animal Welfare

  1. Let the pet initiate contact

If your pet is shy and fearful, let them initiate contact with you. Try crouching or sitting on the floor, maintaining a nonthreatening sideways stance with no eye contact. Drop a treat halfway between you and the pet, and then reduce the distance until they are able to take the treat from your hand. This will help them gain confidence and trust so they will approach rather than retreat from you.

  1. Associate positive experiences with all members of the household

If your pet is shy or fearful around a specific member of the household, such as a male, it’s important for them to associate positive experiences with this person so they learn to trust them. Have members of the household all take turns in feeding the pet, walking them, playing with them and rewarding them. This can reduce the pet clinging to just one member of the household.

  1. Introduce the pet to other dogs and cats

If your pet is shy or scared when they encounter other pets, it’s important to very slowly introduce them to similar sized pets or pets of a similar breed who you know to be friendly and relatively calm. As time goes on, gradually introduce dogs or cats who are larger and more active. A great environment for socialization with other dogs is a puppy preschool or training class.

  1. Focus on training and obedience

Try to take a little time out each day to focus on obedience and teaching the pet new skills. This is mainly relevant to dogs and may involve teaching them to sit, heel, shake hands, roll over or walk properly on the lead. The more the dog knows how to do, and the more skills they can display to earn praise and treats, the more confident they will be.

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