​​How Can You Calm a Scared Rescue Dog?

Zack Keithy is the Chief Editor at Daily Dog Drama. He was formerly a certified vet tech for a good 6 years before moving on to greener pastures. Right now, he is still heavily involved in dog parenting duties with his two dogs, Molly and Bella. At the same time, he is busy creating lots of useful resources. Check them out on his blog!

As someone who’s been lucky enough to work with numerous rescue dogs during my time as a vet tech, I’ve gained some valuable insights from these incredible creatures. 

Today, I’d love to chat about a topic that means a lot to me: How to comfort a scared rescue dog.

Adopting a rescue dog is an incredibly special and fulfilling journey, though it does come with its own set of challenges.  

Many of these adorable canines have faced tough circumstances in their past, and as a result, they may feel fearful and anxious in their new homes. 

That’s why it’s crucial to grasp the techniques that can make your new furry companion feel safe and loved.

Why You Need To Calm A Rescue Dog

Let me tell you why it’s super important to calm down a scared rescue dog. There are a bunch of reasons behind it, and they all have a big impact on your pup’s well-being.

First things first, when you take the time to calm your scared furry friend, it makes them feel more at ease and secure in their new home. And let me tell you, a dog who feels safe is a dog who’s bound to be happier and healthier in the long run. It’s like creating a cozy sanctuary just for them!

On top of that, when you work on calming your rescue dog, you’ll notice some awesome benefits. One of them is that a calm and well-adjusted dog is a whole lot easier to train. Yep, you heard that right! So not only will you have a peaceful home, but you’ll also have a smart and obedient sidekick.

 Plus, when you establish that calmness, it helps foster a stronger bond between you and your furry companion. It’s all about building that deep connection and trust.

So, remember, taking the time to calm your scared rescue dog is totally worth it. It’s a win-win situation for both of you!

Understanding a Scared Rescue Dog

Symptoms of fear in rescue dogs

Let’s dive into understanding our scared rescue dogs a bit better. 

Before we can help them feel more at ease, it’s crucial to recognize what fear looks like in our furry friends. 

Once we’ve got that down, we can start making a positive difference in their lives.

So, here are some common signs of fear in rescue dogs that you can keep an eye out for:

  • Shaking or trembling: If you notice your pup trembling or shaking, it’s often a clear indicator that they’re feeling scared or anxious. Poor things!
  • Hiding: Dogs have a knack for finding cozy nooks and crannies when they’re overwhelmed or frightened. So, if you spot your pup hiding under furniture or seeking out small spaces, chances are they’re trying to cope with their fears.
  • Whining or whimpering: Sometimes, dogs will express their anxiety through vocalizations. So, if you hear your furry buddy whining or whimpering, it’s a good sign they’re feeling anxious or scared.
  • Panting: Keep an eye on your dog’s breathing. If they’re panting rapidly, even when they’re not physically active, it could be a sign of anxiety. It’s like they’re trying to catch their breath and find some relief from their worries.
  • Avoiding eye contact: Dogs are pretty perceptive, and when they feel uneasy, they might try to avoid making eye contact. It’s their way of saying, “Hey, I’m feeling a bit anxious or uncomfortable here.”
  • Aggression: Sometimes fear can trigger aggression in dogs. So, it’s essential to be cautious if your pup starts displaying aggressive behavior. It’s their way of protecting themselves when they’re feeling scared.

Reasons why rescue dogs might be scared

Let’s dive into the reasons why our rescue dogs might feel scared. Remember, each dog has their own unique story, personality, and set of experiences, which can contribute to their fears and anxieties.

Here are some of the most common reasons why rescue dogs might feel scared:

  • Previous abuse or mistreatment: Dogs that have endured abuse or mistreatment in their past might carry deep-seated fears and anxieties. It’s heartbreaking, but these experiences can leave a lasting impact on their emotional well-being.
  • Lack of socialization: Dogs who haven’t had much exposure to various people, animals, and environments might find themselves feeling scared or overwhelmed in their new surroundings. The unfamiliar sights, smells, and sounds can be quite daunting for them.
  • Traumatic experiences: Just like humans, dogs can experience traumatic events that leave them feeling fearful. Whether it’s a car accident, a natural disaster, or any other distressing incident, these experiences can trigger anxiety and fear in certain situations.
  • Separation anxiety: Some rescue dogs may have a fear of being left alone, especially if they have been abandoned or surrendered by their previous owners. This fear of separation can manifest as anxiety and distress when they’re away from their trusted companions.
  • Medical issues: It’s important to remember that physical health can play a role in a dog’s emotional well-being. Pain or illness can make them feel anxious or fearful. So, if your furry friend is exhibiting signs of fear, it’s worth considering a check-up to rule out any underlying medical issues.

Impact of fear on rescue dogs

Fear can really take a toll on our rescue dogs, causing them to experience anxiety, exhibit aggression, and engage in destructive behavior. 

It’s tough for them to form those precious bonds with their new family members when they’re overwhelmed by fear. That’s why it’s absolutely crucial for us to step in and help our furry pals feel safe and secure in their new home.

In the upcoming section, we’re going to delve into some techniques that can work wonders in calming a scared rescue dog.

These tried-and-true methods have proven to be effective in providing comfort and reassurance to our four-legged friends.

Techniques for Calming a Scared Rescue Dog

There are many techniques for calming a scared rescue dog, but not all of them work for every dog. 

Remember: you need to take a patient and empathetic approach and experiment with different techniques until you find what works best for your furry friend. 

Here are some techniques to try:

Create a Safe and Comfortable Environment

One of the greatest things you can do for a scared rescue dog is to create a safe and cozy environment that they can call their own. Let’s explore some tips on how to make your home the perfect haven for your furry friend:

  • Provide a quiet space: Set up a special area where your dog can retreat to whenever they feel anxious or overwhelmed. It could be a comfy crate, a soft bed, or a peaceful corner in your house. This dedicated space gives them a sense of security and a safe haven to relax in.
  • Consider calming aids: Calming aids can work wonders in soothing a scared rescue dog. Pheromone diffusers, which emit comforting scents, or natural remedies like lavender can help create a relaxing atmosphere for your furry companion.
  • Limit exposure to new experiences: When your rescue dog is still adjusting, it’s beneficial to limit their exposure to new people, animals, and environments. This allows them to gradually acclimate and build confidence in their new surroundings before facing too many unfamiliar situations.
  • Don’t forget their diet: I think we all know that dogs love to eat, and it’s super important for us to provide them with the right one. Make sure to do your dog food comparison and find one that suits your new dog’s breed, health conditions, and lifestyle.

Building Trust with the Dog

When it comes to building trust with your rescue dog, taking a patient and gradual approach is absolutely key. Let’s explore some tips that can help you establish a strong bond of trust with your furry friend:

  • Respect their pace: It’s important to remember that your scared rescue dog may need time to adjust and feel comfortable. Avoid pushing them into situations they’re not ready for. Let them approach new people, animals, and experiences on their own terms. Patience is key here!
  • Embrace positive reinforcement: Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool for building trust and boosting your dog’s confidence. Reward them with treats, praise, and affection when they display good behavior or make progress. This helps them associate positive experiences with new people and situations.
  • Steer clear of punishment or aggression: Punishment or aggression can intensify your dog’s anxiety and hinder the trust-building process. Instead, focus on positive reinforcement techniques that motivate and encourage good behavior. This approach fosters a safe and trusting environment for your rescue dog to thrive in.

Engaging the Dog

Now that you have a new furry addition to your household, it’s time to engage and have some fun together! By involving your rescue dog in activities they enjoy, you can help them overcome their fears and settle into their new home more comfortably. Here are some tips for engaging your lovable companion:

  • Discover their favorite activities: Every dog has their own unique preferences, so it’s essential to explore and find out what your rescue dog enjoys. It could be playing fetch, going for leisurely walks, or simply snuggling up together on the couch. Observe their body language and behavior to determine what brings them joy and makes them feel at ease.
  • Play as a calming technique: Playtime can be an amazing tool for calming a scared rescue dog. Engaging in games like fetch or tug-of-war allows your dog to burn off excess energy and reduce anxiety. Remember to incorporate positive reinforcement during play, such as offering treats or praise for good behavior. If your pup starts to feel overwhelmed, take breaks and give them a chance to relax.
  • Strengthen the bond through training: Training serves as a wonderful way to establish a strong bond with your rescue dog and help them feel more secure in their new environment. Basic obedience training not only teaches them important commands but also builds their confidence. Consider enrolling your dog in more advanced training classes, such as agility or nose work, which provide mental stimulation and a sense of accomplishment.

Additional Techniques

In addition to all of the above suggestions, I have a few additional techniques you might want to try out too. Here are some examples:

  • Consider incorporating natural remedies to help calm your scared rescue dog! Some natural options, like lavender or chamomile, can have a soothing effect on dogs. You can use these remedies in the form of essential oils or herbal supplements. Just make sure to check with your veterinarian first to ensure their safety and proper usage for your furry friend.
  • Additionally, if your dog’s anxiety is more severe, it might be necessary to consult a veterinarian for medication. While not exactly a technique, it’s an important consideration. A veterinarian can prescribe medication that can help reduce your dog’s anxiety and make them feel more comfortable in their new home. It’s essential to discuss any concerns you have with your veterinarian and carefully follow their instructions.


Bringing a dog into your life for a second chance is truly incredible! Calming a scared rescue dog may take time, but with patience, empathy, and a range of techniques, you can make a remarkable difference. 

The suggestions I’ve shared with you here are a great starting point, but it’s important to remember that progress can happen gradually. Take things slow and steady, allowing your furry friend to adjust at their own pace. Consistency is key in building trust and providing a sense of security. If you encounter any challenges or feel the need for additional support, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional, such as a veterinarian or a qualified dog trainer!