Scared Rescue dog needs help


New member
Approximatly two years ago I rescued a 9 month old "american bulldog." Named Jade. breed is questionable, that's just what her paperwork says. She looks like a little pocket pit. When I brought her home, she was afraid of everything. EVERYTHING!. I couldn't even get her to go outside without leaving the door opening and walking away. Over time she bonded to my other Dog, Bella who at the time was a 6 year old english bulldog that i've had since she was a puppy. (she's still an english bulldog, she's just 8 now, lol) She's bombproof..a great dog, and provided a great support system for this new rescue. I really think she taught her how to be a dog. Jade eventually got comfortable around me, and my mom. I lived alone at the time, so my mom made a huge effort to come over every day and hang out with her. I found that the sweet high pitched baby talk seemed to get a better more positive response from jade than normal or stern tones. Over the next two years jade did come out of her shell alot. Over all she's a great sweet dog. I can take both dogs on hikes unleashed and i know they won't go anywhere. Jade is good around other dogs, and people. She plays, runs, wags her tail like crazy. Her only aggression is some food and toy possession. but only towards my other dog or my two cats, and she only snaps, she doesn't bite. she has NEVER shown aggression towards any human...However...the above positive milestones only happen when it's just me, and Bella. Or my mom. She is still so afraid of everything outside of my house. I can't even take her for a walk without Bella. She's a totally different dog. My mom even tried taking just her to her house to get some alone time and learn how to be on her own. It helped a little but not much. When I first got her, for about two weeks she pooped in her crate. Luckily that went away and she potty trained pretty easily. maybe about a year ago..summer 2019 she started going in the house. My best guess is that she got stung by a bee from a nest right outside the house (my backyard is fenced in, they have free reign there) and was scared to go out. It's been pee pads ever since. Shes crate trained, so crating isn't an issue, but there are nights i'm not home so I just feel bad having her in a crate all the time. Here's where i'm really struggling and my heart is breaking....about 6 months ago I started a relationship with someone. I have never seen this dog so scared. When he comes over, she hides in her crate or in a corner and shakes. I don't know what it is. I've had her around other guys but never for a long term time period like this. I don't know if it's because hes a guy, or because of his deep voice, or because of a certain smell (he smokes). He's tried ignoring her, he's tried giving her treats...nothing seems to help. and part of the problem i think is that he's not around all the time. I really don't know what to do. While this is the big stresser with Jade, I still think the underlying issue is that she's a scared dog. She even still runs from me sometimes in the house. which is her most safe place where she is her most unscared self. I've tried food...I really have. Her favorites...peanut butter, cheese...She's a food motivated dog but only to a certain point. She will take food from my boyfriend but only if he goes up and gives it to her. She will never walk up to him for food. No amount of peanut butter or cheese will get this dog to go for a walk confidently on her own. I'm always pulling her til at least half way that she doesn't think the house is close by anymore for her to run back to. i NEVER would even think about giving up a pet. I don't believe in it. Once you take a dog, it's yours for they're life. But my boyfriend and I both have older dogs. Eventually were going to be left with jade. and i'm just worried what kind of life that will be for all of us. Managing a dog that's scared of everything for her entire life? My mom offered to take her in leu of giving her up for adoption but i know my mom doesn't really want a dog full time. I hope someone has some suggestions. I've tried a few CBD Anti-anxiety difference. Thinking of asking my vet to prescribe something to take the edge off. I really think there's some back to basic training that needs to happen, i just don't know where to start. Raising a dog from a puppy was no issue. A dog coming to me with problems that doesn't seem to show any progression.....i'm so stuck. Thanks.


CRR Founder, Consultant Lead
Staff member
I would say your doing an outstanding job and definitely observing some good results. Unfortunately many dogs are failed by us humans when breeding and socializing puppies. Every dog has an imprint/critical stage which is around the first 16 weeks of their lives. After that we have to do remedial socialization because we can never get that time back. I always recommend to never beat ourselves up when it comes to fear and anxiety in a dog. It’s one of the hardest things to work with and unfortunately many dogs will fall into what I label “management for life”. Looks like you got your dog way after 16 weeks and maybe we are not even sure what went on during the first 16 weeks.
Me personally definitely seen fearful dogs do way better with a good confident dog and your observing this too. I would definitely add if not already basic obedience which I believe all dogs need this foundation. This will also give a dog confidence when they understand their behavior does have effect on their environment. It is said to empower them and I am a big believer.

I’ll try to address most of your questions and concerns in this one post but pretty sure I’ll miss some and will reread. Feel free to ask questions at anytime.

For the fear of the backyard I would try to maybe to go out the front door to the backyard and just try to have a fun session if possible and leave on a good not. Reintroduce the backyard as a safe place if we think Jade had a bad experience (bee sting). I would also maybe go on shorter walks right by the house for now and try to get Jade to use her nose. We find that fearful dogs that use their nose outside desensitize to surrounding environments. You can do this by teaching Jade nose work which will also help her in the yard. I will post some links on jose work asap

Now for unfamiliar human intros unfortunately every new human will have to build a relationship with Jade. My definition of relationship is a reinforcement history which it seems you have been doing. Some dogs will trust an unfamiliar human in a few minutes, hours, days or weeks. I’ll give some ideas and you can add some of the things I list while watching her body language to see how she is responding. Definitely learn some body language to understand how she may be feeling in any environmental context.
Fear is probably the easiest to read but it’s good to read the whole dog which helps a lot and even the slightest movement can help you read a dog.
You can have new intro’s just ignore with no eye contact which seems your doing. Instead of hand feeding I will have them toss soft eating high value treats/food every time they move or walk by the dog. Try to have them walk by on angles not straight at the dog. By hand feeding many fearful dogs will be in a state of conflict etc should I or shouldn’t I. The idea here is to work on counter/classical conditioning by changing the CER - conditioned emotional response from bad to good. Example human moves or walks by and the triggered CER is fear and anxiety. Therefore if we toss food it rains good things when human moves or walks by so we change the CER from bad to good. I would also try to take that short walk with you Jade and boyfriend but depending on how she is doing with the training we don’t want to trigger stack (more than one stimuli that elicits fear/anxiety). Maybe after she gains confidence from obedience and nose work. Also have boyfriend put feeding bowl down and start asking for the obedience you are instilling. Or you ask for sit and have boyfriend toss the food/reinforcer to help build a reinforcement history hence relationship. Doing things like this should help new humans get to the level of trust you and mom have.

I heard good things about CBD oil and the top negative thing is usually diarrhea. I would definitely speak to your vet about an SSR which they do pair with behavior modification if a dog is incapable to think and is always anxious and fearful. I would personally have to observe Jade to give my opinion on meds. A qualified trainer would definitely be helpful too. As for the food and aggression I would definitely manage that for now therefore no toys or bones on the floorSeparate them for feeding or playing with toys until we further our training and behavior mod.

Please feel free to ask questions and I’ll reread the thread and add any links I think will be helpful.

I always say listen and read everything and take what you need for your toolbox. Great job by the way sounds like your definitely doing all the right things.

I also teach dogs the cue “say hello” which the dog understands human will let you. I do this by capturing the behavior every time I let the dog. If we capture behaviors enough the dig will tie the behavior with the cue/command. So I or unfamiliar humans can ask the dog if they want to “say hello” get petted. Giving dog choices helps build confidence.

On that note it’s very important to instill each cue/command where the dog understands what is expected of them. Etc luring, shaping, capturing and promoting...