How to Bond with an Adopted Dog with Socialization Issues

Hound dog in shelter adopted dog with socialization issues
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Many people consider adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue instead of buying or breeding one. Perhaps you’ve recently taken this step.
If you have adopted a dog, congratulations! You now have an amazing new member of the family.
However, sometimes dogs that come from a shelter or rescue often have some sort of emotional trauma, and it can be difficult for them to adjust and bond with their new humans.

So how do you bond with your newly adopted dog who might have socialization issues?

I have adopted several adult dogs over the years. Just like people, they all had individual personalities. Therefore, each dog required a slightly customized approach to help them to become part of the family.
I’ll share with you some methods I used that helped me bond with my adopted dogs, especially one that was more a little more challenging.

Many years ago, my husband and I adopted Amadeus, a Malamute/wolf mix, from a wolf dog rescue. 

(I wish people wouldn’t breed dogs just because they think it will be a cool mix that they can sell. And I especially wish they wouldn’t breed dogs with wolves for that reason. Don’t get me started! I may post on that later, but moving on…)

Anyway, wolves are not dogs, and they are often not trusting of humans. So Amadeus had some of that distrust in him. He was about two years old when we adopted him.
Malamute mix dog head in tail

Photo by Linda Kazares on Unsplash

This is not my Amadeus, but some wolf/dog mixes look similar to this

My husband had driven a couple of hours away to meet Amadeus and spend some time with him at the rescue before bringing him home. So I hadn’t met Amadeus yet.
The rescue organization had said that it would take time for Amadeus to build trust with people. So when my husband got home, rather than excitedly meeting the dog as he got out of the car, I stayed sitting on the lawn.
My husband let Amadeus sniff around his new surroundings (while leashed). I talked to Amadeus in a sweet but confident voice while he was exploring and taking it all in.
Eventually, my husband brought Amadeus near me as part of the exploration process. I didn’t reach out to pet him; I just continued speaking to him and let him explore me.
Once he checked me out for a bit, then I finally slowly reached my hand to let him sniff it and decide if he wanted to receive a gentle pet on the side of his face. 
So, the first thing is to: 

Give your newly adopted dog time to adjust to his new surroundings

Let him take his time exploring his new surroundings calmly. He won’t be quick to bond if he feels unsafe.
Family members are no doubt excited to pet and play with the new dog, but that will come in time. Imagine if you went to a place you had never been before, and a lot of people excitedly came up to you and started touching you.
A dog with trust issues doesn’t know these people are his friends yet. He’s most likely nervous about the change in surroundings and can feel overwhelmed with too much going on at once. You don’t want to add to his fear – you want to help the new dog to feel comfortable and relaxed.
This requires patience. Let the dog have some quiet time. Show him his new bed where he can lie down and take it all in, but don’t force him to lie on it. He may initially feel more comfortable on the floor. Or he may cautiously continue exploring the house.
But have a designated safe place for the dog to retreat to when he needs some alone time.
Before long, he should start to realize that this new environment is a safe place and will feel more comfortable.

Introduce your adopted dog to his new surroundings & family members in a positive way

This is especially important for adopted adult dogs who may have socialization issues. The dog may have not been treated kindly, and therefore may not trust anyone. That’s completely understandable.
Don’t rush introductions. Make the introduction an enjoyable and positive experience for him.
It’s important that family members are calm and reassuring when first meeting the new dog.
Dog on leash sniffing grass
Be cautious of moving in ways that the dog may perceive as threatening, such as sudden, jerky movements. Or swinging your arm down from above to pet him. These things may frighten a dog that has trust issues.
Once the newly adopted dog sees that his new family is kind and loving, he will be more apt to bond with all of you.

Be patient and understanding

The first few days can be very tough on a newly adopted dog, so be patient and understanding. Bonding with a new family happens with time and shouldn’t be forced.
He needs to get to know you and adjust.
As touched on above, remember not to overwhelm your newly adopted dog with too much attention at first, trying to build that bond quickly. He might find himself overwhelmed and stressed out instead, and that could impede your progress.

Spend time soothing your adopted dog in a relaxed environment

The most important thing that I did in bonding with our Amadeus is this:

A few days after we brought Amadeus into our life, I sat on the floor with him and very gently groomed him. I took a soft brush and sat there for at least an hour brushing his fur, massaging him and lovingly talking to him in a soothing voice.
I didn’t care how much fur was on my clothes, or how dirty Amadeus might have been. (We were still building up his trust before we gave him his first bath at our home.) I just spent time with him, letting him know that he was loved.
It was such a soothing experience. Apparently it was for Amadeus also, because I could tell that he was completely comfortable with me after that.
It wasn’t long after that bonding episode that we started giving him baths, taking him places with us and many other activities. It was like he had been a part of our family since he was a puppy.
So try the same with your adopted dog – just spend time on the floor with him, or where he feels comfortable, and gently brush and pet him. Reassure him that everything is safe for him. It’s amazing what this process can do to help a dog bond with you.
Woman brushing white Great Pyrenees dog on the floor

In Conclusion:

  • Remember that this will take time for both of you – don’t give up too soon. Many dogs just need some love from their new humans before feeling at ease around people.
  • Be patient and understanding while helping your new pet adjust to his new home.
  • Ask for help if you need it! Talk to the shelter or rescue where you adopted your dog. Talk to your vet or a dog trainer who specializes in working with dogs with socialization issues.
Doing all of the above suggestions definitely helped my husband and me to bond with our adopted dog who had some socialization issues.
Amadeus was an absolutely sweet dog and just needed some love and patience to draw those qualities out. I’m so glad we brought him in to our family!
If you have any questions about how best to care for your newest addition or want advice from someone who’s gone through this before, please post a comment below. I’ll do my best to give you assistance or point you in the right direction.
Again, congratulations to you and the new member of your family!
Woman kissing dog
BASS Mini Slicker Dog Brush
from: Muttropolis
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