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My wife and I adopted our first rescue mutt, Maggie, just under five years ago. Taking a guess (DNA test results were inconclusive), she's some sort of wire-haired terrier/maybe shepherd mix, but we like to call her our "super mutt." She's about 35 pounds. She has been wonderful. She's smart, adventurous, happy, obedient (though crazy at times), and a big time couch cuddler. Watching her blossom from somewhat aloof when she arrived in 2015 to what she is today has given us tremendous joy.

Enter Molly, our newly adopted second fur baby. She has been with us since last Monday (May 11). She's around 2-3 years old, roughly 40 pounds, similar . She was found wondering in the woods in a rural part of our state and taken to a local shelter. We learned through her petfinder post and communications with the shelter that Molly was very fearful and unsocialized, but that she did not have any problems with aggression. When we did our first meet and greet, we learned that she had been at the shelter for 1.5-2 years. This particular shelter is well ran and staffed with qualified dog lovers, but it doesn't have a foster program. In other words, Molly had been living in a kennel for all that time.

After learning all of this, we decided that Molly needed someone to give her a chance, and that we wanted her to come and live with us. We knew it would be a challenge, that she would be fearful and take quite a while to adjust, and that we would need to be patient with her. That said, the people at the shelter thought our Maggie would be a great big sister/teacher for Molly, as she's so confident, happy, and social.

Anyway, with that as background, we're just looking for some experience, guidance, encouragement, hope, etc. Molly has been with us for about a week and a half. Not very much time given her first few years of life. She's indeed quite fearful and spends most of her time hiding. A few specific issues we've encountered/would appreciate information about:

(1) crate/sleeping arrangements. We have a plastic crate that we've been using - the You & Me brand Classic Dog Kennel, Large. It seems like it's the right size - not huge, but large enough that she can stand up at turnaround. At the same time, the big old softy in me thinks she should have more space, so I worry. Like I said above, she's a mutt, but I'd say she's around the size of an Australian Shepherd.

The other issue is that we've been keeping her crate in our bedroom, in the corner that is furthest away from our bed. The thinking was that she would feel less isolated and maybe get used to us/feel like a part of the pack faster if we let her sleep in our room. Our other dog, Maggie, sleeps on a doggie bed next to my side of our bed. Molly has been quite loud and fidgety throughout the night. I don't know if she's basically become nocturnal through her years at the shelter/in the woods, if she's uncomfortable in her crate, if she doesn't like being so close to us, etc. We are thinking about moving the crate to our guest bedroom, which is right next to our room. We would leave the doors open so she could hear us, but also hopefully get more sleep when she's not right there making all that noise!

(2) food/eating. Maggie, our first doggo, is about as food motivated as it gets. She chows her breakfast immediately. Molly does not. We've been putting her food bowl on the floor in our bedroom, close to her kennel, and shutting the door. Sometimes she doesn't eat, though, and we really can't leave the food on the floor AND keep the door open so Molly can venture out into the house if she wants. Any tips about feeding a grazer/reluctant eater with a little piggy also in the house would be huge.

(3) exercise. We've found that Molly sort of likes to play around (once we can get her outside) when Maggie plays fetch, which Maggie loves. I will through the ball for Maggie, and Molly will sort of casually follow. Other than that, because Molly is so scared, it's hard to get her to move around much. We want to make sure she gets exercise, though, as it seems to me that this will help with her anxiety.

(4) our general behavior. Molly often cowers when we move around. We've been trying our best to limit our noise levels and move slowly when she's nearby. I try not to maintain eye contact with her and sort of face to the side if I have to approach. Sometimes (read: often) she won't go outside willingly, so we have to leash her up to get her out. When we do, we have to go into her kennel to hook her up. I'm not sure if that's a bad thing or not. Basically, we'd just like to hear people's thoughts about how to behave generally with Molly and around our home while she adjusts.


Thank you for reading this lengthy post! Any information you can share would be much appreciated.



Here's her kennel: https://www.petco.com/shop/en/petcostore/product/you-and-me-classic-dog-kennel-large-2494833?cm_mmc=EML-_-EMTRX-_-CCY-_-BPS-_-PET-_-MUL-_-0-_-PET_ORDCONFPICK-_-DE_PET_ORDCONFPICK-_-product_url&kxconfid=tbc1h9h8v&kxcampaignid=PET_ORDCONFPICK&kxadvertiserid=sfmc
 

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I did a lot of fostering over the years, and IMO even with the easiest of them, you don't see the "real" dog until they've been in a home 30-60 days. I also think what works best with all of them is a matter of fact approach and making the rules and boundaries of the household clear. Learning the boundaries of their new life seems to give them confidence. Doing the "oh, poor baby" thing with a fearful dog doesn't help. "Don't worry about it, that's okay," or "Whoops, that's okay, I'll take care of it," often does.

Having a well-adjusted dog like your Maggie around really can help. The first fearful foster I had was so bad it took 2 of us to get her in my car. It was like trying to get a resistant cat into a crate (Had a Dodge Omni at the time, crate was no option.) She rode the 25 miles to my house with her head jammed down in between the seat and seat back. After a couple of rides with my own dog, who loved car rides, Betty hopped in without a fuss and rode watching out the window.

My new rescues always slept in a crate beside my bed. If that's already Maggie's place, I'd opt for as close to you as possible. If noisy because of plastic crate you could try some kind of mat, unless she's the kind that chews anything like that.

I'm not against judicious use of force as in your leashing her and forcing her to go out, but why do you have to leash her in her kennel (I assume you mean crate)? She sleeps there. You may put her there for safety during the day now and then, but generally, once she's out in the a.m., I'd close the door. No hiding in there during family time.

As to the food thing, any way you can arrange things so she can see/hear Maggie eating without any chance of Maggie getting to Molly's food? Baby gate instead of closed door? I might try that and then if Molly does't finish, let her see Maggie getting to clean up what she didn't eat (not really, a bite or 2 from that dish). Sometimes competition helps.

Funny irrelevant story - My first Rottie puppy went through a stage of not eating or not eating much, and of course I was worried. I didn't have other dogs at the time but had cats. So I picked up one of the cats and held her by the bowl. "See? If you don't eat, Toes will get it." The first time I did that, the puppy ate all her food. So next meal, puppy's not eating. I hold the cat by the bowl again, "If you don't eat, Toes will get it." The puppy licked the cat on the face and walked away. She might as well have said, "Fool me once...."
 

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The second dog is likely genetically fearful in addition to the lack of environmental exposure as a puppy. It is MUCH harder to help this in an older dog that has no food drive (and likely she will always be fearful). She is so fearful you have to reach in her crate to leash her up to go out.

The more confident dog will help the fearful dog but be aware you are in for a long haul. It is fine to crate her at night and have the other dog loose (this is my arrangement.. the three year old dog is crated next to my bed at night and the old dog.. coming 10.. is loose. You can try a mat in the crate or you could try some low level "white noise." Everyone might sleep better.

As to feeding, feed her in her crate and shut the room door. In 20 minutes if she has not eaten, take the food up. No food (other than training) until next meal. Rinse and repeat. Do not beg her to eat. She will, eventually. No dog will starve itself to death.

As far as any training that should be one on one time with the other dog not there and I suggest you use something REALLY good. Cheese, roast beef, cooked chicken or bits of those frozen pre-made meatballs (thaw them). You might even use bits of those meatballs to get her to willingly come out of the crate. My dog prefers the Italian meatballs over Swedish Meatballs (I use them to reward article indication in tracking).

In the end, you will likely ALWAYS have a fearful dog. Probably a dog that will be happiest staying home and not going out of the yard and house. You can try to chip away at this and perhaps build confidence using the confident dog. I wish you luck.
 

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Thank you for your responses. We are putting serious thought into either shutting her crate or our bedroom door once Molly is out in the morning, so she learns to spend her time elsewhere in the house during the day (or during "family time").

I appreciate the honesty re: the possibility of her always being fearful. It's not easy to hear, though. Both my wife and I have been feeling a bit discouraged, wondering if we did the right thing. Would it have been better if Molly was euthanized? To be clear, we don't think that and are not even remotely considering it. It's just crossed my mind over the past few weeks...was she so far gone when the rescue found her that the possibility of her having a happy life was dead and buried? Or did that possibility die when she spent over a year at a shelter?

Maybe I'm being more honest and raw than I should be on this thread, but it helps to get it out. We just want her to be happy and learn that life can be enjoyed. It's okay if she's fearful, as long as she'll eat, go outside, and experience doggo joy and happiness.
 

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If you are determined to "fix" Molly and make her what you consider normal, then yes, it would be better if you hadn't adopted her. If you are willing to live with her limitations, which may be that she'll never be happy anywhere except in her own home and yard, then you've given her a blessing. Some dogs, even if acquired as puppies and given the best start by the breeder, just can't be everything we'd like them to be. They need limited circumstances.

But don't go judging yet. You've had her 12 days, and she's had years without normal life or reason to trust. Be patient and give her time.
 

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I wouldn't give up on her so soon. I got a 2 year old Miniature poodle who from the time she was a puppy was locked in a box stall, never out at all. They bought her for breeding and when they could not get her bred they wanted to get rid of her so I took her. I just started out slowly with her, throwing treats to her and walking away. It took over a year before she would walk through the door when I opened it without bolting through and I had to sort of herd her back into the house as could not catch her outside. Gradually she got more confident, I could walk up to her outside and put a leash on her. I do have a Golden Doodle that is very kind and laid back which really helped her. Now almost three years later, she acts like normal dog, wagging her tail all the time. She is still terrified of strangers but I have been slowly working on it but not rushing her. I live by myself and she is so happy now, sleeps on the bed at night and I have even taken her to the dog park. It is a small dog park and only let my dogs go in when it is empty which is most of the time. She loves running around with Bonnie and comes running when I call her to go home. (I also got her spayed just after I got her so when the previous owner said she wanted her back so they could breed her artificially, I could happily say TOO LATE.)
 
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