How 4 Shy Dogs Became Family Dogs

Entering a shelter, rescue, or animal control looking for your special 4-legged new family member is a great feeling. There are so many to choose from that need forever homes! The dogs that always appeal to people are the excited, smiling ones who come to the front of their pen and greet you, whether it be with a wagging tail or a welcoming bark. Those are the happy, socialized dogs that always get adopted. Dogs who cower, hide, or hunker down in the back of their pens are sometimes overlooked and are deemed “unfriendly.” Nothing could be farther from reality. Those dogs need love too and most are quick to overcome their shyness or fear once they have the security and love from their new human.

Please, don’t ever let the fact that a dog is shy prevent you from adopting him or her. At Born Free we have had shy, scared dogs of all breeds and sizes. Some have had a rough start in life and that is why they are skeptical of humans. Some are just born that way; dogs, like humans, all have different personalities and comfort zones. Anyone who has adopted a shy dog rarely regrets it; they all say once the dog gets comfortable in their new life, they are happy!

So, the next time you’re browsing the shelter for that special dog, don’t discount the shy “unfriendly” ones – go in and meet them, because they may be exactly what you were looking for.

Below are some shy dogs adopted from Born Free:


“Ask anyone to name one person, including themselves, who at some point in their life hasn’t been either frightened, confused, or anxious, and I am confident that they would be unable to do so. Now think of the love and respect that you felt, or ever still feel, for the person who accepted you or adorned you with patience and presence, or encouraged you towards a better way while allowing them to see you at your worst. There is an unmistakable bond formed in this type of cultivation of a vulnerable relationship, and it is no different than with a misunderstood animal, such as my girl, Matilda. Some might even say that the best friendships are ignited in this way!”

~ Nicole


“We were looking for a dog for two months. We didn’t know what kind of dog would be a good fit for us and our lifestyle. At first, we were looking for a specific breed, then the next day for a younger dog, the next day for a puppy, the next day for a high-energy dog.

We were looking at the shelter’s website and when we saw Leia, it was a love at first sight. We called immediately so we could get to know her as soon as possible. When we met Leia, she was scared, stressed, distant and she had sad eyes. Her ex-owner left her at the shelter, and she had a broken heart. After one hour talking to her to gain her trust, we finally gave her a treat and we made a connection. In that moment, we realized that we were looking for a dog we could help and give a second chance to, and to support her so she could heal and become a happy dog.

The next day we filled out the papers for the adoption and we brought Leia to our home. She stayed in the opposite room from us, she was scared, and she didn’t understand where she was or who we were. At night when we went to bed and the lights were off, she woke up and started walking around to discover her new home. This gave us the signal that the walls were broken down.

After 3 months, she still is shy with strangers, but once she knows you, she is excited to see you. She wags her tail and walks faster to say hi to her friends. She loves being in the same room where we are. She loves her first walk in the morning and is comfortable to follow her routine and at the same time taking new adventures that challenge her. Every day increases her confidence. She is doing better, and she feels better.

It’s a long way for Leia to learn how to play with a toy again, to have confidence around our apartment, and to jump on the sofa – it will take time, but we will do it with love.

This is something important that you should know if you are going to adopt a young or adult pet: They come with their own personality just as you have yours, so this is a partner journey where both of you are going to start a beautiful relationship, a new friendship for the rest of your lives, where they’ll never let you walk alone, they’ll love you unconditionally, and they’ll take care of you while expecting nothing but a lovely word or warm cuddle.”

~ Paula & Jose


“Because Ginger was so shy and scared when she was surrendered, I agreed to foster her rather than having her stay at the shelter. Ginger’s whole body quivered as I held her. The drive home scared her. My home scared her. The yard scared her. Wind scared her. Grass scared her. My cats really scared her. She was a very shy, scared little dog.

Ginger wouldn’t come out of her open crate for 2 days; she never barked or made a sound. Then, slowly, she started coming out, coming over to sniff me, and eventually she jumped in my lap, which was such amazing progress, it made me cry. It was hard not to love this shy little dog who had stolen my heart. She quickly learned that she’d never be told “no”, she’d never be yelled at, and she could get on any piece of furniture she wanted, which included sleeping with me. Every day was something new for her, and she eventually overcame her most of her shyness. She made so much progress quickly and now is a very happy, well-adjusted, cat-chasing, wonderful dog; only fireworks and thunder scare her (they scare me too).

Ginger goes on vacation, she loves hotel-life, is a great little watchdog, and has been in more National and State Parks than most people! Her favorite place is Everglades National Park where she sits by the Bay, hoping to see manatees come up for air! She even got a “Bark Ranger” tag from Biscayne NP for being a well-behaved canine visitor. As long as she is with one of us, she is happy. During these virus stay-at-home months, Ginger has brightened our existence. She gives so much love and asks for nothing in return except to always be with us.

When I took Ginger to foster, they insisted I take her crate so she would have a place to feel secure; I reluctantly took it. Soon, she would go in it less and less. After she was completely at ease, I put it out in my shed and bought her a cushy bed instead, which is now her happy, secure place. I’m telling you; shy dogs quickly learn they are loved and no longer have to be shy or scared. Of course, I was a foster fail and ended up adopting Ginger! I was always a big-dog person (big sturdy breeds), but this little 16-pounder has brought far more into my life than I ever thought possible, so I guess I am a little-dog person now! We just love her so much and wonder how we ever got along without her!”

~ Julie

Ace (formerly Nico)

“Ace has been home for two weeks now. He came home the day of adoption and wouldn’t leave the bathroom after we bathed him – he was so shy. He slowly made his way out as the day passed and by the next morning, he started to realize this was home. Although he still is shy meeting new people, he is definitely more open than when he first came home. He cuddles, plays and enjoys runs and the dog park. Fairly quickly he opened up to us and he makes our home complete. Special thank you to all at Born Free Pet Shelter for taking such good care of Ace and blessing our family with him.”

~ Kamila

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