2 weeks ago I adopted 2 dog puppies (sisters). Before adopting them I only went to the shelter once and didn't really ask many questions about their character, thinking that puppies couldn't have those many behavioral problems, and the shelter volunteer steered clear from the topic.

The puppies are 18 weeks old, I don't know much about their history except they lived without a mother for some time and in a shelter for about a month.

My problem is that the puppies don't want to be touched, unless I bribe them with food, in which case they allow humans to touch them only as long as there is food. Except for this problem, the puppies are fine, they play together, although not with humans.

After 2 weeks the situation hasn't improved much. During these 2 weeks I followed all the rules I could find:

  • I never forced them to do anything or never touched them against their will
  • Never scolded or screamed at them
  • Left a part of the house just for them to retreat when uncomfortable or scared
  • Hand fed them once a day
  • positively reinforced when they wanted to be touched

I was wondering if anyone faced the same situation and has any suggestion. I'm afraid that by staying at home and not experiencing the outside world they will have other problems when they grow up, but clearly they won't allow me to put them a collar or harness on.

P.S. I'm planning to call a dog trainer this week.

P.P.S. could adopting an adult stable dog help the situation?

Thanks for your help.

Update: I talked to a dog trainer who is also a vet. She said the dogs are probably second or third generation strays, and after some generations without contact with humans they become wild again. The key issue she said is that they shouldn't have been rescued because they didn't need to be, they were probably just fine in the wild. Anyway, she said that with a lot of patience and the right training techniques (i.e. positive reinforcement done right) they can learn anything, they are just unlikely to become kuddly puppies. It will take some time. I'll update with the progresses in a couple of months. Thanks again everyone who helped or just took the time to read the question.

1 Answer 1


Many shelter dogs can take weeks and even months to get fully comfortable. Keep doing what you’re doing and being patient. They will come around. A dog trainer might help but honestly if they are just nervous I don’t think that will help much. This is not a behavioral issue, but just them being nervous and unsure about their new environment. You have to remember that they could have been treated horribly before being taken in. I’m not sure adopting another dog would help much either. I think just keep doing what you’re doing and give lots of TLC and they will come around eventually. It’s just going to take some times.

Thank you for choosing adoption! I hope this helps

  • Thank you @Maggie2100's, hearing that it is normal is comforting. I'll hang in there and keep giving them lots of love
    – gionni
    Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 5:53
  • Please: this is the first time I read "TLC". What does it mean? :) Commented Oct 26, 2019 at 7:35

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