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I'm a dog trainer, and I have been working with a family that adopted a 2-year-old dog from a shelter not too long ago. The dog is very well-behaved and is responding well to training, but the family tells me that they have not felt that the dog is attaching to them. The dog doesn't seem to want to be pet or cuddled, and doesn't particularly want to play with them (he does, however, play alone). My clients are experienced pet-owners, who have adopted dogs before. I was wondering if anyone has any tips I can give the family to help with the attachment process? Thanks!

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  • How long has it been? A rescue we once saved took almost a year and a half before she cam out of her shell and would accept us as family. Patience, and a LOT of it, is required as I'm sure you and they know.
    – Dave
    Nov 9 '20 at 13:40
  • @Dave The dog was adopted around 10 months ago. You're certainly correct that it requires patience, and will definitely take more time! I was just wondering if anyone has any ideas that might help make the process smoother. Nov 9 '20 at 13:59
  • Understood but having done it with over a dozen Mastiffs over the years smooth doesn't come into play 99% of the time I'm afraid. Sorry if my response wasn't helpful.
    – Dave
    Nov 9 '20 at 13:59
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    Different dogs vary in their personality wrt. how "cuddly" they are, also non-rescue ones: e.g. certain hunting dog breeds like terriers but also livestock guardian dog breeds were not bred to attach much to humas since they are to work independently (also feral dog populations may have the easily attaching individuals selected "away"). The family may have to accept that they got a not-so-cuddly individual (of course that may still change). A second question is whether it would be good then to train the dog to safely endure a certain amount of petting/cuddling, first by owners then also by... Nov 9 '20 at 17:59
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    ... strangers. A few months ago, a child of ≈same height as my dog saw us, came running like greased lightning to hug the dog (parent running behind, nothing happend except some slobber was tranferred). Things like this happen, and it is good if the dog endures patiently (if it cannot enjoy). (Wrt the cuddling, we had to train hard when he was a puppy that not every human wants to become a friend and thus strangers need to be ignored. But my dog found hands approaching his head from above scary [not unusual], so we deliberately trained being petted from above, because it will happen.) Nov 9 '20 at 18:43
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If the dog is well trained then maybe they could come up with a "command" of sorts for playtime or family time... & get rewarded for the behavior... kind of a happy medium for awhile until the dog understands this is a forever home.

The dog may feel important by fulfilling a job and a compromise may be met?

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