When we rescued Lenny he was fine with me. But fairly early on my son, Adam, left him with me 2x for a couple of days. Then they moved in with me for a couple of months. Every time Adam left and Lenny stayed with me he became more afraid of me. He cowers away from me, won't let me pet him, and looks at me with such fearful eyes. I hoped that when I got my dog, Licorice, Lenny would see that I am not scary, but, although Lenny and Licorice get on well, Lenny continues to be afraid of me. Adam is in New Zealand and I am taking care of Lenny. He is staying in Adam's apartment because my place is also associated with abandonment, and Licorice and I are coming over 2x a day to feed and walk him, and we stay with him for company, sometimes overnight. Nothing is helping.
I have tried totally ignoring him, establishing myself as the alpha by giving him known commands and expecting he obey, giving him treats etc. Nothing helps, Advice?

  • Two more random thoughts: How big are you (esp. compared to your son) and how loud is your voice normally? And how much are you at home? Right now, the dog is not abandoned but at least without his owner in your sons apartment, and I am not that sure how much that helps. – Layna Jul 23 '15 at 5:47
  • For Lenny, your son is the alpha. So now the alpha left him alone to guard the territory and this other alpha with their pack keeps coming in and he can't do anything about it. I guess your best chance is to go through with this and when your son is back establish the fact that the alphas are friends and he is fine with you as an equal alpha for Lenny. Adding to the problem is, although Lenny is in his own territory, he is still feeling abandoned by the alpha and seems to feel unable to guard it on his own, so of course he is afraid. – skymningen Jul 23 '15 at 13:06
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    @skymningen I wish I could downvote comments. Alpha male dominance theory has been completely debunked and has no basis in science – ThomasH Aug 26 '15 at 14:28

Hand feeding is worth a shot - this is a technique often used to help dogs bond with humans either as puppies or after a traumatic experience. Get some of Lenny's favorite treats, or even better some high value treats like real meat, cheese, etc. Have a whole bunch of them broken up into pea sized amounts. Sit on the floor, far enough away so that Lenny is not trying to get away from you. Put a few of the treats on the ground around you, when he comes to get them offer lots of calm verbal praise. If Lenny is too scared to come get the treats, you can gently toss them a bit closer to him until he is willing to eat one. Again, offer calm verbal praise when he accepts the food. You want to get to the point where Lenny will take a treat from your hand. Once he will take the treats from your hand you can go on to feeding him a whole meal from your hand (assuming you feed him dry kibble). This will teach Lenny that you're a good guy and when you're around he gets treats. He will begin to associate your presence with positive things, and will eventually be happy to see you.

Depending on how severe his aversion to you is this could take a day or a week or a year. While you're doing this be careful not to force him to interact with you too much - live your normal life, see him as much as you usually would, but don't keep trying to pet him if he is clearly uncomfortable or anything.


I think you may have better luck being careful not to let Licorice inside Adam's apartment, and then taking them both, or just Lenny, someplace else to hang out. Maybe you guys go for a walk, maybe you guys sit at the park.

Are you going for walks with Lenny? I wonder if his extra energy from being cooped up is feeling into his fearfulness.

When you interact with Lenny, imagine that you are your favorite rolemodel - powerful, successful, and a leader. Exude confidence, and when you talk to Lenny, SMILE. Be confident and not afraid. I think your discouragement with the situation is also feeding into how Lenny is unhappy (because you are unhappy!).

I like that you tried to build Lenny's confidence with commands that he knows, but at this point I think it's more destructive because you aren't Lenny's master and whatever punishment from not following the command (say, a stern disapproving glare) is worse than not trying. If it were me, at this point, I'd just try to hang out with Lenny more and expect little of him.

Don't forget that professional dog trainers exist, and if Adam will be away for much longer, I might consider a basic dog training class, even though Lenny knows his basic commands, for its bonding and teamwork and trust.

Lastly, check to see if there is a cheap doggie daycare (for socialization) in your area. I was astonished to find one for so little as the cost of fast food in my area, so this might also be an avenue to investigate.


As a stray you just don't know the history.

I foster and I had a girl Monday - Friday that never warmed up to me.

At the clinic when I picked her up she was OK. And she was fine on walks.

In the house she would not come close to me even after 4 weeks. I strongly suspect there was man that abused her when the other party left the house. At first your son was not the primary party. Once your son was identified as the primary party then you became the mean man. It will just take time. Do nothing threatening.

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