Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Adopting a Hoarder Dog

Adopting a dog is usually a joyous event for a family. They can't wait to bring the pup into their home, show the dog his new bed, toys and treats and cuddle it. They want to pet him, stroke his fur and tell him all about the great life he has ahead of him.
This would strike terror in the heart of a of hoarder dog.

Most dogs that come from hoarding situations have had very little human contact. They've spent their days huddled with the other dogs and often had to fight for food. To have a human, who can seem like a giant to a smaller dog, approach with arms out, reaching toward him can scare the heck out of him. Imagine if you're in a foreign land where you don't speak the language and all these really big people suddenly have their hands all over you. You don't know where the bathroom is, you don't know where your other dog friends are, and you don't even know how to ask for a drink of water.  You've barely seen people, let alone have any want to touch you. Most hoarders do it because they love dogs and are trying to save the world. Unfortunately, the dogs are often unsocialized and neglected as their numbers mount.

Hoarder dogs can make the best pets. They are sweet, loyal and usually fairly calm. Their one flaw. Hoarder dogs are very shy. The one thing they need from their adoptive family isn't the toys and treats (although treats always help!) is time.

When you first bring your hoarder dog home show it the bed, where the water and food is and then just stand back. Leave the dog to explore on its own. Some will come out fairly quickly and others might hide in their crate for a day or so. Don't worry. If he's hungry he'll come to the food. Just make sure you show him where it is. Depending on how your home is set up you might want to offer the food closer to his crate for a day or two and gradually move it to the spot you prefer.

I'm not always a proponent of crate training but for a hoarder dog it can be his safety spot. A place with walls to protect him while he figures out the dynamics of the family. When he goes into his crate let that be his quiet time. The crate should be big enough for the dog to fully stand and turn around in. If he's going to be crated for hours at a time, it would have to be even bigger. Crating for hours is not recommended.

The major thing with a hoarder dog is to let them come to you. After a few days offer treats. If they don't want to come to you for the treat, toss it on the floor and walk away. Eventually, the dog will realize treats are good and come closer for them. Always keep your movements slow and gentle. Sharp movements or sudden noise can scare your hoarder dog.

Slowly your dog will start coming to you. Scratch behind his ears. If he likes that stroke his head and back. Your dog might run back to his crate but this is a milestone for your foster dog. He reached out for just a bit and opened his heart. Its going to happen again and again and sooner or later he'll be in your lap and giving kisses.

The magic word here is "Time". Hoarder dogs need time to get used to humans and the love they can share. Give them time, love and affection and soon you'll have a great dog who will be romping in the yard and cuddling on the couch. 

This is Corona. She came from a hoarding situation in South Carolina. She's about 8 years old and didn't come out of her crate for two days. The first day I put her food dish next to the crate and she's stretch her neck out to eat. Two weeks later she's on my lap getting belly rubs, eating in the kitchen and wandering around the whole house. When she's not on my lap she's on the dog bed next to her crate. Big step. She just needed time.


  1. Hello...I know this post was from many years ago and you might not monitor comments but it's worth a try. I recently adopted a dog from the pound who was in a hoarding situation. Terrified of everything, she is extremely underweight and has developed a horrible cough and is very sick. I was able to get her into the vet the day after I brought her home only because she was still groggy from the sedation after being spayed. I do have another dog...a normally submissive dog who has asserted some dominance because she is so timid. Trying to treat her illness has been difficult because she is so scared. I'm worried the stress could make her worse. Do you think that I should perhaps arrange a visit for my other dog to one of his friends for a few days to cut down on the stress so she can get better? I'm so worried about her.. She is so tiny, confused, and sick...I don't know how to help her

  2. I adopted a hoarder dog and I'm fostering two of her sisters. These two are extreme cases and I'm looking for more to read. I need help learning how to not make the sisters worse and how to get mine to the next level. Mine, Rose, isa doing great but I need the next step. It's hard to find information.

  3. I rescued a hoarded dog 4 months ago. She seemed to be making progress but has now regressed. At my wit's end. Don't know what to do.

  4. we adopted our fur baby from an animal shelter, which, they had rescued him along with 42 other dogs from a hoarder house. It has been 2 months and he has come along way. He loves me and sleeps right next to me, however, he is still very skittish with a harness, leash and other people. He doesn't let me pick him up and does not want me putting a leash on him. I had to just leave his harness on because he wouldn't let me put it on and take it off. He has learned to go out to potty pretty quickly. I am just hoping that we can get him used to people. He barks non stop and growls (even though he would never bite!) and hides under the bed. :(