It is very hard not to try and comfort your new fearful dog, to hold them close and tell that that you are going to look after them. Fearful dogs in some cases have associated humans with fear and pain and therefore when they arrive in your home the best thing you can do for them is to give them very little attention. Just see to their needs. Water, food, comfy bed, toilet, but try not to speak to them too much or look at them in the eye. They do not want to be seen if they are overly fearful. They have possibly shut down emotionally. They generally want to hide but sometimes that fear (if it becomes too intense) can lead them to bite. If that bite results in the scary person or thing moving away (which it generally does ) then they will try that technique again if put in the same situation. Happily Griffons rarely bite, however ever dog is an individual and they will make the choice of how they cope with a scary situation. Fight, Flight Freeze and Fool Around are the four main choices they have.
These dogs have come from a foreign country, they have just come from a scary, noisy, shelter. Previously they may have been fending for themselves, foraging for food, being chased by locals , kicked or stones thrown at them. And before that kept in sheds in the woods and only let out a couple of times a week to hunt. They are generally allowed to go hungry to encourage them to hunt well when released. They will not have been well socialised with other dogs , people or anything really to do with the human world. They have been taken from their only known source of food and shelter and brought to the UK, to completely different smells , sights, sounds, probably never living in a house before with no understanding of what is happening to them. No wonder they are fearful.
There are two distinct types of dogs
There are pessimistic ones who are wary, always wondering if there is danger behind that bush and a bit worried about anything new. Any new experience is scary.
There are also the optimistic ones who are happy to investigate anything new, not really that worried about novel situations or things. Nothing seems to rattle them.
Imagine your dog has an emotional bucket. In that bucket there are some holes. Everything that happens in the dogs environment, good things , bad things, exciting things, and scary things will fill up that bucket. The pessimistic dog’s bucket is small and therefore fills quickly and soon overflows. The optimistic dog’s bucket is huge and rarely fills up, possibly never overflowing.
Once the pessimistic dog’s bucket overflows ( he goes over threshold) the dog enters a high arousal state and at that point they cannot make good decisions......this is when the Fight, Flight, Freeze or Fool around comes into play. It can take up to 72 hours for the dog to come back into a relatively calm state. It is very important to remember this. If you take a fearful dog out for a walk and he is frightened by traffic noise, a big noisy dog, squealing children, he will be unsettled and upset for up to 3 days. If the dog is left outside to bark at strangers, or delivery men, then his bucket isn't getting a chance to empty. If you take him the same walk the every day with the same noises and scary experiences, his bucket is still full from the previous day and the fear will be more intense, compounding itself and making it more difficult for the dog to empty that stress bucket. It is important therefore not to continually repeat behaviours that frighten your dog. Regular exposure to frightening experiences will not mean he will “get used to them”. Exactly the opposite in fact. We should observe our dogs and learn what worries them and only allow slow and gentle exposure to these things, lots of treats help in these circumstances although if his fear has filled his bucket he may not be able to take a treat. We have to very gently expose them to the noises smells and sights of our world. Gentle and careful exposure with lots of rewards as we go should help to convince the dog that the scary, novel experiences maybe aren't that bad.
Walks initially should be in nice quiet places. Exposure to traffic should be very gradual. Exposure to other dogs should be his choice not yours Exposure to children should be supervised at all times, children should be taught to be very gentle with dogs, no excitement allowed until you feel the dog is relaxed and happy around the children. It should always be his choice. No child should be left with a dog unsupervised. Learn to read your dogs expressions, if they look stressed or worried they generally are and should be gently removed from the situation.
Hand feeding is a great way to build up trust with your dog. Scatter feeding is very enriching for them . Maybe throw some food on the grass or even in the hallway for him to search for.
Calmness training is also a great thing work on, slow walks, lots of quality rest, long lasting chews, soft massage all are very beneficial to keeping him calm. More advice on calmness training in this files section