fearful dogs

Living With Romanian Rescue Dogs Advice on Fearfulness

Romanian dogs tend to be a little bit different to our UK dogs, they can have stronger natural instincts, be a bit more cautious and sensitive and don’t always respond the way you would expect them to with the usual teaching methods, which can present some challenges for their guardians.

You may have found, if you’ve already had problems and enlisted the help of a local trainer, they might not have been able to give you the most beneficial advice, because many UK trainers don’t have a lot of experience working with Romanian dogs, and their little quirks & characteristics.

So, many of the articles on this website are designed to offer you some basic tips and information on the kinds of problems, that I know from my experience of both living with and working with many adopters, can be common amongst Romanian Dogs.  Of course these are not problems that are exclusive to Romanian dogs, so the information here could be useful to anyone.

Wary/Fearfulness of Strangers and Visitors to the House

romanian rescue dogs adviceAbove is a picture of Tico, one of my foster dogs, who was absolutely terrified of me when he arrived.  This is a problem I know a lot of adopters have experienced, and there are a couple of things I see and hear of people doing, that can make this problem worse.  Often the things we do seem logical to us, but that can be because we’re looking at it from a human perspective, and not from the dog’s point of view.

Tip #1
Do not let strangers touch or stroke your dog unless it’s blatantly obvious your dog wants them too.

Be aware though, what you see as blatantly obvious may not be what your dog is feeling, and this applies to any nervous of fearful dog, not just Romanian Rescue Dogs.  Sometimes what we interpret as a nervous dog being friendly and wanting to say Hello to strangers and visitors, is actually not the case.

Just because your dog chooses to approach a stranger, does not necessarily mean they want to be touched or stroked.  Dogs gather information by sniffing, they want to investigate, they need to determine if this person is safe or not, and this is especially so with nervous dogs.  So if they decide they feel brave enough to tentatively approach and have a sniff of this stranger, to gather more information, if that stranger then immediately reaches out to touch them, Boom! That has just confirmed to your dog that strangers are unpredictable and scary and not to be trusted.

In human terms, if I choose to talk to you, it’s because I want to learn a bit more about you, have a conversation, gather information, it doesn’t mean I want you to reach out and start touching me, or trying to tickle behind my ears! I am more than likely to either jump back or lash out at you 🙂

Can you see how this may relate to your dog? It’s not appropriate behaviour between two humans that have only just met, so please don’t expect your dog to automatically be ok with it, especially if they are anxious.

Allow your Rommie the choice whether they interact with anyone.

Give them the freedom to approach or not depending on how they feel and don’t pressure them.  Especially request that your visitors or the stranger refrain from trying to entice them to come nearer and make friends, this can actually make an anxious dog feel a lot more anxious!

Imagine something you’re scared of and that something is trying to encourage you to come closer? How would that make you feel?  In addition to this, the body language of someone trying to encourage your dog to make friends, usually involves being bent over toward them, reaching out and staring straight at them, which can all be intimidating displays of body language to a dog that is lacking confidence.

Do not get strangers or visitors to offer treats to your Rommie in the hopes that this will make them ‘friends’

I completely understand the logic from your point of view of doing these things, but for a dog that is uncertain or afraid of strangers, having strangers offer them treats can create a lot of conflict and have the opposite effect of what you’re trying to achieve.


Imagine you’re terrified of spiders, and I take you into a room where there is a huge spider holding a £50 note.  You really want that £50 note! You may well force yourself to edge toward the spider, tentatively reach out and take the £50 note, but it doesn’t make you any less afraid of that spider, and in the process, your heart rate has gone up, your adrenaline is pumping, and if that spider moves….!!! There is going to be an uncontrolled reactive outburst of some sort, yes?

Can you see how these things might relate to your dog?

It’s your job as your dogs guardian to protect them when they need it, so they don’t feel the need to protect themselves.  There is obviously a lot more to handling and resolving these situations than I can include in these brief articles.  They’re meant as quick tips to help you avoid further problems and get you started in the right direction. Subscribe to the The Dog’s Point of View to make sure you get to see the future articles in this series.

Where to Go Next If You Have a Fearful Dog

When you have a fearful dog or a dog that reacts out of fear it can be really hard to know the best way to handle situations and ultimately help them overcome these fears.

Emotionally driven behaviours can be complex and tricky to work through.  Many adopters end up simply managing the problem for years, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

If you have a fearful dog or a dog that reacts to visitors when they come to your house, check out the Romanian Rescue Resource Portal for Webinars and programs specifically created for Romanian Rescue dogs with these kinds of challenges.

You Can Find All the Details about Them HERE 


romanian rescue dogs

You will be delighted to know that little Tico settled wonderfully once he realised he was safe.  He quite quickly showed us his cheeky, loving side and is now enjoying a fantastic life with his new family who amazingly adopted both him and my other foster dog Honey together! How amazing is that!

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Comments (10)

  1. Dr Carlos Pires-Afonso

    Hi. I have just adopted a small Romanian dog. He has settled in very well very cute and very loving and likes to sit on the chair with me watching tv. The problem is that he let’s himself down at night. No matter how many times you keg him out, the poo ends on the kitchen floor overnight. I created him but even then the poo was there in the morning. I usually feed him at 8.30 am and 4 pm
    Small portions as I do not want him to get fat. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  2. Maureen Ritchie

    I adopted a Romanian dog aged approx 5 yrs old about 6 weeks ago. He is a dachshund mixed breed dog and was rescued from a kill shelter. He had a broken jaw when he was rescued and after an operation to wire up his jaw he lived with his rescuer for a couple of years, a Romanian lady Vet.
    She rescued dogs from kill shelters and a charity in England found homes for them. This little dog has been wonderful with me but extremely wary of people and dogs on our walks. I don’t have many visitors to my house and when a friend called round for a cup of tea my little dog attacked his feet biting at his shoes. I had invited my friend to sit down on the sofa putting my dog in the kitchen and then letting the dog free. He just made a beeline for my friend and I had to put him back in the kitchen where he barked for a while. My dog has also snapped at some people whilst out for a walk. I would be afraid to let him off the lead and when people try to stroke him I advise them not too. He isn’t like it with everyone and has taken treats off a man out walking his dog and he likes some dogs. I just would like some advice about how to go forward with this little dog as he lets me do anything with him and I love him to bits.

  3. Our Romanian rescue dog had a few issues when we adopted her mainly caused by stress. However, now, nine months later she is totally attached to us. We adore her and she adores us. Plus we have a male standard poodle (castrated) and they have bonded completely. The only problem we are left with is that she attacks any visitors who come to our house. She is fine with anyone away from the house, walks off lead, goes to obedience classes, no problem but we have to muzzle her when we have visitors including members of our family.

    • Thanks for taking time to comment Susanne, I’m so glad your girl as settled well for the most part. Fearfulness and reactivity to visitors can be quite common with the Rommies and take time and a lot of patience to overcome. I have a private group on Facebook where I share tips and advice to members, many of which are Rommie adopters, if you would like to join you may pick up some helpful info 🙂


  4. John

    We have a Romanian rescue, he has been with us for 8 weeks now, he absolutely adores strangers, especially when they come in the house, tail wagging, wants to play full of beans. However, a totally different attitude to myself and my wife, we will occasionally get a tail wag, doesn’t seem to be enthusiastic to see use, when we come back in. Hasn’t been out for a walk, and goes rigid when a collar is put on him, and hides in his basket. The other problem we have, is at night although he will use a puppy pad, he squeaks to let you know his been, rather than before , so you can let him out. He is a delightful boy we are told around 4-5 years, any suggestions on how we might address the collar or harness and lead problem we think would enhance his life no end.

  5. Stephanie

    We have had our Romanian girls for 10 months and they still scared

    • Hi Stephanie, thank you for taking time to comment, it can take them a very long time to overcome their fears. In terms of time, 10months is actually not that long for a Romanian Rescue to become settled, trusting and bonded. Depending on their history it can take a lot of work to support them through their fears so they can learn to relax and habituate to their new lives, which are infinitely more complicated than they would be used to.

      I have a private group on Facebook where I share tips and advice to members, many of which are Rommie adopters, if you would like to join you may pick up some helpful info


  6. So useful. Mine isn’t too tentative but I certainly recognise the traits you mention. More awareness the better for me.

    • Thank you for taking time to comment Diane, I’m glad your Rommie has settled well and is not too fearful or anxious. It is always worth knowing the information as these dogs can be super sensitive and there may come a time when something concerns her and this info will come to mind 🙂

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