We all want our dogs to feel confident and safe, especially when it comes to meeting new people. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Whether from poor genetics or traumatic experience, some dogs are just very shy. While this isn’t always a bad thing, it can be problematic if owners aren’t aware or try and force their dogs into stressful situations when they aren’t ready. Shy dogs are typically the dogs that bite out of fear – they aren’t mean, they’re just scared. Rehabilitating a shy dog takes a lot of time and effort, but there are things you can do to build confidence. They might never be the social butterfly that your average dog is, but we can still help them become more comfortable around strangers.
#1 – Be Patient
As already stated, working with a shy dog takes time and effort. Patience is absolutely a virtue here, because rushing a frightened dog into something they aren’t ready for is a recipe for disaster. Not only will you set back any progress you may have made, you can actually worsen the situation. Think about helping someone through a phobia – contrary to popular belief, you don’t just toss people right into their worst nightmares to help them overcome it. You take baby steps and celebrate small victories. This is what you do with shy dogs. Help the dog be comfortable around you, then add strangers, other animals and new places. It’s important for you not to get discouraged or become frustrated, because this will only further stress your dog. You are the one person they can trust, so when you become upset, they will feel even less confidence. Being patience takes practice, but it’s the best thing you can do for your shy dog.
#2 – Walk A Lot
This cannot be emphasized enough. Many dogs are shy because they haven’t been exposed to enough of the world. Again, you shouldn’t take your nervous dog into a packed pet supply store or shopping mall. But you can start by taking walks in areas your pup is comfortable in. Start in your neighborhood, then branch out to nearby neighborhoods, parks you frequent, and eventually everywhere you can. The more your dog gets out and sees the world, the more confident he or she is going to be that nothing scary or exciting happens. Protect your dog from strangers and other dogs, as flooding them with introductions can be traumatic. Walk quietly with just you and the family and let others know that your scared pooch just isn’t quite ready to say hello to strangers yet. Remember not to coddle your dog too much on these walks, either. You need to walk confidently and with purpose, showing your dog that nothing going on around them is anything to worry about. If they are frightened by a trash truck, just keep strolling by. The more you act like being outside in new places is no big deal, the more your confidence will spread down the leash to your dog.
#3 – Take A Class
Training your dog is an excellent way to strengthen your bond and build confidence. Taking a fun class like obedience, agility or anything else will expose your dog to new sights and sounds and help them work confidently for rewards. Using positive reinforcement is key, because too much punishment or negative feedback is going to stress a nervous dog. You want to reward your pup for doing the right behaviors with treats and toys, so that they gain confidence in their actions. Think about when you’re learning something new – don’t you feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when you’re able to perform a new task or build a new skill? Your dog is the same way. Working together will help solidify the bond you have, your dog will know he or she can comfortably trust you, and you’ll have a lot of fun working together. Soon, if you want, you’ll be doing advanced training in a place your previously shy dog has never been!