A SIMPLE GUIDE TO WORKING WITH SHY DOGS
By Diane Bauman (2016)
If you have a shy dog it is usually because the dog was born with the potential to fear things, he was not socialized as a young dog and/or because of a traumatic event in his life. Discovering the cause of a dog's shyness does not help him gain confidence. Pitying or comforting a timid dog only makes the problem worse. Every shy dog needs a strong, calm, leader (you) to help him gain confidence.
Timid dogs should be exposed to many different situations, sounds, people, new dogs, other animals, and life in general. It is very important not to force these dogs to interact with new things. Do not ask your dog to take food from a stranger. Instruct strangers not to make eye contact with your dog and simply ignore his presence. You may hold a treat near a stranger (by his leg for example) and tell your dog, “friend. ” If the dog takes the reward from you near the stranger, praise. If your dog is too stressed to eat a treat, continue socializing him but do not expect him to be able to eat.
Whenever possible, socialize your dog with a confident dog at his side.
Never allow a shy dog to hide behind you. Simply reposition the dog (with the help of a collar and leash if necessary) in front of you and praise him.
In the home, make every effort to keep a timid dog with you and in the center of what is going on. This is best done on a collar and leash. Eventually, being in the midst of life becomes normal for even a shy dog. Limit this dog's crate time to only when it is absolutely necessary, as the crate makes the fear of the real world worse by providing a place to hide.
Teaching a dog basic obedience and/or tricks engages the brain, builds confidence and gives a shy dog something else to think about in place of his surroundings. Agility training is a wonderful way to instill confidence in a shy dog who learns to climb on things, jump over things and crawl into tight spaces (ie tunnels).
All timid, fearful dogs improve with patience, time and training. If the issue of fear is not addressed, it will undoubtedly get worse and often leads to biting (fear aggression.)