Do you have a shy or nervous dog who is unsure about meeting new people, dogs, or in new environments? The tips below will help you build your dog’s confidence, reduce their social anxiety, and develop a partnership between handler and dog.
- Don’t over baby! It’s easy to get wrapped up in a rescue dog’s past, a sensitive dog’s emotions, or a nervous dog’s anxiety. But keep in mind you don’t want to accidently reward shy or nervous behavior with excessive praise or coddling. Instead, try to be jovial and show your dog that you are relaxed and at ease with whatever is making them upset.
- Don’t force social interactions. Remember to let your dog choose when and who they interact with at their own pace. You cannot force your dog to suddenly enjoy social interactions. Instead you can read their body language and manage the people and environment around them so that your dog learns they will never be forced to interact when they aren’t ready. With time, they will gain trust and comfort and their shyness will diminish.
- Don’t correct fear based behaviors. If your dog growls, barks, or otherwise shows behavior you don’t like but that you can attribute to fear, correcting is not the way to handle it. A fearful dog should be removed from the fearful situation in a calm fashion and reintroduced in a structured way when you’re ready to deal with the behavior (perhaps with the help of a qualified trainer). Correcting a dog verbally or physically for being afraid damages your relationship and can actually increase your dog’s stress and anxiety.
- Don’t overreact…calmness is key. Always keep in mind that your dog looks to you to determine how they should react. If you are calm and in charge, your dog will find it easier to relax and you’ll feel better too!
- Don’t be in a rush…shyness takes time to overcome. Use baby steps and take time to acknowledge even little successes. Just like with people, dogs can have good days and bad so progress doesn’t always go in a perfectly straight line.
- Don’t leave things to chance! When working with shy dogs, I try to manage the environments we will be in and prepare well in advance. Whether that means carefully observing changes in a dog’s body language, carrying high value treats and toys for rewarding, or being my dog’s advocate by asking strangers to please not pet my dog or allow their dog to invade my dog’s space, I take charge of the environments I bring shy dogs into so that they can relax and see that someone else is being proactive about keeping them safe!
- Don’t get frustrated. Shyness can be a complicated behavior for all involved. It’s not like teaching a dog obedience commands or tricks. Shyness deals with deep seated instinctual behaviors like fear and self preservation. With patience and consistency, progress can be made but avoid getting upset, angry, or overly eager to push too fast to avoid making negative progress.
If you have a shy dog and want to learn more tips and tricks to help your dog gain social confidence, try one of our popular shy dog workshops! Our next workshop takes place August 17th, 2013 in Sacramento, CA for only $35. For more information, visit us online at www.puppylovedogs.com or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org