Have you adopted or rescued a dog who is shy or fearful? First of all, congratulations on adopting or rescuing a pet in need! There are more than 10,000 puppies and kittens born in the United States every day—and the need for spay/neuter and responsible pet ownership is at an all-time high. Thank you for opening your home and heart to help an animal in need! All living beings want to survive and thrive. We’re all the same. We all need adequate food, water, shelter—and of course love.
Whether your new dog is a puppy, young adult or senior dog, it is important to help him/her adjust happily to your home. The most important thing to note: THIS TAKES TIME and PATIENCE!
If your dog is fearful of men or of new people, please be aware that you don’t know what their pasts hold. It would be wonderful if pets could talk and tell us their histories- but they can’t. So we have to use their cues to help them adjust and move forward in life. Dogs naturally live in the moment, but sometimes when they have endured significant neglect/abuse- it takes a caring home environment to move forward. Again, with time, patience and love- you can make a huge difference in a dog’s life!
Again, pick up on your dog’s cues- every shy/fearful dog will be different, depending on their past. Are you keep your dog in a crate while you are away or at night? Perhaps your dog is terrified of crates—try keeping him/her in the house or in a baby-gated room if they must be separated for one reason or another.
Next, is your dog food motivated (treats) or affection motivated? Almost always, dogs will be motivated by one of these two ways more than the other. Decipher which motivates your dog the most.
Now onto the training….If your dog seems nervous when new people enter your home, if he/she is treat motivated, keep a baggie of his/her favorite treats with you at all times. When someone new enters the home and your dog acts appropriately, feed them a treat as a reward (or give affection)— the important aspect is to reward the behavior that you wish to see from your dog. Do not yell, shout or become frustrated with your dog if they do not behave exactly as you would like. Training takes time!
Positive reinforcement is the key— and again, PATIENCE!
If you are training your dog to walk on a leash and he/she is fearful or scared of being on a leash- the same technique can be applied (to any situation). Use treats or affection as a motivator- depending on your pets personality.
Always exercise common sense. And speaking of exercise—daily exercise of a minimum of 20 minutes is very helpful to all dogs—especially those who are anxious. Exercise helps to ease anxiety—for humans too!