Tips for Socializing a Timid Puppy
By Mary M. Alward
It is essential that a puppy is socialized at an early age. By introducing him to humans and other animals over the first two years of his life, you will prevent serious behavioral problems, such as aggression, shyness and timidity. Once your puppy has received all of his vaccinations and immunity has set in, he should be exposed to a wide variety of environments outside of your home and yard. Each day he should be put on his leash and taken for walks in different locations that vary in traffic, noise, crowds, water and any other places that will teach him about the world at large. Being exposed to these different environments will prevent your puppy from developing phobias. It will teach him that different places have different amounts of people, noise and traffic.
It’s best to try to prevent your puppy from becoming timid. Introduce him to strangers that you meet when you have him out for his walk. This will help him develop a sense of trust and confidence. However, some puppies, just like some humans, are born shy and timid. If you have chosen a puppy with these qualities, you will need to work with him and help him overcome his weaknesses.
- Don’t allow strangers to reach toward or pet your puppy. This will cause his fears to escalate and he may react in a defensive or aggressive manner.
- When your puppy is introduced to new people, the person should stand still, avoid eye contact with your puppy, be sure their body language is not confrontational and they should always allow your puppy to initiate body contact or play.
- Your puppy should never be forced to interact with someone he fears or shies away from. Dogs have instincts that tell them what a person’s intentions are. Forcing him to interact with someone he is leery of will escalate his fears.
- When visitors to your home wish to interact with your timid puppy, have them crouch or kneel on the floor. Their body should be angled away from your puppy. Their hand should be slightly out from their body, offering your puppy a treat. This will determine whether or not your puppy is interested in any type of interaction.
- Allow your puppy to sniff your guest and to take the treat if he is so inclined. The guest should never extend their hand toward your puppy.
- If your puppy continues to be timid and doesn’t approach the guest to the treat, never pick him up and cuddle him or sympathize with him through words such as, “Poor puppy.” This will make him believe that he gets attention when he acts or is timid.
- When your puppy appears to fell more confident, your guest can then touch him gently under his mouth and offer him another treat.
- Repeat these tips with a variety of people, including small children who have calm demeanors.
- Continue introducing your puppy to new people and new environments until he builds his self confidence.
- If your puppy has been vaccinated and the immunity has had time to take effect, introduce him to other dogs and puppies that have calm demeanors.
- Observe your puppy’s body language when he meets and interacts with his new canine friends.
- If your puppy is over-sensitive or extremely timid, try to set up a puppy playtime when he and another puppy of equal size can interact one-on-one. As your puppy’s trust and confidence increases, introduce him to larger puppies, and eventually full-grown dogs.
- Take your puppy to a puppy play group or obedience school where he can socialize. These venues do not allow puppies to display aggressive behavior or bully and intimidate other puppies.
- Puppy play groups and obedience schools try to match puppies in age, dominance, activity level, size and temperament. They ensure the puppies are supervised at all times and don’t allow the pups in their care to engage in fights or chaotic play.
- If you can’t seem to be able to properly socialize your puppy, take him to a professional trainer who specializes in timidity.
Once your puppy is properly socialized, the two of you will enjoy many happy hours together and your puppy will grow into a trusting and confident dog.