Puppies come in different sizes, shapes, and temperaments. Some are courageous, daring, and confident, while others are more hesitant and less outgoing. If you’re the owner of a puppy who’s shy around people and other dogs, it’s important to take measures to help him overcome his lack of comfort with the outside world. If not, he could grow into a dog who’ll continue to avoid contact with people and other animals. What are some ways to help a shy puppy become more confident?
A frightened puppy is one who exhibits submissive behavior. This may manifest itself as running away when confronted with humans or other dogs, throwing himself down on the ground in a submissive posture, avoiding eye contact, and even whimpering or whining in the presence of people or animals. In some cases, a shy puppy may have been the victim of past abuse which can make socialization even more of a challenge.
When dealing with a shy dog, it’s important for you to establish yourself as a confident and capable pack leader. Although you’ll want to be kind and loving to a shy puppy, dogs feel safer when they know they have a strong alpha leader who can protect them from the uncertainties of the outside world. Thus, it’s important to show confidence when you interact with your dog and clearly assert yourself as the leader of the pack. This doesn’t mean you should attempt to frighten your dog with your power. Quite the contrary. You should never raise your voice or use physical punishment to discipline a shy dog, but firmness and confidence are important to help your puppy feel safe and secure.
The key to socializing a shy dog is to help your dog gradually become comfortable in as many social situations as possible. This should be done over time so that you’re slowly exposing your puppy to higher levels of stimulation. The place to begin is with a good obedience course taught by an instructor who’s comfortable in dealing with a shy puppy such as yours. Obedience training is an excellent way to build your dog’s confidence while helping the two of you to bond as a team and as a pack.
Along with obedience training, gradually exposing your dog to people and other animals in a non-threatening manner is important. Start by taking your dog on short walks in your local neighborhood. This will allow your shy puppy to be exposed to new stimuli. You’ll want to limit encounters with people and other dogs at first until your dog becomes accustomed to the daily walks. After a period of time, you can slowly expose your dog to people by enlisting the help of a neighbor. Let your dog see the neighbor on a walk from a distance. Once your dog becomes accustomed to seeing the neighbor, arm her with a treat and bring the dog up to meet her. At first, just have her lay the treat on the ground without attempting to touch your puppy. Reward your dog with praise after each encounter. Gradually increase the time your dog is exposed to the neighbor as he overcomes his fear.
Once you’ve mastered the daily walks, start taking your dog to a local dog park and into more complex social situations. Use the skills learned in obedience class to give your dog commands. This will make the situation more structured for the dog which will reduce fear. Always bring along treats to reward your dog for successfully interacting with people.
If your dog fails to respond to gradual socialization, talk to your vet. Occasionally, there are medical reasons why a shy puppy is unable to overcome extreme fear of people. Some dogs may also respond to use of anti-depressant medications when other methods fail to work. Patience is key to helping your shy puppy successfully acclimate to the outside world.