As a dog owner, you already know how important it is to notice when your dog is experiencing some kind of discomfort whether this be physical or mental. For example, if your pup is shy around other people or dogs, it’s important to address the problem right away so that it doesn’t become more serious.
Shyness in dogs is quite common, and it can be rather frustrating for both dog and owner. Shy dogs can be a lot of work. They don’t always want to meet new people or even go on walks, and they may need some extra encouragement to even have fun.
Identifying a Shy Dog
I don’t think any of us would have difficulty in knowing when we have a shy dog on our hands. But let’s go over some of the possible characteristics, just for the sake of it. Before we do, it’s important to note that such characteristics could be the result of a different kind of problem. Your vet could advise you further.
If a dog is nervous or timid, he might exhibit any one of many telltale signs. Here are just a few:
- Ears dropping with a cowering posture
- Being reluctant to socialise with other dogs – this is not always the case with every shy dog. Some nervous dogs can be comfortable in the presence of other dogs whilst shying away from humans.
- Tail between the legs
- A quivering body
- Peeing nervously when confronted by something deemed frightening
- Reaction to loud noises – Shy dogs will generally cower when confronted by unexpected excessive noise but even the calmest dogs can react to loud noises, thunder for example.
Naturally, any one of these characteristics could point to a different problem in your dog and if you suspect this, then a trip to the vet is paramount.
My Dog is Shy Around Strangers
When I first adopted my dog, she was a shy puppy. Correction, she was a very, very shy puppy. She would, more often than not, hide when people came over. In fact, she wouldn’t even bark at the mailman, LOL. Not that you want an endlessly barking dog, of course.
But I knew that I needed to address this issue early on, before the habit became well and truly entrenched in her psyche. I had to find some way to encourage her confidence and thus try and help her overcome her timid nature.
So, I embarked on a few brainstorming sessions, with the aid of the internet.
What ideas could I come up with, ideas that could help her feel more comfortable when ‘confronted’ by strangers, be they human or canine.
Actually, the word ‘confronted’ probably sums up the problem very well. I needed to get her to the point where strangers and unusual situations were no longer confrontational.
How to Win Over a Shy Dog
Here are some of the ideas that came from my research as well as my own experience in dealing with a shy dog:
- Puppy school from the outset is a great idea. Interacting with other dogs, in a fun environment, can work wonders. It certainly did for me.
- If your new puppy is shy around you, not just strangers, then try holding your hand out with a treat. Resist patting your puppy (during this exercise) until he comes right up to you to retrieve the treat. Each time he does so, give him his patting reward with kind, gentle words.
- In my case, I also made sure my pup had plenty of time outside in the yard to play and explore. This helped build her confidence, because it allowed her to discover nature as well as observe passers-by without her owner getting in the way!
- If you have adopted an older dog, then dog obedience school could be the answer. In this controlled environment, your dog can become used to meeting up with other dogs. Because the activities are repetitive as well as fun, there is less of a chance of any unexpected surprises that could startle a shy dog. This can also help your pet observe how other dogs behave in a controlled space.
- Body language is very important when trying to connect with a dog, particularly a shy dog. Move very slowly. No sudden, threatening-like movements. Sit so that the dog doesn’t perceive a threat from above. It is usually a good idea, in the beginning, to avoid eye contact. Let the dog or puppy come to you, perhaps enticed with treats scattered around your feet.
- Resist forcing your dog to meet new people or even other dogs—let him take his time getting used to them, and always stay close by so he knows you’re there for him. I found that introducing my dog to new people gradually, she became more and more comfortable. She learned that new people weren’t so scary after all. They were just new friends who showed her loving attention. She’s still shy from time to time, but now she’s comfortable enough with people coming over that she will occasionally bark at them when they arrive before approaching them with tail wagging.
- Try to keep calm yourself when someone or something approaches your shy pup—this can help him feel more at ease as well!
- If there is another dog in the house, one that is more confident, then you could try introducing a new pup in stages so that the two can get used to each other’s presence, gradually over time.
- Try using treats or toys as rewards when introducing your shy dog to something new or scary—this can help encourage his curiosity and make him feel more comfortable in unfamiliar situations. If he isn’t comfortable with other people or animals yet, some treats can help him associate good things happening with the presence of others.
- Be patient! Sometimes it takes time for a shy dog to find his courageous spirit, so just hang in there and persist with your calming sessions.
Possible Reasons for Canine Shyness
There are many possible reasons behind shyness in a dog. Any one of the following could be the reason but in the case of your own dog, it could be something entirely different. But let’s look at some of the more common reasons:
- Perhaps, shyness is a characteristic of that particular dog breed. There are a number of shy dog breeds.
- Unfortunately, it could be the result of some kind of past abuse.
- If a puppy has been left alone for too long in an isolated environment, this could explain a shy tendncy.
- Past trauma. There are no prizes for guessing his one. Trauma of any kind can result in a dog that shies away from everyone and everything.
- If the dog is experiencing lingering pain, he can often shy away from people and retreat into what he perceives as a safer corner or spot.
Some shy dogs simply can’t help being shy—it’s just how they’re wired. But as discussed in the article, there are some ideas you can try in order to help them overcome their shyness and feel more comfortable in social situations.
I hope these tips have provided you with some solutions for your shy dog, some ideas that can help your shy pet feel more comfortable in new situations.