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February 2024

Training a timid or scared dog

Thursday, February 28, 2013
posted by Jim Murphy

Sometimes, dogs up for adoption were abused or neglected.The cause can be that the dog wasn’t properly socialized when it was a pup. If you are moving from a quiet suburb to a noisy city, do everything gradually. You can start with an occasional trip into town before the move.

If you have a more mature dog who is shy, help the dog gradually gain confidence. It’s especially important to control any situation you introduce him to. Ask for the help of people you can trust to follow your instructions. Here’s one approach:

Make sure that the person helping you avoids eye contact with your dog. Always stay still and quiet and make sure that your helper stands sideways to the dog and give him plenty of room. Never force the dog to approach the person. Let the dog initiate contact when he’s ready. Have your helper crouch down with some tasty snacks in his hand. Have your helper gently drop the treat. He should never leave his hand extended. The dog should come and sniff around. Your helper should still be avoiding eye contact. ¬†Avoid too much talking with your helper as this may distract the dog. Ignore your dog if she tries to cling to you or beg for attention. Don’t comfort your dog either verbally or physically during this period. You don’t want to reinforce undesirable behavior. Your dog should feel like your helper is the source for treats and positive interaction during these sessions.

Eventually, your dog will show signs of budding confidence. He should eventually touch the helper’s hand when he takes the treat. The helper can now say “good dog” and gently stroke the dog under the chin or on the back of the neck. Shy or fearful dogs are often frightened when people try to touch their face or head. The helper can now show eye contact.

This is a slow process but your dog will eventually increase his confidence level and not be as scared or fearful around new people or in new situations.

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