I hope you all had a nice weekend, and that you did some cool things with your dogs.
Today’s guest blogger is Nicola Reynor, a community manager for the cool website Dog Love It. Nicola is here to share her thoughts and experiences about getting shy dogs up and running!
Shy and fearful dogs need a lot of help and support to build confidence and lead a happy life. They require regular doses of patience and leadership to come into their own. The progress is slow, but the returns are more than worth it.
Shyness and timidity are not just puppy traits; they can also develop as a young dog matures. Often the dog is not introduced to different people, animals, places and sounds during its socialization period or has faced emotional trauma or abuse, or has just not gotten enough social interaction. These factors can often make a dog unusually shy or fearful.
Shy canines often overreact to out-of-context occurrences at home. For example, a car backfiring too loudly in the driveway will startle a confident dog, but a fearful dog in contrast, may urinate before running to hide under the bed. In some cases it may even turn and snap at the person closest. If you feel your dog has severe fear issues, it would be a good idea to get an opinion from a veterinary behaviourist.
Since shy dogs are prone to overreacting, their owners tend to baby them a lot. Always understand that comforting a frightened dog may be perceived as a reward by the canine and can actually reinforce the fear. The owner should always try and build confidence in the dog by establishing a close relationship and providing a calm, orderly and predictable environment.
Know Which Situations Scare Your Dog
Fearful responses are far more easily learned than unlearned in canines. The more time your dog spends feeling anxious, the deeper the groove gets worn. Try and create an environment that doesn’t startle or scare them too much.
Watch out for signs that your dog is getting anxious about something. If your dog starts to breathe faster or stares fixedly at something, know that all is not well. Take your cues, and create distance between your dog and the object scaring him.
Living in an urban environment will expose your dog to loud noises, both human and machine, as well as interaction with people. Make sure your dog has been familiarized with the surroundings you live in; most fear instincts in dogs arise because they are not entirely comfortable with their surroundings. (DOGTV’s “Exposure” programs are an excellent way to desensitize dogs to most fears, R.L)
How to Reinforce Confidence in Your Dog:
- Have a kennel or a separate sleeping area for your dog. This can be a routine go-to hideout for the dog on regular nights and when you are not home. It will help build confidence and help assure the dog that it is safe and secure.
- If you have a new dog in your home, keep it on a leash for the first few days. Have him follow you from room to room as you go about your routine. This helps in comforting a shy dog and build trust, telling him that you are his leader and protector.
- Take your pup with you when running errands. This will help the pup get introduced to other people and dogs. Make sure you have the situation under control at all times, or it may turn out to be traumatic for your pooch if someone starts cuddling him too fiercely.
- When your dog is new, do not let him run loose in the backyard as he may be hesitant to return inside the house it has still not broken into. Walk him on a leash and introduce him to the yard until he is comfortable and at home.
- When your dog starts acting fearfully, ignore the behavior and try to redirect his attention elsewhere. Petting or comforting him would only reinforce this behavior.
- Take the dog out for walks at least twice a day. It helps build confidence and strengthen the bond between the owner and the dog.
- Playing with your dog every day is a must. Dogs need to play so as to build confidence. Games that draw the dog to you are best. Avoid games that pit the dog against you.
- Keep your actions around the dog deliberate. Fast or sudden movements, yelling, or children racing through rooms slamming doors should be avoided.
- Instruct guests and especially children to ignore the dog until it approaches them. If the dog approaches them, they can scratch it under the chin. Avoid eye contact and frontal alignment. Patting the dog on the head or hugging it may be perceived as threatening.
- Do not force the dog to approach someone or something he is afraid of. Give him distance and time before redirecting his attention.
- Make sure there is a clear routine for your dog and that it knows the rules
- Obedience training should be a part of the dog’s daily routine
- Under no circumstances should you physically punish the dog. This will only serve to frighten him further and break the bond between a dog and its owner.
- Taking a dog back to a housebreaking incident and shoving his nose in it will only confuse the dog further. This will be detrimental to your training efforts. Instead prevent such accidents and provide constant supervision to the dog during the training phase.
- If your dog is shy around other dogs, begin by introducing him to a friendly and relatively calm canine. As he gets comfortable, introduce him to dogs of larger sizes and more active demeanor. This can take a little time, so be patient.
Make sure your pup, or dog, is well-trained. As your dog finds more positive things to focus on he will gradually come out of his shell and be more confident. Always ensure that your dog is in a comfortable and familiar environment. If you move a lot take time out to introduce your dog to your new living area.
Forcing your dog to go against its grain will only serve to estrange the bond between the two of you.. Be patient, dogs take more time to translate past lessons to new situations. At the end of the day, the dog always follows the cues of its owner. So be the leader of the pack, and show your scared pooch how it’s done.
Nicola Reynor is a community manager and web presence strategist for Dog Love It, the doggy supply store. In her spare time, she loves to go hiking with her two dogs and catch the latest movies with her friends.