The Do’s and Don’ts when Socializing a Shy Dog!

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The Do’s and Don’ts when Socializing a Shy Dog!

Is your dog or puppy shy and leery of people; afraid of strangers, certain situations or objects? Is your dog fear snapping or is your puppy fear biting?

Is Shyness a Problem or Not?

It is natural for some dogs to be shy of things that are new and unfamiliar. During development, a dog becomes socialized with familiar people, animals, objects and situations. But they will still tend to shy away from the unfamiliar.

Shyness in itself is not a problem. It is only a problem if the dog’s shyness inhibits your lifestyle or if the dog develops other problems related to shyness such as fear biting. Shy dogs often bolt when frightened, endangering themselves by running blindly into danger, such as traffic.

Training Your Dog or Puppy to be Shy

In a well meaning attempt to calm their dog’s fears, many people end up actually reinforcing the dog’s shy behavior. In effect, the owner inadvertently trains the dog to be more fearful. Be careful not to reinforce your dog’s fearfulness by offering reassurance when our timid dog hides, barks defensively, whines, screams or snaps.

Our protective instincts may cause us to reassure the dog by talking soothingly, petting or even picking up the dog for a hug. These actions actually reward the dog for fearful behavior.

It is best to just completely ignore your dog when he acts fearful. Let him learn by his own experience that there is nothing to be afraid of.

REMAIN CALM and act naturally to show them how you’re not concerned and therfore they should not be worried either. Our dogs pay very close attention to how we’re reacting to new situations – they pay attention to our tone of voice, our body language and also how we’re reacting to them as well so we should remain calm and happy regardless how your dog is reacting – keep it moving like nothing is going on that they should be concerned about. If your dog trusts you, then they will quickly learn to follow suit. If they are fearful and the tone of your voice goes up and you start baby talking to them and you sound very concerned for them… then they’ll believe you and assume they’re fears are valid! This new situations must be truly scary… because you’re actually “reassuring” them it’s TRUE.. So, try to save your praise or reassurance for times when your dog acts with confidence in a new situation or around new people. 

Shyness, Fear and Socialization

Many people try to rehabilitate their dog too quickly, forcing him to socialize with other dogs and people. This usually reinforces the dog’s view that other dogs and people are frightening. A puppy needs to be socialized as quickly as possible, but he should never be forced into it.

If you push your dog to do too much too soon, your dog will only become more fearful and may be forced into a situation where he feels he must defend himself.

Socializing a dog and helping him build his confidence is a time consuming task it’s not meant be done quickly but rather consistently.. so take your time, take them out more often instead of trying to jam pack a bunch of new experiences all into one day or weekend and don’t rush your dog into unnecessarily frightening situations in an attempt to force him to “gain confidence”.

Thrusting him into the arms of every visitor you meet and dragging him out to socialize with a bunch of new dogs can actually end up being counter-productive if he is on the shy side to begin with. Strangers should never be allowed to approach your dog to pet him. It should always be left up to your dog to make the first contact.

If your dog does not want to approach, that is OK. Just give him plenty of time to ‘hide and peek’ and eventually he will come out of hiding. It’s up to you to provide ample opportunity for socialization, but it is up to the dog to proceed at his own pace.

Don’t verbally try to encourage him out of hiding. He will probably interpret your encouragement as praise for hiding. Don’t try to force him to come out, this will only frighten him even more.

Fearful Snapping, Growling and Aggression

Shy or fearful dogs can react defensively when approached by unfamiliar people. They may try to keep strangers away by growling, snarling or snapping.

These behaviors must not be ignored. No dog should be allowed to get away with acting aggressively towards humans. The fact that your dog is shy or scared is no excuse to condone growling or biting. Ever. PERIOD.

You must instantly and effectively reprimand such behavior. As soon as your dog acts aggressive with a loud verbal No and maybe a leash pop and then briskly removing him from the situation. Dogs are not stupid they know when we’re mad. Let it be known.

If it is ever necessary for you to reprimand aggressive tendencies in your shy dog, you have probably been trying to push him along too quickly.

Avoid similar threatening situations until your dog has developed sufficient confidence to deal with them without resorting to aggression. Do not allow strangers to reprimand your fearful or shy dog.

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