Socializing a Shy Dog
Just like people, dogs come with different personalities; they can be energetic, low-key, high-maintenance, or down to earth, and while some dogs can be extremely outgoing, others can be severe introverts. There is nothing necessarily wrong with a shy dog, but a healthy amount of socializing helps reduce the risk of your dog developing aggressive traits, as well as keeps your dog familiar with other people and pets. Also, shyness isn’t always a simple personality trait, but instead, it can be the result of a past trauma or fear. Whether you have a dog who you didn’t have the time to properly socialize as a puppy, or an older rescue who you want to convince to give the world a second chance, here are a few tips to help get you started.
Many pet owners make the mistake of trying to push their dog into large groups of people or pets too suddenly, but this tactic can overwhelm your pet. Avoid dog parks at busy hours of the day, and instead, try your best to set up a play date with someone you know who owns a mild-mannered dog. An aggressive or overly-hyper dog can be intimidating to your bashful canine who would be much more likely to warm up to a calm, easy-going pup. This will help your pet learn to establish a trusting relationship with a fellow species member and, in turn, decrease the tension felt when approached by other dogs.
Encourage Healthy Visitor Interactions
If your dog crouches down or backs away any time a stranger comes into your house, encourage your visitors to get down on their backs with their legs and arms up in the air. By demonstrating a submissive behavior, your dog will see them as less of a threat and will be more willing to warm up to the individuals.
As much as you might want to force your dog to open up, never encourage your visitors to try and make physical contact first, but rather allow your pet to make the decision to come to them. Visitors should refrain from making direct eye contact as this is often seen as a direct threat. When your dog does approach a stranger, have them reach out to the dog’s side or back but never the head area because, as with eye contact, this can be taken as a threatening gesture. You might also want to supply your guests with a few puppy treats, so that your dog starts associating the physical interaction with a reward.
After your dog starts having positive interactions with other canines and new people, slowly start building up your pet’s social life. Go to dog parks or any other areas frequented by pets and their owners to get your dog used to being around large groups, but don’t get discouraged if he/she prefers to stand by your side and just observe the others at first. The point is to get your four-legged friend familiar with being in large crowds, and the key to making it work is being consistent and dedicated in your approach; when your dog is used to being in that environment on a daily basis, the fear and anxiety will naturally start to fade away.
Socializing a sheepish dog can be a long process, and while you may feel discouraged, hopeless, or even at fault, it’s important to stay persistent with your goal. By warming your dog up to other pets and people consistently, you will see progress being made. While your dog might never be hungry for the spotlight, easing any fear and feelings of uneasiness around strange dogs and people will help your best friend learn to breathe deep, relax, and enjoy life a little bit more.
Ron Rutherford is a writer who loves spending his free time exploring and hiking with his canine pals. He currently freelances for the Wireless Dog Fence provider, Havahart Wireless.