Helping a Shy Dog Adjust | PAWS Chicago

Helping a Shy Dog Adjust

All dogs need to be taught household rules: what they can chew, how they may greet you, where to go to the bathroom, etc. If the dog is afraid of different people or new situations, he will also need some extra help adjusting to his new home. By showing him patience and caring, a shy dog can be a great companion and can gain confidence over time.

These key tactics will help your shy dog adjust:

  1. Avoid coercion: The first impression is important. Make sure the dog is not forced into any scary situations when you first bring him home. As tempting as it might be to give him hugs, scrub him in the bath or invite friends over, it is much wiser to let him explore his immediate surroundings while you sit quietly. Let him to come to you when he is ready. When he does approach, he may still be wary of your hands or of being touched. Be patient. Physical contact is the hardest part for some dogs. The best way to win his trust is to not rush him.
  2. Hand feed: A great way to get your dog more used to being touched is to hand feed him treats or meals. At first, talk to him while you feed him. After a session or two, try touching him with your other hand before each treat. If he moves away, go back to feeding him without touches. Then try a smaller touch before feeding. If he is extremely fearful and hides for a long time once you get home, toss treats near him and then leave him alone. He will eventually venture out and associate that with getting a tasty treat. In time, his forays out will happen sooner and sooner after you toss treats. He will begin to associate you with treats. Once he is out, you can switch to hand feeding.
  3. Find safe distances: Take walks around the neighborhood. Let him sniff and thoroughly check things out. Sudden noises or changes in the environment will likely make him flatten or try to run for cover. Once he settles down, encourage him to approach the thing that frightened him. Feed him a few treats and then leave. Be careful of people who think they are good with dogs and try to approach him too quickly. Being forced into more than he can handle can even make him worse. Coach people on how to remain passive. Let your dog set the pace of contact. Try carrying treats for people to toss to him. If he will not eat, it may be a sign that he needs even more distance. Get him far enough away so that he is relaxed enough to eat. This will help him develop a positive association with new people.

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