Dog fearful: timid dogs have lost that special spark in their eyes, they walk with their tails between their legs and their head carried low in an overall submissive state of mind. These dogs have basically lost their state of confidence, many times because of the way they were raised or their inherited temperament, but more often than not, because of human neglect or even abuse.
Should you rescue, foster or adopt a timid dog there are many things you can to do to help raise its confidence levels and trust humans again, leading that happy and healthy life they deserve. Try to abide to these general guidelines and shortly your dog may live to its full potential again.
- Start with a Physical
Start out by having your dog seen by a veterinarian. Sometimes apparent shyness is due to a physical problem such as chronic pain or a condition such as epilepsy or thyroid problmes. This should be the first step when dealing with a timid dog. In some cases, dogs that appeared to be bashful simply had vision or hearing problems.
- Keep Noises to a Minimum
Timid dogs may easily startle at sudden loud noises. Try to keep these noises at a minimum at first. This applies especially to dogs with a history of abuse. You may keep some “white noise” on to cover up loud noises if they are unavoidable. White noises consist of steady noises such as those emitted from a television or a radio station.
- Watch your Tone of Voice
Abused, neglected or timid dogs will also get startled by loud voices. Some dogs are very sensitive to tones of voices. Try to keep voices low and calm. Avoid children until the dog is calm enough. Children’s acute voices may startle timid dogs causing them to hide, shiver and even bite should they feel threatened enough.
- Do not move suddenly
Quick unexpected movements may startle timid dogs especially if they were abused. Many will cower as you suddenly reach for something or may get startled if you get up suddenly or run towards the door or phone. Be self conscious of your movements for the first few days and try to think as a timid dog, anticipating his/her response to yor actions.
- Be at His Level
When you pet your timid dog try not to pet him/her by standing up and bending down. This may feel threatening. Rather, simply sit down with your dog. Your dog will naturally come to you as he sees your for the first time at his level. Try to keep at his/her level for the first days until he seems more confident.
- Praise for the good
While disciplining works for normal dogs,you want to keep corrections to a minimum in timid dogs. That high pitched”no” or that little smack in the butt can be deleterious in timid dogs. Rather discipline a timid dog by simply bringing out the good. Each time your timid dog does something wrong ignore, but when he does something good praise lavishly.
- Take him Out
Letting your dog out on walks with you is a good way to get exercise and focus him on play. Let your dog play fetch and chase you. Keep him entertained, praise for walking nicely with you and let him meet some people along the way. If your dog is shy towards strangers ask them to toss him a treat as they stop by. This works great if your dog is very food oriented.
- Let him Check Things Out
When new people are around try to let him appraoch the new comers instead of them approaching first. Every time he voluntarily approaches praise. Tell other people to give a treat when he does this and alert them not to pet him on his face or neck which is threatening in a shy dog’s eyes. Rather tell them to focus on sholuders or back by placing their hand near their sides.
- Go slowly
Your dog needs time to feel comfortable near other dogs, people and social events. You can’t take him to a crowded area cold turkey. Your dog needs to go through a process called:”desensitation”. What this means, is that the dog must be exposed to new places, people or noises gradually without progressing until he shows sufficient confidence. Patience and time is the key.
- Show Leadership
At any time show your dog you are the leader. Dogs must be followers and you must establish that you are a calm stated individual. Never walk your dog if you are worried, tense or angry. Always walk when your are in a calm state of mind. Your dog is very sensitive to your moods. Also, let your dog “work” for its food by letting him sit before eating. Decide when play time starts and when it ends. Show him you are the leader of the pack and he can relax being the follower.
- Let him Win
Sometimes playing a game of tug of war may help boost his confidence. Try to play tug of war and let him win every now and then. In nature, dogs tend to play tug of war with natural items like bones or meat. The winner usually gets a big boost in confidence and sometimes even shows leadership. However, limit this until your dog gains his confidence back, you do not want him to end up with the opposite problem.
- Do not Comfort
As an instinct we humans tend to want to reassure a frightened dog. When we do this we are not aware that what we are doing is more harm than good. In a dogs’ mind, petting and reassuring translates to :”It’s ok to be afraid, keep it up”. Many dogs have turned shy because their owners were not able to resist comforting their dog. Rather, ignore the fear and if your dog seems fearful yet interested in the object of their fear, allow him to carefully inspect the source.
- Consider a Behaviorist
Some cases of shyness are obstinate to treat. Professional help may be needed. Consult with a dog behaviorist should your dog not progress or show signs of anxiety or aggression. In some severe cases, veterinarians may prescribe anti-anxiety medications.
While your dog may never turn out being super social, he may grow to be more tolerant and accepting of many situations. Now that you have implemented the above guidelines you should notice after quite some time some relevant improvements. You may notice that slowly a new dog has unveiled perhaps even with that special spark in its eyes, tail wagging and head kept high and proud!
*Disclaimer: All remedies suggested are not to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your pet is sick please refer to your veterinarian for a hands on examination. If your pet is exhibiting behavior problems please refer to a professional pet behaviorist.