Do you have a shy puppy? Does your puppy cower behind you when strangers or dogs approach? Does it roll over on its back when nervous, or piddle a small puddle? Does its hackles go up or jump backwards and bark??
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you have a shy puppy!
The first 12-16 weeks of life are the most important time to socialize your puppy and to let them learn about their environment. It is essential to expose your puppy to people, places, other animals, sounds and things during this time frame and to continue on throughout their first year of life. Repeated exposure helps to make your dog more tolerant of new things. Be careful not to reinforce these behaviors.
Try to keep all experiences happy. Never console a dog that is shying away from new stimuli. Telling a cowering or growling dog that “It’s okay” or petting them while they are behaving in these unwanted ways, only ends up letting them know that you approve of their behavior. Instead try to distract them with treats or a play toy or have them walk calmly away in another direction. Never force a dog to approach something they are not comfortable with but encourage them to come forward. That you are enjoying yourself and are not worried will encourage them.
Make a conscious effort to take them places whether by car or foot. Encourage people to pet your puppy or offer treats. Expose them to new areas, farmland, parks, city streets, stairs, vacuum cleaners, loud noises. Wear hats and use umbrellas. The more your puppy sees and experiences the more tolerant it will be of new experiences.
Introduce your puppy to as many new people and situations as possible. For example, people in uniforms, babies, toddlers, the elderly, and the physically challenged are just a few examples that might lead to fear and anxiety unless there is sufficient early exposure. Similarly, car rides, elevators, stairs, or the noises associated with traffic, trains, airplanes, or hot air balloons are some examples of events and experiences to which the puppy might be habituated.
One way to introduce your puppy to new situations and people is to provide a reward such as a favorite toy or biscuit each time it is exposed to something new or that they are uncertain of.
Having a stranger offer a biscuit to the puppy will teach it to look forward to meeting people and discourage hand-shyness, since the puppy will learn to associate new friends and an outstretched hand with something positive. Once the puppy has learned to ‘sit’ on command, have each new friend ask it to ‘sit’ before giving the biscuit. This teaches a proper greeting and will make the puppy less likely to jump up on people.
Be certain that the puppy has the opportunity to meet and receive treats from a wide variety of people of all ages, races, appearances and both sexes during the formative months and well into the first year of life. There will of course, be times when your puppy is in a new situation and you do not have treats. At those times, use a happy tone of voice and praise your puppy for appropriate responses.
If your puppy seems to panic, back off a little and try again later, rather than aggravating the fear. Be sure to identify any emerging fear and work to revisit the situation slowly and gradually using favored rewards to turn the situation into one that is positive.
See more puppy training tips on our website. Visit www.snelgrovevet.com and click on the Pet Health tab where you can search through our articles on everything from “Crate Training” to “Poisonous Plants” and more.