Category Archives: shy dog

How to Help Your Dog Overcome a Fear of Strangers

By Langley Cornwell

As friendly as your dog normally is with you, does he sometimes act skittish when it comes to new people? In some cases, dogs do this because they may have been abused before you got them. In other cases, the dog might just be naturally skittish. It may take some effort on your part, but you can do a lot to help your dog overcome his anxiety when it comes to strangers. Remember that an anxious dog is one that is on full alert. This is a situation that has the potential to end badly, so you need to take care of this issue, for the mental and emotional health of your dog as well as for the safety of others.

Create a Safe Zone

The fastest way to reduce anxiety is to establish an area where your dog will have a complete feeling of safety. To do this, create a place that is just for your dog. It may be the dog’s crate, a specific chair, or some other area that is just for him. Make it a practice not to let anyone other than you or the dog enter his special safety zone. This will help your dog understand that this is a safe place where no one can disturb him.

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Books on Working with Shy, Fearful Dogs

By Langley Cornwell

Because we have a shy and fearful dog, I’ve researched, read and written about the topic a lot in the past four years. Until Frosty came into our lives, all my pets had been friendly, well-socialized and approachable. At first, I thought her fearful reaction to people and places was a result of an especially rough start in life, and that we could “love” her back to “normal.” Those of you with a shy pet can back me up on this – that’s not how it works. Our dog needed help and we weren’t equipped with the right tools or knowledge. It was time to get to work.

As with a lot of animal behavioral issues, opinions regarding how to help fearful dogs vary. I don’t claim to be an expert, but I know what works for us with our dog. Additionally, I’ve met compassionate people with insecure dogs at training classes and dog parks, and had the opportunity to share stories. Feedback from my CANIDAE RPO blog articles How to Train a Fearful or Insecure Dog, Training Games for Shy Dogs and Tips for Walking a Shy or Fearful Dog has been positive, but since writing those articles I’ve gotten comments and emails from people with even more questions.

We’ve read some excellent books in our effort to learn more about working with Frosty. And the more we understand about fear-based behavior, the better we’re able to effectively help our dog. This list isn’t exhaustive, but here are a handful of books I recommend to anyone who becomes a guardian to an anxious, shy or fearful pup.

Scaredy Dog by Ali Brown: This is the first book I’ve read by Ali Brown, but it won’t be my last. Scaredy Dog helped me understand more about Frosty’s fear-based behavior. Brown’s technique is no-force, easy to understand, and based on developing a working relationship with your pet, which is how I work best. What I love about this book is that once you see progress being made, you get a feeling of empowerment. Frosty and I still have a lot of work to do, but I feel like this book helped me get a handle on an overwhelming situation and start making noticeable headway towards a well-behaved, balanced dog. We’ll get there!

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