How can I help my dog be more outgoing?

asked 2015-12-03 13:13:29 -0500

My dog is very playful and rowdy with me and his "father". And very playful and excited with other dogs - goes right up to them to greet them. However, with other people and in people settings, he gets very nervous and timid and shy. He is a rescue so this leads to me believe that he was hurt in some way by people only. But he never gets aggressive, just simply seems shy and "quiet". Less playful and looks worried. Even when he is begging for food to a human, he is so nervous to take it from them if they give it to him!

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Socialize him. The more he sees that people are different the easier it will be to accept this. When I was in obedience school, we were told to go sit on a bench on the boardwalk and just people watch. Dog gets used to different people, smells and you are there for "comfort". Go to dog parks, dogs are pack animals and will act like the other playful pups. Most of the time I take dogs in car to store. I walk dog a short distance. I go shopping. We then walk a short distance. If dog was abused all you can do it be very calm and consistent. I have a "noise" I make when dog doesn't do the right thing (like going to the cat box). This immediately stops them. When they walk away I say in a high pitch voice "good dog" or something positive.

Barbara L.'s profile image Barbara L.  ( 2015-12-04 16:17:22 -0500 ) edit

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answered 2015-12-03 14:01:56 -0500

First, understand that each dog is unique and has its own personality and temperament. Second, when the dog sees you as its leader or Alfa, it will feed off of you. If you are calm and confident, it will feel that. If you are uneasy, worried, or otherwise unsettled, it will pick up on and mimic that. Third, enourage behavior you desire and be very careful not to encourage negative behavior. If you dog is afraid and shy, don't coddle it. If it's getting attention for its behavior, it is seen as either a reward for that behavior or as reinforcement of its fears of you respond negatively, like getting upset or angry. Ignor undesired fear, and praise relaxed confident behavior. Allow for adequate time for the transition to occurs. Dogs with fear or timid mess won't change overnight. It's a long term issue you will have to be mindful of all the time. If the anxiety is severe, you can use the aid of aroma therapy and herbal remedies to promote smoothing and calm feelings. There are both supplements/medications that can help internally, as well as fragrances that relax when emitted in the air.

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Yes I definitely have a hard time NOT coddling him when he is so scared of new or other people. I always try to hold him and slowly introduce him to the person, but it sounds like from the response below that I should sort of let him be scared and have the people slowly approach him

Megan C.'s profile image Megan C.  ( 2015-12-04 09:01:47 -0500 ) edit
answered 2015-12-03 17:05:28 -0500

Being shy isn't a flaw; some dogs are just shy and don't feel the need to interact with everyone. If he just doesn't desire to interact, let him do him. I'd be stressed, too, if there was someone constantly making me interact with strangers I had no interest in interacting with. However, nervousness or fear isn't a good feeling for your dog, so helping him overcome his anxiety around new people will be beneficial to his health.

I wouldn't force him to interact. Ask visitors to give him space: avoid eye contact, don't touch him, don't talk to him. Give your dog a safe place to go, like his bed or kennel, and give him something to keep him occupied, like a bone/stuffed Kong/etc. If he starts showing interest in a stranger, praise and reward him for his bravery. If the other person is willing, have them toss treats his way while still ignoring him. Over time, he will become calmer when in the presence of new people, and may start soliciting attention. The important thing is to let him be in charge of his own personal space. Dogs (like babies and pregnant ladies) are often treated like communal property, but this really isn't fair to them. If you let him decide who gets to touch him and who doesn't and back him up in his decisions, he'll be a lot happier, calmer, and confident with new people.

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Thank you for this advice! He does go to his kennel and quiet spots when he feels fearful around new or large groups of people. I always thought that allowing him to do this kind of enabled his fear and would never get him to see that these people are nice and aren't scary...but I see your point!

Megan C.'s profile image Megan C.  ( 2015-12-04 09:00:39 -0500 ) edit

If he's already removing himself from the situation when he feels uncomfortable, it sounds like he's got some good coping mechanisms in place. Since he already knows what to do when he's nervous, if he then knows that you're in tune with how he's feeling and that you'll make sure his space is respected, he'll feel more relaxed because he trusts that you're willing to protect him.

Laura R.'s profile image Laura R.  ( 2015-12-04 13:08:31 -0500 ) edit

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