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4 Tips for Calming a Shy or Fearful Dog

Shy Puppy Lying On Carpet
Does your dog show signs of fearfulness when encountering new situations or surroundings? Does your pup become shy when introduced to strangers? You can help your dog overcome shyness or fear by socializing your dog and desensitizing him or her to whatever causes the apprehension. To lessen your pet's anxiety and uneasiness, follow these tips and tricks.

1. Recognize the Signs of Fear or Shyness in Your Dog

Before you can ease your dog into acceptance, recognize the signs of fear or shyness. Learning the telltale signs is not as hard as you may think. Here is what to look out for:
  • The tail is tucked between the legs: This is usually a dead giveaway that a dog is afraid of something or apprehensive. While tucking the tail between the legs, the dog may also whimper.
  • The dog shivers or trembles: When especially frightened, a dog may begin to quiver or tremble.
  • The dog has run away and cowers in a corner: Your dog may hide when encountering a stranger or another animal. New surroundings may also cause your shy dog to hide.
These signs will help you understand if your dog is shy or fearful.

2. Determine What Causes Your Dog's Apprehension

Once you see the signs of shyness or fearfulness, you need to pinpoint the cause. Do the above actions only occur when being introduced to other pets or new people? If so, you should socialize your dog.
Socializing means accustoming your pet to being around others outside of the family or owners. Don't force this upon your dog. Gradually introduce your pet to other humans and animals. While doing so, be sure to supervise the meeting and offer praise and treats when your dog relaxes and shows acceptance.
If your pet is scared of new toys or pet supplies, introduce the new playthings gradually. Pick up a new toy or accessory and hold it. Once your dog sees that you are fine with it, and no harm has come to you, this may provide some reassurance.
Leave the new dog dish, bed, or toy where your dog can sniff and investigate on his or her own terms. This is a way of desensitizing your dog. Eventually, your pet's curiosity may take over and acceptance may follow.

3. Stay Calm and Don't Reinforce the Fear

When your dog exhibits fearfulness, you shouldn't reinforce this behavior by subconsciously giving in through coddling or becoming overly excited yourself. Your dog may come to associate your own reaction of excitability as a warning sign. If you stay calm and relaxed, your pet may understand he or she has nothing to be fearful or shy about.

4. Enlist the Help of a Professional

If all else fails and your dog's anxiety over new situations has increased, seek outside help. Begin by scheduling an appointment at your veterinary clinic. Speak to the veterinarian about your dog's fears. The vet may want to perform a few tests or blood work to rule out any possible physical causes for your dog's behavior.
In addition, ask the vet for recommendations on finding a dog trainer or handler who might be able to address this issue. In some cases, a few simple sessions with a professional dog trainer may make a world of difference and help your pet overcome the apprehension and negative behavior.
Trainers use tools such as clickers during the training classes, and you might use this technique as well. Ask your dog trainer to demonstrate ways to utilize the clicker technique.
Remember to remain patient and understanding, and, eventually, you'll help your pet overcome fear and shyness. Contact the pet care experts at Erickson Veterinary Hospital to learn more.