1. Accept your dog’s personality.
Love your shy dog for who he is. Each dog has a different personality. Some are quiet. Some like to socialize in small groups. Some feel anxious in new areas or around new people. I’m pretty much describing myself here! I’m a shy person, and people try to change that about me. But guess what? I’m always going to be shy. That’s just how I am. If you have a shy dog, that’s OK. There are ways to help her feel more comfortable in new areas, but keep her personality in mind. He may never be the life of the party at the dog park, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
2. Slowly introduce your shy dog to new places.
If you have a shy dog, you’ve probably been told at some point that you need to socialize her more. Take her to new places. Take her to the dog park. Take him to obedience classes. Take him to dog daycare. These ideas are great, but they can also be a bit overwhelming for some dogs. You might see your dog shutting down by crouching low to the ground with her tail and head low. She might look away from the other dogs and people or try to hide behind you or crawl into your lap.
One way to help your dog is to find new places that are not quite so overwhelming. Visit more and more of these less-intimidating places to build his confidence. Then try visiting some “scarier” places. For example, simply walking your dog on a different route every morning is one way to introduce him to new environments. Even if you only walk one mile per day, you could walk a different mile each time. Imagine all the new things your dog would be exposed to.
3. Encourage your dog to sit, stand and walk on different surfaces.
One of my foster dogs was very shy and insecure around anything new. One simple way to challenge him and build his confidence was to ask him to sit, stand or walk on different surfaces – towels, blankets, park benches, playground equipment, large rocks. He loved to play on agility equipment, but he would flip shit if I asked him to lie on a towel You just never know what will be mentally challenging for them. Try to be really fun and positive, and tell your dog how good she is if she tries something new on her own.
4. Use strong, reassuring pats on the back.
While most people would like to know how to get their dogs to calm down, some of us need to get our dogs a little “pumped up.”
If this “slapping” sounds a little weird, think of how athletes “slap” each other on the back to get each other psyched up. It’s a confidence booster. Sometimes I run sprints with my dog, and if I want to get him “riled up” I’ll pat him on the butt while talking to him – “You ready, boy? Let’s go!” He loves it!
5. Help your shy dog by taking a walk with a friend.
Do you have any friends with well-trained, quiet or easygoing dogs? Think you could bribe them to go for a walk with you and your shy dog? I have taken quite a few walks with various foster dogs or other adoptable dogs in need of socialization. I purposely chose to walk the dogs that needed a little extra time to warm up to others. What works well is to walk the dogs side by side with enough distance so there is no pressure for them to interact. No head-on greetings. No direct eye contact. Just a parallel walk. Playdates with one or two other dogs are also a good idea!