Humans love to love on dogs! Dogs often are overwhelmed by how humans show affection. Humans show their affection toward other humans by looking them right in the eye, giving a firm handshake or big strong hug, laughing loudly, giving a manly strong thump on the back. For a shy dog, that kind of contact can be terrifying! Most people don’t recognize when dogs try to communicate that they are scared, shy, or stressed… did you know that a dog licking its lips, or yawning, is probably trying to tell you ,”Hey, I’m nervous! Please slow down. Give me my space. Let me take this meeting at my own speed.”
One of the easiest ways for a human to let a dog know they are a friend is by behaving in the least threatening manner possible. One really easy way for a human to do that is IGNORE THE DOG. That’s a lot harder than it sounds! But if you can ignore the dog, the dog can then approach you at his or her own speed.
Also, if you’re ignoring the dog, you are not doing the scary things people who love dogs tend to do. You are NOT looking straight at her, not trying to touch her, not putting yourself or your face close to her, not cornering her, not talking to her… not forcing yourself into her space.
Take your time. Read a book. Talk to your human friend or another dog who has approached you. Show the dog you’re not a threat by ignoring her, and over time, you may win her affection and trust.
Other ways to earn your shy dog’s trust:
- Hand feeding (for non-food aggressive dogs): Do not feed meals in a bowl, feed out of your hand only. Put dog’s food in your hand, lower flat hand to to floor, don’t look at dog and wait. If dog won’t eat out of your hand, you can place food on floor at first next to your hand, then gradually up to out of your hand. If there is more than one human in your home, rotate so ALL humans hand feed, not just one person.
- More good things: What does your shy dog like? Treats? Playing fetch in the yard? Going on walks around your neighborhood? While you can be mostly ignoring your shy dog as suggested above, you can also be doing more of the things/activities your dog enjoys every day. Rotate so all humans are doing fun things with your shy dog, not just you.
- Pack walks: If your shy dog likes going on walks, pack walks with the whole family can increase their confidence as they feel more a part of your pack.
- Daily exercise: Just like humans, daily exercise reduces cortisol the stress hormone in dogs, which can make them happier and less shy.
- Basic training: Doing a basic group training class with your shy dog can boost their confidence. The structure, routine, learning and practicing basic training commands gives a dog’s brain a constructive activity to focus on, which can increase their calmness and confidence.