Dealing With Shyness
Feeding your dog to overcome shyness may not be the best answer.
An under-socialized older puppy or adult dog often lacks confidence around new people. The commonly suggested “treatment” for shyness involves asking everyone you meet to feed the dog a treat to build a pleasant association with people. Some find this method successful, but trainer Nicole K. of Arizona, says constantly allowing strangers to feed your shy dog sometimes causes further problems.
“The shy or fearful dog may approach someone in hopes they have food but then suddenly realize they do not. Now the dog’s in an uncomfortable social situation and is forced to make a decision on how to react. Some back away, others growl, lunge, bark, or even bite,” Nicole says. “This scenario reinforces that people are as ‘scary’ as the dog originally perceived.”
Rather than have people feed your shy dog, ask them to stand neutral as you play with and work your dog in obedience. “Create solid obedience by utilizing your dog’s natural motivations to help him or her become reliable in social situations.” Nicole says that giving the shy dog a known command in new situations allows the dog “to perform that job with confidence and not pick a response on their own.”
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