Last week, we covered ways to train an exuberant, jumping dog to greet politely. But what if your dog is shy of new people? Or, how do you make friends with a shy dog? Shy dogs have special considerations because if we pressure them into interacting, they may use aggression to make their needs known. Simply paying better attention to your shy dog and protecting her space bubble can keep her out of trouble.
Here are some tips for greeting a shy dog.
- Understand that even if you are good with dogs, the shy dog may not be good with people. How do you tell? Simple: Invite the dog into your space and if he declines, let him be.
- Dogs that want to approach you will.
- If the dog does not want to approach you, you are better off staying at a safe distance and trying to win their trust.
- Food builds trust. Cheese. Chicken. Liver.
- Keep the space bubble intact. Even if the dog approaches you because of the food, toss the food away to give the dog a break and to see if she wants to return.
- Don’t touch the dog unless she initiates the touch. If she curves her body into yours, it’s okay to pet, but only for 5 seconds, then stop and see what she does.
- If she leaves, let her go.
- Keep the session short. Biggest mistake people make is trying too hard, too long. Five minutes is a really, really long time to a shy dog.
- If the shy dog is your dog, protect her space bubble and don’t let strangers approach.
- Train your shy dog to station herself between your feet (use a food lure and teach her a cute cue like “peekaboo” to find her safe spot). Most strangers won’t reach into your personal body space to pet your dog.
Do you see the theme, here? Space is the most important thing to a shy dog. Dogs that need space will get it however they can. If they can get away, they will. If they are trapped, they’ll often use aggression to gain more space. This is why it is very important not to scold or punish a growling dog. Growling is a great signal that people don’t usually miss! If your shy dog has resorted to growling to gain space, count your blessings and send me an email. I can help you work with your dog to increase her confidence and get rid of the growling by making her relax about greeting new people or experiencing new things.
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