How to help a shy dog gain confidence
If you’ve tried training a dog who struggles with shyness, you’ll know that it can feel like an uphill struggle.
Things that seem to come easily to other more confident dogs can take months for your dog to master.
The good news is that shyness is a common problem for all kinds of dogs from all kinds of backgrounds.
However, there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ solution. It’s a case of finding the right approach for your dog.
Dog Confidence Building Exercises
At Tug-E-Nuff Dog Gear we are big believers in training through positive reinforcement. Any method that involves of ‘forcing’ them into changing their ways is a bad idea and could actually do your dog’s confidence more damage, and set them back further.
For this blog, we’ve taken tips from Jacqui Payne. She’s the owner and trainer of adorable rescue pups Dillis and Basil. She’s also part of dog display team Paws For Thought, who are proudly sponsored by us here at Tug-E-Nuff Dog Gear.
Shyness is something Jacqui has become something of an expert at tackling after both her dogs struggled with it.
She recommends thinking carefully about your dog’s personality and their likes and dislikes and using this information to make them feel more confident and happy during training.
Jacqui says: ‘Unlike lots of dogs, Basil rarely asks for cuddles and attention. He’s quite happy to take himself off to bed and do his own thing around the house. However, I know that learning to trust people and enjoy contact is a key part of helping him overcome his shyness.
‘I decided to do a dog massage course and now I spend some time every evening massaging and stroking him. It’s really helped bring him on and I’ve noticed him starting to accept attention and fuss from strangers much more than he used to.
‘Some close physical contact, even if just for a few minutes, can make a big difference. Just follow your dog’s cues and stop when they stop enjoying it.’
Building your dog's confidence through play
Like with most training problems, play is a useful tool.
She says: ‘I encourage Basil to play by grabbing his favourite Tug-E-Nuff toy (the Sheepskin Bungee Tug) and moving it around quickly in front of him. It sparks his interest and we soon have a game going on. He has now learned that when I say ‘leave’ he has to drop it, wait a few minutes, then the game is started all over.
‘It may not sound like a big deal, and it’s something lots of dogs would do easily, but for a dog like Basil who had shut down and wouldn't even give eye contact, this is a huge step in the right direction.’
Give your dog quality time
Along with play and a tailored approach, tackling shyness in dogs takes time, patience and plenty of TLC.
Jacqui says: ‘Building confidence is a long process and you might not notice any difference for ages, then all of a sudden the penny will drop.
‘My best advice is to have fun with your dog, sit on the floor and give them a massage, play tug with their favourite toy, or just curl up on the sofa if that is what they prefer. This time spent with your dog is invaluable and will really help them come out on the other side of shyness.’