Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Living with a shy dog

Information adapted from Animal Defense League:

Shy Dog Information

When helping dogs, it's important to be aware that some might have never have been in a home environment before; others might have suffered previous abuse. It takes patience and a kind hand and heart to gain the trust of a shy or fearful dog – but the love of this pet companion can be worth the extra effort. Here is some information that should help in the transition of your new family member.

Bringing A Shy Dog Into Your Home

It may take your new pet a few days to settle in; during this time his appetite may be decreased. If your pet is not eating in the first few days, do not be concerned. After two or three days, if he is still not eating, try to mix in some wet food. If she still does not eat, talk to your vet.  Make sure the pet stays hydrated as well.  If the dog goes a day without drinking water, talk to your vet.
Some dogs may have never been in a home before. They may be hesitant to go through doorways and go up stairs, walk on carpet, etc... To help them adjust, start them in one room of your home and slowly introduce to new rooms. It is important for you to give them plenty of space. Give her time to explore on her own. Hugging, petting when not wanted will only slow down the socialization process. Let the dog come to you.  Once the dog settles in, you can try the "breadcrumb" approach. Lay down some tasty treats in a line starting from far away and line them up in succession closer and closer to you. Eventually putting some treats in your lap.   Let the dog take her time picking up the treats. Look away as the dog contemplates taking the treats and walking closer.
Shy dogs also feel better when they perceive that they have a place to escape to.   So when sitting in a room with them, don't block the doorway, don't close the door, don't block the entrance to their kennel or crate.  You don't want them running out of the house, but let them feel like they can escape to a safe place.
Many abandoned or stray dogs have never been on a leash before.   And many of them are very shy about going potty on a leash.  But because many of these dogs have never been in a home before, you might have a hard time getting them back in the house if you let them outside to potty off leash.  Especially if you have a big yard.  Put the dogs on a 20 or 30 foot training leash.  Let them drag it around the yard.  If you have difficulty getting them to come back in the house, slowly pick up the leash and lead them back in. Never leave a dog on a leash unattended. The potential for injury is too great.
Before you start taking the dog for neighborhood walks, be sure that he or she is comfortable on leash close to your house or in your yard.
When you are ready to go on walks, a slip leash or martingale is a must - with a separate collar with ID tags, rabies tag and microchip tag.  

Make sure you have the martingale collar and leash or slip leash securely attached before you open any doors.  Always have a good grip on your leash; there can be many things that may scare your new pet on walks.  More info on martingale collars here:


More info on slip leads here:
Learning how to walk on a leash can take some time.  Be very patient. Try to not "drag" the dog. Also note that shaking the leash to get the dog's attention is extremly counter-productive.  This frighten a scared dog. 
Be very watchful of children around your new shy dog. In a time of fear, dogs have two options: fight or run. If a child corners a shy dog, or takes away her option to run, she may bite. To avoid any possible incidents, make sure to always supervise when children are with a shy dog (or any dog for that matter. No running or screaming.  And just like adults, children must give the shy dog plenty of space and time.  It is natural for children to be excited about a new pet but they must learn to let the dog come to them.

Have all members of the family be prepared to give small treats to your new pet, and reward your dog every time he comes to sniff or say hi. This will help your new pet feel comfortable with all members of your family.

Pacing and circling can be expected the first few days. These are signals your dog just hasn't quite settled in yet. This should go away as she becomes more comfortable.

It is a good idea to give your new dog a crate. Don't shut the door; just make it nice and comfy inside with food treats and a bed. He may want a quiet place he can go.


Note: Shy dogs should NOT be outside-only dogs.  In the beginning, these fur babies may think they want to be outside only.  But they don't know how good house living is yet.  Leaving a scared dog outside all day, every day will greatly hamper the socialization process.
Once the dog is comfortable with you, comfortable in the house, comfortable on walks, you can start socializing him with other people.  Remind people:
- do not look at your dog
- speak in soft tones
- do not talk with hands
- remove hats, shades, backpacks, loud jewelry
- squat, get or their knees or bend down the their heads.
Have others offer your dogs treats, but have them look away when offering.
My basic philosophy when working with or living with a shy dog:
3 main things:
1.  Patience - it could take days, weeks, months for a shy dog to come out of her shell.  Give them that time.  Rushing things will be counter productive
2.  Leave them alone - Let the shy dog come to you when he is ready.
3.  Keep them secure - keep them far away from open doorways and/or keep barriers in front of doors.  Never open the fence gate when they are in the yard, make sure your yard is every secure and never leave them in the yard unattended - at least until they have settled in.
Note, some professionals advise that shy dogs should not have other dogs around because the shy dog needs to learn to depend on humans.  I personally know of several cases where the exact opposite is true.  I'm not saying adopt a friendly dog just for the scared dog, but I am saying don't isolate the scared dog in an attempt to socialize him.  Let the dog have dog friends, human friends, toys, etc..  Dogs are natural social creatures and most humans can't be with their dogs at all time.  Let them be around others dogs.  It is not only good for socialization, but it can also help them from becoming lonely and board when you are not around.
Related Articles:
Approaching, Socializing Shy Dogs - mainly for shelter situations http://fuzzychildren.blogspot.com/2009/06/shy-or-unsocialized-dogs-approaching.html
Using a slip leash Part I: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHIY4UTjFjo 
Using a slip leash Part II: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARA7pVgmOq0
Lost and Found - ID: martingale collars, etc..  http://www.meetup.com/sabigdawgs/messages/boards/thread/9347136#36476596