If you have a shy dog, you might be wondering if you should even attempt to socialize with other dogs and people. A lack of proper socialization and confidence is often the reason for shyness, so you can see some improvement with some time and patience. Here are a few tips to help your shy dog interact with other dogs and people:
Socializing With Other Dogs
Socializing your shy dog with other dogs takes time and patience. Proper socialization should begin as a puppy, but you can work on these tips if your dog needs more practice
1. Pack Walks
If your dog is very shy, start with walks with other dogs and owners. This will allow your dog to assimilate to being around other dogs while being occupied in an activity. Keep some distance but this activity will help your dog get used to being around other dogs.
As your dog gets more comfortable, you can gradually get closer to the other dogs and people. This may take a bit but eventually, your dog will gain confidence and want to join the others!
2. 3-Second Interactions
When introducing dogs to one another, make sure both dogs are leashed and the owners are in control. Nose-to-nose interactions shouldn’t last any more than 3 seconds. Anything longer allows the dogs to get past the initial moment and start sizing one another up.
Once your dog is more comfortable, start with the nose-to-nose interactions, but don’t be afraid to be picky with the dog and owners. Choose dogs with owners who are friendly and well-trained. This will help your dog get used to calmer dogs before interacting with more hyperactive dogs.
Improper socialization can also cause aggression in dogs so working on these behaviors is important.
Socializing With People
Socializing your dog with people needs a different approach than socializing with other dogs.
1. Use Treats
Most dogs are food-motivated so try using training treats when approaching socialization situations. If your dog begins to associate treats with people, they may be more willing to enter these situations.
If you’re trying to introduce your dog to a new person, make sure it’s in a familiar place for your dog, like your home. Keep the new person at a distance and have them toss your dog a treat occasionally. Be sure to tell them to mostly ignore your dog, other than throwing a treat every so often.
When your dog is comfortable with this person at a distance, ask them to toss treats not as far, meaning your dog needs to come a little closer. Take this step slowly and keep a very close eye on your dog. Watch your dog’s body language for signs of trouble.
Don’t encourage them to get any closer than they want, otherwise, they might act out. When your dog approaches the person on their own and seems comfortable, your guest can ask your dog to do a trick and offer treats as a reward.
Carry training treats with you so you’re ready for any unexpected interactions. If your dog can remain calm in public with other people, reward them with a treat. This will help them associate strangers with positivity and treats.
2. Make it Fun
Another helpful tip is to help your dog associate people with fun. You can follow the same approach with treats but use toys instead. This will help distract your dog and use up some nervous energy.
Have the new person toss a ball or a toy for your dog but be sure you are the one to take the item from your dog. Then, hand it to your friend. Repeat the process until your dog goes to the new person with the toy.
Another tip is to take your dog for a walk with your friend. At first, ask your friend to keep some distance until your dog is comfortable. Remain calm with your dog so they feel that from you. As your dog becomes more comfortable, your friend can begin to come closer. This may take a few walks for your dog to become truly comfortable.
The most important thing to remember is that you are in charge of your dog. Staying confident, calm, and reassuring your dog is important. You need to recognize their behavior and get out of overwhelming situations to keep you, your dog, and others safe.
These are just a few tips to help your shy dog interact with other dogs and people. Once you feel like your dog is making progress, you can start introducing more people and dogs. The more your dog interacts with people and other dogs, the more confidence you will see in your pup!