Socialising Fears – Helping the Shy or Fearful Dog

The most common kinds of shyness in dogs are:

• Social shyness, where the dog fears unfamiliar people or certain kinds of people, such as: men; large men; men with beards; people wearing hats or unusual clothing; children; people with an unusual gait; or people of a different race.

• Context fears, where the dog fears certain kinds of situations, such as; novel things of their walk; car rides; visits to the vet or groomer; or any novel place.

• Sound sensitive, where the dog fears sudden loud noises, such as: fireworks; sirens; loud air brakes on trucks; car backfires; or thunderstorms. Dogs are like this generally from a combination of genetic predisposition and some lack of experience, especially in the first months, which is called the critical period. Most fearful dogs can be helped to gradually improve, but this is a slow, tedious process that requires patience, compassion and perseverance on the owner’s part.

The best way to help fix a fearful dog is to expose him to what frightens him but at a mild, low intensity and pair or combine this exposure with a fun or positive association (food; pats; happy talk; ball throw; tug; etc.) The best strategy is to go at the dog’s own pace. Do not pressure or coerce the dog to make contact with what frightens him. This usually makes it worse. With time and patience your dog will get use to his new surroundings.

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