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The Dog Listener, By Jan Fennell, go to your Library and borrow a copy > Anxious, Shy, Fearful dogs

Shy or fearful dogs....need time, they can and will bloom. A beautiful flower takes time to open and the rewards are amazing.....the same is true with a relationship with a dog. Love your dog for who he/she is..not what you want him or her to be. Don't rush to attach a leash, don't rush out for a walk and don't rush to socialize. Start in your back yard.

Begin, by going slowly. Please don't have a time table to get the dog out-it takes as long as it takes......(please look at the new dog/puppy page on this website as well for more tips).

Gaining their trust is the key to success, this will depend on the dog's personality. Every dog is different. Set boundaries, baby gates. etc..This helps them as they decompress, there is less to guard-look after and therefore they can relax and trust you to take the lead.


  • Give them a space to relax, hide, decompress, this can be a crate with the door removed, in one room as they make their way out into the world and begin to trust you....


  • Feeding time, feed a nervous/stressed dog separately. Never put that dog under pressure around food or the food bowl. Have other dogs & cats in another room at feeding time. Some dogs will not eat on the first day, leave them be. Never be tempted to test the dog by stirring the food or touching the dog as it eats. Doing this you will challenge their right to eat & survive. This was done years ago to test a dog-thankfully things have changed.


  • Work off leash-willing cooperation-is the name of the game. Use food reward and praise. This may take time, never rush this phase. Come, ask in a sweet and inviting voice-reward and praise. Willing cooperation means they trust you to lead the way & take charge. *Movement is submission in the canine world, but this must be in a cooperative, trusting and gentle way*. 


  • Keep your voice low and movements slight. Never baby a reactive dog, humans and canines don't think the same way. Hugging is a praimate thing, not a canine thing & some dogs don't like it. Never force a dog to except something they don't like or are afraid of.


  • Reward the behavior you want and ignore the behavior that your don't. Watch your body language, be the calm decision maker they need.


  • Don't overwhelm your dog, leave them alone, less is more. No visitors to start with, (No adoption events; if they are a foster dog & when ready to meet an adopter- think of a quiet place to meet them and not an event. Ask the person to just talk to you/make eye contact with you, allowing the dog to relax and not feel threatened. Go for a quiet walk together).


  • Never allow someone the dog does not trust/know to enter the dogs space and frighten them. Never allow a dog to fail, because you failed to protect the dog. Know your dog, learn to read his or her body language. Be a real dog guardian & prevent your dog from biting, out of fear.


  • Ignore your dog as you come and go-this will prevent & help with separation anxiety.


  • Dogs are height dominant (I hate the word dominate, but it is a fact that dogs are height dominant). To begin with keep them off your furniture. When you are ready, invite them up-invitation only. This will help them see you as the decision maker, someone who has their back.


  • The game of Simon says & you are Simon! Did you ask for that behavior....If not ignore your dog. Everything on your terms. Dogs understand this game-naturally!


  • Stay calm, no matter what happens, be a good role model. Be the hero they need. Everything else will follow.


  • Once your dog is calm and ready to meet the world, take one step at a time and if it goes wrong-go back to where it was right. Start by watching the world go by, from a safe distance obverse the busy world. Never baby a scared dog, you will feed the fear.


  • Teach them to walk in your home first, can you get the leash out without them getting excited, jumping up etc? If not put the leash down and try again later. Baby steps. When ready go out and watch the world go by, don't rush the introductions, just show your dog that there is nothing to worry about. Sit on your door step, watch the traffic go by, watch people and dogs walk by. Lead by example, keep calm and carry on.


 Please read The Dog Listener, by Jan Fennell. Borrow a copy from the library.

Louise Pay