Living with Shy Dogs
A DOGGEREL RESOURCE
In my experience adopting a shy dog (Pyrrha) and fostering shy dogs through Southeast German Shepherd Rescue, I have begun to realize that many people have no idea what to do with shy dogs.
I myself didn’t know what I was in for when we adopted Pyrrha. Many potential adopters I’ve talked to said they don’t think they’d know how to help a shy dog, or even how to recognize fearful behavior.
I’ve learned from trainers, tons of books, and lots of mistakes we’ve made, but I wanted to compile this living resource for those who have a shy dog or work with shy dogs, so that we can all learn from each other and from those who are more experienced than ourselves.
- Calming Signals: Photos (Turid Rugaas). I recommend Rugaas’ book below, but this is another great resource to recognize nuances of dog body language.
- A Canine Stress Dictionary (Whole Dog Journal)
- Fearful Dogs. The definitive website/blog for fearful dog owners. Read everything here!
- Five Golden Rules for Working with Fearful Dogs (Fearful Dogs). Trainer Nicole Wilde’s top tips for training shy dogs.
- How to Help a Shy Dog Feel More Confident (That Mutt). Great, simple, easy-to-apply tips for confidence building.
- How to Introduce Unfamiliar Dogs (Doggerel).
- Keeping It Safe (Suzanne Clothier). A video lecture from a great trainer on keeping your dog in the “safe zone.”
- Poster: Body Language of Fear in Dogs (Dr. Sophia Yin). Great infographic with basic dog body language signs.
- Reducing Fear in Your Dog (The Bark). Patricia McConnell on how to help your dog with his or her fears.
- The Social Scene (Pat Miller). Trainer Pat Miller on the importance of socialization.
- To Pet or Not to Pet (Success Just Clicks). Great photos illustrating the subtleties of dog body language.
- You Can’t Reinforce Fear (Patricia McConnell). My favorite canine behaviorist debunks a common myth. (Related: Video lecture by Suzanne Clothier on same topic.)
- The Adopted Dog Bible, Kim Saunders (my review)
- Bones Would Rain from the Sky, Suzanne Clothier (my review)
- The Cautious Canine, Patricia McConnell
- Control Unleashed, Leslie McDevitt
- Love Has No Age Limit, Patricia McConnell and Karen B. London (my review)
- On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals, Turid Rugaas
After you’ve done individual research, seek a local trainer or behaviorist who is experienced with shy dogs. Ideally, find a positive-reinforcement trainer (or clicker trainer). I don’t believe that ANY dogs respond well to force or coercion, but shy dogs especially do not receive aversive, “dominance”-based training well. Find an educated, positive trainer who can help you and your dog with your issues. I’m thrilled that we found Deven Gaston of Canine Campus in our town. I hope that you can find an equally great, sensitive trainer to partner with.
What resources have helped you with your shy dog?
(Page last updated: 28 August 2013)