Perhaps you’ve adopted a dog from the Humane Society and his timid behavior stems from a life of neglect or abuse. On the other hand, maybe the little guy has been timid from the moment his eyes opened upon the world. In any case, there are techniques you can try to help bring your shy pooch out of his shell.
Get down to his level. From a dog’s point of view, you’re a giant. Just your size is intimidating. Kneel down or sit on the floor when you’re coaxing your dog towards you.
Open your hands when you reach towards your pooch. If a dog has a history of abuse, it’s likely that a raised arm or a clenched fist is associated with pain. Keep your hands low and your palms outstretched towards your dog to show him you mean him no harm.
Speak in soft lyrical tones. Not only do loud voices scare timid dogs, they also associate low tones with discipline. Try keeping your voice soft but raising your tone higher to indicate an open and accepting mood.
Move slowly. Timid dogs will see quick, erratic movements as threats and will retreat. For this very reason, monitor young children in the presence of a timid dog. If a child waves his or her arms and the dog sees it as a threat, he may bite the child.
Avert your gaze. In the animal kingdom, a direct focused stare is a challenge. Dogs are naturally pack animals and if stared at long enough, will either assume a subordinate role and acquiesce or rise to the challenge and make a threatening movement. When a dog is already shy, a direct look can make him shrink away in fear.
Allow time for your pooch to come out of his shell. Trying to force him to submit to petting or behavior you think is appropriate may cause him to withdraw further. Instead, provide him with a soft bed in a secluded place and put tasty food out for him. Give him some time and space so he can see that you mean him no harm.
Bring another dog in to help a shy dog model positive behavior. Dogs imitate other dogs’ behavior. By introducing another pooch with a healthy attitude, your shy dog will learn that it’s OK to trust humans.
A frightened dog is a dangerous dog. He doesn’t want to harm you but if he feels he is backed into a corner, he may bite.