Every dog has his or her own personality, and like people, some dogs are more nervous than others. Sometimes a dog’s shyness will go away after he or she gets used to the people and surroundings in a new home. Other times, a dog may stay a little shy naturally.
To help convince a shy dog to trust you, there are a few things you can do. Try the following tips to make life as easy as possible for a nervous animal.
By taking steps to make your dog comfortable, he or she will most likely be able to let down their guard and feel safe around you if you provide them with enough time and space to relax on their own terms.
#1 Set Up A Calm Environment
Making your dog feel safe at home is key. Try to keep your pet’s environment calm and quiet, and set the dog’s space up so that his/her bed, kennel, and toys are all in the same place. This way, your dog can relax in a familiar place if being around others gets to be too much. If your dog heads to his dog bed to lie down, let him have the quiet time he needs.
#2 Don't Tower
If your dog is shy or nervous, try not to stand over him or her. Towering over an anxious pet is probably going to make the animal feel uncomfortable, so instead, sit down. If you interact with a shy dog at their level, they’re going to feel like you’re closer to their size.
#3 Don't Stare
Making eye contact is normal for humans, but for dogs, direct eye contact can feel threatening. Instead of staring at your dog or trying to make eye contact, glance at him or her occasionally. Try to look at other things in the room so that your attention is split between your dog and your surroundings.
#4 Move Slowly
Neither shy people nor shy dogs like sudden, fast movements. To make your dog feel as safe as possible, move slowly. When you reach out to pet the animal, let him or her sniff your hand before you place it on them. When you try to sit down or stand up, do so without jerking or jumping.
#5 Safety Training
Slowly getting your dog used to their surroundings is a good way to reduce shyness. However, it’s important to train your dog in a way that makes them feel secure. Take your dog for frequent walks but try to schedule those walks for quiet times in the day.
On top of taking walks together in safe areas, harnessing your dog will add another level of comfort and safety for them. A good harness uses compression to “hug” your pet and help them remain calm. It will also prevent the animal from running away if they’re suddenly startled.
#6 Let The Dog Make Choices
If you’re trying to get a shy dog to feel safe around you, letting the animal make choices is a smart move. For example, instead of coming up to your pet when they’re resting, let the dog come to you when he or she is ready. If you let the dog decide when he or she wants to interact, the animal is going to feel safer and more secure when approaching you for petting or playtime.
#7 Speak Softly
Shy dogs don’t enjoy loud, high-pitched sounds, so when you’re talking to your pet, try to use a soft, low voice. You don’t have to whisper, but it’s good to speak in a way that keeps the volume and pitch of your voice neutral.
Of course, when the dog gets comfortable with you, you can try a little more excitement in the way you express yourself during playtime. Just keep an eye on your pet’s body language to make sure you’re not overdoing it when you’re having fun together.
Bonus: Watch Your Dog
Learning more about your dog and what makes him or her uncomfortable is an important part of understanding the animal. Watch your dog on occasion, when he isn’t aware of it, and take time to learn new things about how your pet behaves when he thinks nobody is watching him.
It takes a special, patient person to work with a shy animal. If you feel discouraged, try not to worry. Shy dogs can be tricky to bond with, but if you keep at it, your dog will eventually trust you.
You might also try speaking with your dog’s veterinarian about your concerns. A veterinary doctor will very likely be able to provide more advice and information about your dog’s health and how it relates to their shyness.