Socializing a Shy Dog by Amy Cook, PhD

10/02/2018
by Jessica Rollins

"My dog is very socialized now.... but is still shy/timid. I made such an effort to socialize her to so many different things, that I feel now I'm not improving with her shyness. What is the next stage past socialization that you can work with? She's a 5 month old Border Collie puppy. Am I expecting too much, too soon? She isn't interested in people (that she doesn't know) or dogs but I would like her to get to the stage where she is not shy to approach people - if she chooses to walk away then, then that's ok with me."

You should definitely build up her positive feelings with regard to people and don't ever consider her socialization "done." It never really is. There is no stage past it, it just continues. You will be actively socializing until she is a full grown adult, and even then you will need to do things to maintain it so it doesn't slip.

Keep going with it, but make sure, (if you haven't been already), that her experiences are completely *happy* rather than just neutral. Show her all the different things, but make sure they are fun and positive, not just "exposures," as many people do. After all, you can show her lots of stuff, but she is free to draw her own conclusions about them. Your best work in socializing will be to show her stuff *and* help her draw the conclusions you want her to draw: ("this is *great!* it brings me treats!").

I would say at this point that people need to equal Great Things for Puppy, without fail. If she is at a point where she is willing to take food when she is around people, let it be that all her meals are eaten this way, and tons of treats. It's best though if you do the feeding, but in a place where she can see people/strangers in the distance. People gone? So is the food!

She may never become effusive toward new people, and good for you for accepting that, but it is vitally important that people don't make her feel stressed out or tense or timid, which can really limit the quality for her life.

Get out there and start to convince her that people are great. Go at her pace and respect her discomfort, backing up when you need to (otherwise you are convincing her that people are not so great and worse, that mom doesn't hear me when i tell her I'm upset!). Start easy and build up.

Remember, you are looking for a happy, waggy dog before moving forward with new challenges.


Amy Cook, PhD, Fenzi Dog Academy & Play Way Dogs

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