How to Retrain a Timid Cocker Spaniel Puppy

While it is OK to comfort a whimpering puppy, don't overdo it: it will reinforce her fears.

While it is OK to comfort a whimpering puppy, don't overdo it: it will reinforce her fears.

Cocker spaniel puppies are adorable and capable of melting anyone’s heart. The ideal time to properly socialize these cuties is by the age of 13 weeks. If this doesn't occur, your puppy may become timid and need retraining to transform into the confident, sociable spaniel she is meant to be.

Assess your puppy’s demeanor around people and try to determine the stressors that cause her to behave in a timid manner. An uncomfortable puppy will cower or tremble when faced with new people or environments. Some will pee or run away and hide. If your cocker spaniel exhibits these behaviors, react quickly by removing her from the situation. The less often she is afraid, the fewer unpleasant memories she will have to shape her ongoing behavior. With careful observation you will soon learn how much physical distance to keep between your cocker spaniel and new people to create her own comfort zone.

Walk your puppy on a leash around other people. However, don’t force her to meet and greet; it is important that she take the initiative. As she realizes she is safe, she may walk up to someone with her tail wagging to say hello. Allow her to do so, but watch her body language for signals that she is becoming scared. For example, if she lowers her head and looks up, or if she begins to pant rapidly, it is time to remove her from the situation and back to her comfort zone.

Keep treats by the front door for visitors to offer your cocker spaniel as a peace offering upon entering. If she is still too timid for this sort of greeting, put her in a safe place, such as a dog crate, while you let your visitor inside. In a few moments, allow her to enter the room and approach the visitor if she desires. If she does try to welcome her guest, ask the person to scratch her gently under the chin or offer his upturned palm for sniffing. Reward her with the treat if she responds calmly.

Stop well-meaning admirers, especially children, from clamoring over her or petting her too hard. Most children cannot resist the cocker spaniel's sweet, toy-like appearance, and while she may respond positively to excited children at first, she may quickly get stressed and revert to timid feelings.

Enroll your puppy in an obedience training course to stop her from developing undesirable behaviors such as jumping or constantly rolling over when she greets people. Although you may be thrilled to see her relaxed and happy, you should still teach her basic commands such as “Sit” and “Stay” to help her become the ideal companion.

Items you will need

  • Leash
  • Treats
  • Dog crate

Tips

  • You may want to give your puppy a special toy in lieu of a food treat as a reward.
  • As your puppy ages, she may snap at or bite people when she is frightened. Don't misinterpret this as typical aggression; it is also a symptom of timidity.

Warnings

  • Do not react angrily to your puppy's timid behavior. She doesn't deserve to be treated harshly for her shyness and your negative behavior will do more harm than good.
  • Your patience and calm demeanor are imperative to help the puppy overcome her timid nature.
 

About the Author

Yvonne Ward began her professional writing career in 2004. She wrote a true-crime book published in 2010 and has two more underway. She also has a strong background in business, education and farm living. Ward is pursuing a Master of Arts in history and culture from Union Institute and University.

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