Inquisitive and bold, the typical miniature schnauzer dives in to investigate anything new and loves to be an active member of the family. If your mini is acting shy instead of like the curious canine he’s meant to be, you can help him overcome his fear.
Reasons for Shyness
You may never know for certain why your mini is shy, especially if you adopted him. Shyness usually presents itself in a dog who wasn’t properly socialized as a puppy, a dog who had a bad experience with a certain type of person or a dog who was mistreated. He may also have inherited shyness from one of his parents.
Cause of the Reaction
No matter the reason, you can help him become more outgoing by teaching him that good things happen when the object of his shyness is around. It’s important to pinpoint the specific characteristics of the cause of his reaction. Is it one particular person? All men? Just men wearing hats? Other dogs? Anyone completely new to him?
When you’ve figured out who or what causes your mini to act shy—for instance, men wearing baseball caps—ask for a volunteer’s help. Have your male volunteer, wearing a baseball cap, stand as far from you and your mini as possible while still being within sight distance. Have him come into your dog’s view, and when he appears, continuously feed your dog high-value treats. Have the volunteer retreat from view and stop giving treats. Ask the volunteer to reappear and, again, give your dog treats as long as the volunteer is in view. Repeat this process, having the volunteer come closer and closer as long as your dog is responding well.
The other key component to overcoming shyness is building your mini’s confidence through positive reinforcement training. Positive reinforcement focuses on rewarding the desired behavior instead of punishing undesirable behavior. With shy dogs, it’s critical to avoid negative reinforcement. Schnauzers are highly intelligent dogs who thrive on mental challenge and knowing what is expected of them. You can teach your schnauzer some basic commands at home or through an obedience training class. Learning to successfully complete commands makes him feel good and teaches him to look to you for leadership.
Additional Opportunities to Combat Shyness
Daily exercise is essential for your schnauzer. Not only does it help his mental and physical well-being, it gives him the opportunity to meet new people and dogs. Reward him with yummy treats whenever he meets someone new. You do need to keep control of interactions, however, to keep them positive. If a person or dog doesn’t seem friendly, avoid the situation.
If your dog is shy around someone in your home, have that person provide your mini’s basic care such as feeding, walking and playing. This associates that person with all the good things in your schnauzer’s life.
Jodi L. Hartley has been a writer and public relations professional since 1992. Her experience includes public relations and marketing for a pet service/retail business, as well as volunteer work with animal rescue organizations. Hartley holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and an M.B.A.