Timid Behavior in Rescue Dogs

Treats can tempt Rex to explore outside his comfort zone.
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You gave a rescue dog a new forever home when you adopted him, but he's a little shy. Most timid dogs can become confident, friendly pals with a little patience. Give him a little time and follow a few simple steps to gain your furry buddy's trust.

Timid Behavior

If he wasn't socialized well before he was 4 months old, there's a good chance he'll be shy and timid. He may tuck his tail between his legs, avoid eye contact, hide in a corner or behind the sofa or even pee on the carpet. These are all signs that Rex is scared, nervous and submissive. If he grew up in a puppy mill or was ignored or abused as a pup, it could lead him to have a fear of humans. He may not be shy in all situations -- he may enjoy attention from you, but hide from other family members or the playful dog next door.

Gaining His Trust

Never force him to come to you or interact with someone he's afraid of. Make sure everyone in the home is on board with being patient with Rex. Give him his space. Don't call his name or make eye contact. The loud noise could make him skittish, and eye contact is confrontational is dog language. When you do talk to him, keep your voice quiet and calm. Keep the noise down in your home by turning off the TV or radio to give him peace while he's adjusting to his new digs. Keep your stance sideways, as this is less intimidating to him. Have patience and let Rex come to you on his own time. Sitting in the same room and quietly reading a book near him will let him get used to your voice and presence without frightening him.

What Not To Do

Don't coddle or give him affection when he's being shy. If he's huddled in the corner, it's hard not to want to pet him or give him some cuddles for comfort. But while you appreciate a comforting hug, Rex isn't a person. Giving him affection when he's displaying timid behavior will only teach him that acting scared gets him attention and will reinforce the behavior. Instead, wait until he shows some progress and reward him with a tasty treat or gentle affection. Reward any tiny improvement, like taking a step towards you or peeking his head out of his kennel. Just don't be too exuberant, or you may frighten him further. Never push or punish him. If he does something you don't like, like barking over and over, distract him until he does something good, like stop barking. Then toss him a treat. Being too rough with him will only reinforce that humans are scary.

The Power of Treats

Treats are a powerful tool in earning a timid dog's trust. If your pal is hiding behind the love seat, entice him out by putting a line of treats spaced 6 inches apart. When you have guests over, have them drop treats behind them until Rex follows them. Then they should be able to offer him a treat from their hand, held behind them. Eventually he'll be comfortable enough to accept treats while they're facing him. Sitting on the floor and letting Rex come to you for an offered treat is a good way to earn his trust and bond with him. If he learns that spending time with people means he gets to do one of his favorite things, eating tasty treats, he'll learn that hanging with humans is a good thing. Opt for strong-smelling treats like liver treats or small pieces of hot dog to pique his interest. Delicious tidbits are a powerful motivator to a shy dog.

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