Your German shepherd should be alert, friendly and confident. German shepherds typically make exceptional guards due to their bravery and confidence, so timidness is way out of character. You can help your dog get over his timidness with a combination of approaches.
Socialization provides an opportunity for your dog to learn social skills, get used to strange people and dogs and develop confidence. This is especially true of puppies and dogs that have experienced trauma in their past. Socialization with dogs is particularly helpful, as dogs set boundaries well. With regular socialization, your timid German shepherd can observe how other dogs are behaving, enabling him to determine proper and improper modes of conduct. The breed is naturally protective and suspicious of strange animals or people, but unless he gets the chance to mingle and meet new faces, he’ll never be able to distinguish between friend and foe.
Learn to Spot the Signs
A timid dog displays a range of gestures that give away how he’s feeling. These may include hunched posture, avoidance of eye contact, lip licking and submissive displays of the belly. Once you can identify when he’s feeling timid, you can match it to a cause.
Identify the Cause
Monitor your dog daily and look out for changes in behavior. Keep a list of factors that may cause timidness. For example, if you notice a change in his behavior in early July, the cause could be as simple as people letting of fireworks to celebrate Independence Day. If you’ve just moved to a new house, he may be struggling to get used to his new environment. If he only becomes timid when visitors come, his natural wariness of strangers may have escalated into a fear.
Your German shepherd has it in him to be an assertive, confident dog. But if he’s experienced trauma, he may need time to get used to the stimulus that causes him to be timid. For example, if he’s scared of thunder, play a recording of thunder for five minutes every day. Repeated exposure to a stimulus helps the dog to get used to it. By giving him a treat or toy while he’s hearing the recording, you show him that actually, nice things happen when the sound of thunder occurs. This is called counter-conditioning.
Understanding your dog’s motivation is key to issuing an appropriate reward. German shepherds are herders, so they love to give chase. If you play a chasing game with him every time he exhibits confidence when he was once timid, he’ll quickly seek to repeat that behavior so he can once again submit to his instinctive desires.
Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.