How To Approach a Shy or Nervous Dog

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How To Approach a Shy or Nervous Dog

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Old 08-16-2013, 09:38 PM
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How To Approach a Shy or Nervous Dog

I did this because I foster dogs, and when I'm at adoption events there's some shy dogs.
Enjoy!
How to Pet and Approach a Nervous Dog
Not all dogs like to be approached and petted in the same way. Especially if they are nervous, shy, or scared.
When you first approach the dog…
You’re walking you dog and you come across someone walking their dog. You see this dog is scared. Ears back, tail between his legs, maybe barking. The wisest thing to do is not approach the dog at all. But in a situation that you have to or you just really want to try this:
Approach the dog at an angle; Meaning instead of coming straight on come at an angle. Don’t bend down, instead crouch. Keep your body angled too, that way the dog has an “escape route,” which reassures them.
When you get to the dog…
Don’t reach over the dog’s head to pet her. Instead let the dog smell you and accept you before you accept her. Try not to look at her at all when she first smells you. (In fact look away) Once she takes at least one step towards you if you have treats offer one. Then you can pet under the chin. When the dog really is enjoying this (it could take time.) You can try to pet behind the ears, on the body, etc. Just try not to pet on the top of their head which can be intimidating.
Thanks for reading!
By Emma
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Old 08-17-2013, 06:55 AM
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Thank you for this. I have a very nervous dog. She's absolutely fine with people she knows now, but is wary of strangers, especially men (some men much more than others for some reason).

I was just wondering about what you said about avoiding looking at nervous dogs: I've heard this quite often, that looking at a dog, especially looking them in the eye, communicates a threat to the dog. But my dog often stares straight into people's eyes herself (both people she knows and strangers) and doesn't seem to mind people looking right at her any more than if they're looking somewhere else.

Now that she's very comfortable with me and other family members, if we look her in the eye would she still feel threatened? What is a nervous dog trying to communicate when it's the nervous dog who's the one holding eye contact?
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Old 08-17-2013, 11:36 AM
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A lot of dogs are wary with men. (Especially nervous ones) The best thing you can do is to tell them this.
Look up calming signals (there's a thread here) you can then recognize if she's nervous or trying to calm you down.
She might be looking for reassuring eye contact. I'm sure you can look at her in her eyes but if she seems nervous at all give her a calming signal (slow blink, lick lips, look away, "sniff" the ground etc...)
Just watch her body language. You can judge whether or not she is getting nervous.
Good luck!
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Old 08-17-2013, 12:18 PM
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I find it best not to approach a shy dog at all. Just let them come to you instead, gain their trust on their own terms.
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Old 08-17-2013, 12:40 PM
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Originally Posted by patronizingrabbits View Post
I find it best not to approach a shy dog at all. Just let them come to you instead, gain their trust on their own terms.
Exactly. I can't stand it when people come up to my shy dog (Phoenix) and get all in her space and grope on her. Drives. Me. Freaking. Crazy.
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Old 08-17-2013, 01:02 PM
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The neighbors went out of town unexpectedly last night and asked us to take care of their little dog as well as their lab. Lab-no problem. But the little girl was thrown off her schedule and besides, she had only met me once. They wanted her only in one room, but it was not a room she was used to staying in. So she kept trying to get back to her bed in her normal room. She wouldn't look at me and her eyes were so big, poor thing I tried coaxing and leaving a trail of food, but she wouldn't get off her bed. So I picked her up, bed and all, and slowly carried her to the other room, trying to talk quietly to her. She didn't move the entire time, but she did sniff my hand when I put her down and curled up to sleep. I didn't know what else to do and I didn't want her to bite me out of fear or freak her out even more than she was. Was there something else I could have done?
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Old 08-18-2013, 09:21 AM
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Exactly. I can't stand it when people come up to my shy dog (Phoenix) and get all in her space and grope on her. Drives. Me. Freaking. Crazy.
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Originally Posted by patronizingrabbits View Post
I find it best not to approach a shy dog at all. Just let them come to you instead, gain their trust on their own terms.
True. I agree with both of you. I work at adoption events and people want to adopt some shy dogs, so they obviously have to approach them. That's the only reason why I posted this. Just incase you need to have contact with a dog you can know what to do.
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Old 08-19-2013, 12:03 AM
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I wouldn't call my dog shy, but he is very nervous around strangers. I'm going to be working with a behaviorist on socialization. I have found that he does great if people completely IGNORE him. If they don't look at him, bend down, put their hand out, nothing. We just go about our business, and he sniffs their legs, and he is just fine. Because of my profession, I've ignored a lot of dogs (worked outside and didn't want them pestering me), and they always seemed to accept me very well. If you are not forced by circumstance to interact with them, I think ignoring would be most comfortable for them. Let them approach in their own good time.
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Old 08-19-2013, 04:39 PM
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I wouldn't call my dog shy, but he is very nervous around strangers. I'm going to be working with a behaviorist on socialization. I have found that he does great if people completely IGNORE him. If they don't look at him, bend down, put their hand out, nothing. We just go about our business, and he sniffs their legs, and he is just fine. Because of my profession, I've ignored a lot of dogs (worked outside and didn't want them pestering me), and they always seemed to accept me very well. If you are not forced by circumstance to interact with them, I think ignoring would be most comfortable for them. Let them approach in their own good time.
Agreed. I do that especially at my friends house. Nervous poodle overly hyper basset hound. Poodle is also a mix of both nervous and hyper. I just ignore them until they calm down. It works. So like you said ignore them.

OK EVERYONE - Just to let you know I originally wrote this for people at adoption events. There is a shy Chihuahua mix there that has been there for months. She's incredibly sweet but people intimidate her by bending over and petting her directly on the head. So she gave me the inspiration of that ^^.
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Old 08-19-2013, 09:17 PM
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With really shy & some fear aggressive dogs personally I do not approach them at all, I wait them out & generally curiosity gets the better of them.
In kennel situations I make no eye contact sit with my back to the kennel & talk & trow treats over my shoulder. Sometimes the hardest bit is getting them to take that first treat as many will not eat will anxious etc. I may do this several times before they actually approach & sniff me from behind. I then reward that with the highest valued treat & then I start treating them whenever they come near me or even look at me. It generally dos not take more than a few 10 min seasons then if I feel comfortable(only ever been 1 dog where I did not) I enter kennel & start from scratch again to gain their confidence. Most get it real quick by then though & by the 3rd kennel entry they meet me at the gate & touch their nose to my leg or hand.
I just keep working up the confidence levels till they will follow me anywhere as most of the real shy ones will cling to you if they do decide your a safe bet.
In a house yard I sit & talk to the family & ignore the dog till it approaches & use very similar set of exercises just the environment generally allows it to progress faster.
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