I'd like to share my experience today with Zoey a very shy dog that I just met for the first time today. It may help (or inspire) some of you here that are working with shy dogs of your own, or are fostering, or any shy dog you may meet.
I just today worked with a very shy little dachshund who is up for adoption with a rescue group. Very sweet intelligent beautiful dog. The foster mom told me she already has had 4 homes. One family kept her a year and then returned her!!
I would take her in a heartbeat, but I already have three dogs and that is enough for me!
Foster mom said people meet her and want her, but then see her bark and try to bite at people and they instantly say, no thanks
Anyway, in just a few minutes, I watched her nip at several peoples feet. She is reactive to other dogs. Barks and backs away from people. And more. Could I help her? Let's see.
So, I sat with her on the floor in the middle of the pet store where adoption event was going on, and offered lil Zoey treats using my very quiet voice. She was very hesitant to come to me at first. I put the treats on the floor first so she wouldn't have to come that close to me. I kept giving her the steady stream of treats and she accepted them from me. Then took them from my hands. Then I put the treats on my legs, and she came closer to take them. Soon she was all too happy to take my treats from where ever I put them, including my hand. Heck she even tried to mug my treat pouch! For a shy dog, that is awesome trust! Then I taught her "touch" and she put her nose to my hand for the treats. She learned it fast!
Then she saw another dog come in. The foster mom was kinda like ohhh no, she is going to react. But the big dog came in, and I happily acknowledged the dog to Zoey, "yes, there is a big dog" and then tossed her more treats. In a second she was back to focusing on me and my treat fest!! The foster mom said she had never been so good around another dog like she was at that moment. The power of fun tricks, learning, treats and praise!
We then went for a walk outside. The foster mom said she was a mess on leash so I was expecting a disaster. But I walked the little dog and talked to her about what we were seeing and she was fine. We did see another dog coming near us and I simply pulled her back a bit, asked her where the doggy was, and jackpotted her with a bunch of treats. She barked a short moment but then focused back on me and my treats! Success. Very good!
When we walked back, I then taught her how to target her feet up on a wood crate for a treat. She got that instantly. Pretty great for a very shy dog, I thought!
Anyway, when we walked after doing all the fun tricks and treats together her body language was so awesome! Very confident happy doggie
. Not at all like when I first met her.
The whole meeting with shy Zoey was way less than an hour! My point: Doing fun tricks, sharing treats, and heavily rewarding for all positive behavior sure can do wonders on our shy dogs.