I just recently adopted a little Chihuahua/Yorkie mix. Stuart, who's about 1 years old. He was in a foster home for 2 months and I was told he was shy. When meeting him, he was absolutely terrified of us; his tail was tucked under him, he was shaking like crazy, and he kept hiding behind his foster mom. However, I saw something in him... I knew once he gained the confidence, he could make such an amazing little dog, so I adopted him right there! Now, it has been less than a week so I understand that it's normal for new dogs to still behave shyly, however he seems to have a huge fear of people in general. He's an extremely loving, needy dog who literally just wants to be with his people. Once he knows you, he opens up more and just wants to be in your lap, 24/7. He's closet to me, however there are times where he just cowers in fear for no reason. He acts as though I'm about to strike him, even if I'm just going up to him to pet or pick him up. We don't know his background because he was picked up as a stray and brought to a pound (then rescued by the rescue group). I'm not sure if he ever was abused but it definitely seems like he's been hit before.
I've trained dogs before, including my other rescue who was also very nervous and shy of new people. Here's the problem with Stuart though... he is scared to take or accept food from people's hands or if they're too close. For the first 2 days, he wouldn't eat at all unless I left the room. I'm working with on that with him by placing his food right in front of me while sitting on the ground, not saying anything, no eye contact or anything, until he comes up and eats it. Then I just softly say "good boy" and pet him while he's eating, making sure he's not acting nervous. He's getting better with me... but he still doesn't accept food from strangers. In order to socialize him, I really need him to be comfortable accepting treats from people he doesn't know. I have a lot of plans for him, training wise, but I don't think they're going to work if he doesn't overcome this fear. As of now, I'm having him spend a lot of time around the other dogs (we currently have 4 others) and I'm having my family feed him his dinner or treats, so he gains their trust. I'm also planning on taking him to Doggie Day Camp at Petsmart, since I get 2 free sessions. He loves other dogs so I think that'll be good for him, plus he'll be around the staff members. I will also be taking him to the dog park where I'm hoping by then, he'll let strangers feed him treats so he begins to trust them more. And in general, I'm going to try and bring him everywhere with me so he gets to experience as much as possible.
I have a good plan that I'm confident will work but he's so fearful of everything, even something simple as food. I can't even teach him basic commands because he backs off in fear or runs away. I'd love to hear any tips as to how I can help him overcome his food fear, and possibly how to conquer his overall fear of people? And it's not that he's just sitting in the corner all day cowering in fear; but at times, he will just cower in front of me, looking at me as though I'm about to beat him when really, I just want to pick him up. It's heartbreaking, and I don't know what causes it... but I'm hoping you guys can help me help him. Thank you, I really appreciate it!
edit- Also, I've tried to engage him with toys and he doesn't like playing with people, only by himself. So I can't use that as a way of training him unfortunately.