Adopting an abandoned dog can be a very rewarding experience, plus you won’t be supporting breeders. With that said, it can also be quite a challenge. Many of these rescue dogs can have psychological issues, which make them shy and difficult to interact with.

The good news is you can overcome this kind of behavior through training. Here are some tips for training a timid rescue dog.

1. Use Another Dog

If you, a friend, or family member already owns a confident and well-trained dog, you could use that dog as part of the training process. Shy dogs will want to emulate the behavior of the other dog.

You can show the confident dog following commands such as “come” or “sit” and being rewarded with a treat. If your rescue dog starts to imitate this behavior, you should also reward them with a treat.

2. Get on the Ground

If your rescue dog seems to be afraid of you, you should sit down on the ground closer to it. This will make you appear less threatening to the dog. If your dog is particularly scared, you could even consider laying on the ground.

Obviously, this is a technique you should only use if you’re confident the dog isn’t going to become aggressive toward you.

3. Reinforce with Words

It’s vital that you punish your dog for bad behavior using words rather than violence.

This is especially important if your dog is shy. Being violent towards a shy dog could have a very bad impact on its development.

You should use sharp words such as “stop” or “no” to indicate to your dog they need to stop. You should also try to reinforce your dog’s good behavior as much as possible. When your dog does what it’s supposed to do, make sure you praise it in a calm, soothing tone.

4. Have Treats on Hand

Treats are a great way to let your dog know they’re doing the right thing. When your dog follows a command or does the right thing, you should make sure they’re aware they’ve behaved properly by giving them a treat.

When buying treats, buy some that are healthy and don’t contain any preservatives. Any treats you give your dog should also contain meat.

Don’t feed your dog anything that’s meant for human consumption, as it could be harmful to them. You might think chocolate’s a great treat, but it’s actually not healthy for dogs to eat it.

5. Get the Dog to Trust You

Your dog is never going to obey you if it doesn’t feel like it can trust you. Building trust with a dog can take time, especially if it’s a shelter dog, so make sure you’re patient with the dog.

You need to show it that nothing bad’s going to happen when something scary occurs. In a lot of cases, if you have a shy rescue dog, you need to give them some space to warm up to you. Trying to force things along often ends up being counterproductive.

6. Gently Introduce the Dog to the Leash

It’s vital your dog is comfortable being on the end of a leash. If your dog is shy, there’s a good chance that they’re not going to want to cooperate with you, at least not initially.

Take your time in trying to get the dog to wear the leash. It’s likely a shy dog will try to hide from you, so you might need to follow them.

You should try to introduce the leash gently. When you put the leash on the dog, try to avoid making eye contact with it. Once you’ve put the leash on the dog, you should make sure they’re comfortable walking around with it on.

When your dog cooperates and walks with the leash, you should reward them with a treat.

7. Train the Dog Not to Bite

Make sure your dog isn’t going to bite anyone. If your dog bites at your clothes or hands, you need to make sure it understands this isn’t acceptable behavior. Even small nips shouldn’t be accepted.

You should never get violent or aggressive with your dog, as this could lead to it becoming even more scared and shy. If your dog bites, you should simply hold its snout and rebuke it with a firm “no” command.

8. Be Patient but Stern

When commanding your dog, you need to be patient, but stern with them. Let’s say you command your dog to sit and they don’t comply. You should continue to give the command in a stern, but firm voice.

Don’t raise your voice and don’t get aggressive towards the dog; just firmly repeat your desired command. Eventually, the dog will get the message and will comply.

9. Don’t Get Too Complicated

When a dog suffers from shyness, you need to address that problem first before you can start to introduce more complex commands. Take your time and don’t introduce too many new concepts to your dog too quickly.

Whenever you do try to teach your dog new tricks, it should be based on a reward system rather than on punishment.

10. Consider Obedience School

Obedience school can be a huge help if you’re having issues training and socializing your dog. Of course, you’ll need to deal with some of the initial shyness first. Your dog needs to be comfortable around other dogs before you can take this step.

A structured learning environment can help your dog to progress much more quickly than if you were trying to train them by yourself.

Be Patient When Training a Timid Rescue Dog

The most vital skill of all when you’re training a timid rescue dog is patience. Recognize that socializing a rescue dog isn’t necessarily something that’s going to happen overnight.

Turning your shy rescue dog into a healthy, outgoing dog will take time, but in the end, it’ll all be worth it when you have a loving and rewarding relationship with it.

Is your shy dog also anxious? Then here are some things you need to know about dog separation anxiety.


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