How to Socialize a Shy Dog

Is your dog really enjoying the dog run? Body language often tells you what you need to know.

By: Adrian Fallace
Socialize your puppy early on. By: Adrian Fallace

Is your dog really enjoying the dog park? This is a question I wish more people would ask themselves.

I often see dogs cowering under a bench or clearly asking their person to leave. But instead of listening to their dog, they push them (literally) farther into the pack.

Yes, dogs are pack animals. However, we have to listen to what they are telling us. Dog parks should not be a place for us to socialize with other people only to the detriment of our pets. Some dogs are great with other dogs — and some are not.

Socialization Starts Early

Socializing your dog early on plays a huge role in his ability to interact with people and other canines. Without learning these skills as a puppy, your dog probably will not see going to the park as a fun activity but rather one to be frightened or nervous of.

This can turn into aggression if you don’t properly deal with it.

It takes patience to help your pet feel comfortable around other dogs if he is bashful and lacking social skills. Desensitizing a frightened dog is necessary if you’re to teach him to play with other dogs.

Don’t Miss: Are These Dogs Fighting or Playing?

This video gives a brief overview of what’s required to condition a fearful dog, using the technique of “applying pressure” then backing away without eye contact:

Tips on Socializing a Shy Dog

Now let’s look at some socializing tips. For starters, find a friend’s dog who is calm and not overbearing with your dog for private play sessions in a quiet, safe environment, one without lots of noise.

Watch how the dogs interact. Is your pet approaching the other one willingly? Are they sniffing each other with relaxed body language? If your dog tells the friend to back off, does he?

Any dog who is timid or fearful needs to be around dogs who know how to play and will leave her alone.

Dogs have their own language, and you need to listen to what they are saying. Forcing a shy dog to be around other dogs who are running around, barking and having a great time can be scary. Just be sure to listen to what your pet is telling you and go at her own pace.

Additional Resources

Dave Baker

View posts by Dave Baker
Dave Baker, founder and publisher of Petful, is a journalist and editor who has worked at The New York Times and The Nation magazine. He was also part of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize–winning team at The Times-Picayune newspaper of New Orleans. After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, he moved to Brooklyn, New York, where Petful is now based. A longtime advocate for pet food safety, Dave has been passionately tracking pet food recalls for the past 10-plus years, and more than 30,000 pet parents are subscribed to his recall alerts — which often arrive faster than even the recall alerts put out by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Learn more about Dave and the rest of the Petful team here: Meet the Team.

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