How To Train The Shy, Insecure or Fearful Dog

Shyness and fear behavior in dogs comes from insecurity.

Your dog’s insecurity can be caused by several factors:

  • A genetic disposition toward insecurity
  • Lack of early socialization
  • The owner not providing clear leadership
  • Traumatic past experiences

But regardless of the cause of your dog’s insecurity– believe it or not, the solution to fixing this type of problem behavior is fairly easy, using the right techniques and a little bit of patience. These are the five points that are crucial to understanding how we professional dog trainers cure the shy, insecure and fearful dog. Use these and you’ll see 80% of your dog’s insecure behavior vanish in less than two weeks, and in most cases completely disappear after three months:

1. As with any dog, the first step is to establish yourself as the pack leader. If you are not the pack leader, then your dog has no reason to trust you or listen to you. And if he doesn’t feel he can trust you, then he won’t ever learn to relax and be confident with his environment.

The way to establish yourself as the pack leader is two-fold: First, start using our “Nothing In Life Is Free” approach. (I go into more detail about this, earlier in the book). And second, start teaching your dog obedience exercises: Sit, down, come, heel, boundary & perimeter training and stay. Obedience exercises help teach your dog that you are the pack leader (after all… you’re making him do behaviors, not the other way around) It also teaches your dog to trust you.

2. Do not coddle your dog. Do not try to reassure your dog that, “everything is going to be okay.” Coddling your dog does not help. The dog perceives it as reassurance that he’s doing the right thing: Acting afraid! Instead, make a bid deal when he’s acting confident in a situation where he was formerly showing insecurity.

3. Make Your Dog “Work Through The Fear” Owners frequently think that because the dog is showing fear or insecurity, they need to stop making the dog do what they’re asking. The opposite is actually true: Dogs get over their fears by doing the behavior. Make your dog “do it.” Not with force or aggression, but rather with calm firmness and directness. When I work with an insecure dog that doesn’t want to climb up on a step, I adopt a, “Hey… it’s no big deal. Here’s what you do.” And bang! It’s over and done with, before they know it. They’re up on the step. Then I bring them down off the step and make them do it, again. The important take-away here is: I’m not giving the dog a choice. They’re going to do it, and then they’ll realize that whatever I’m asking them to do is really not so bad. You can’t reason with a dog. They have limited use of logic and reason. They learn through action. They get over their hang-ups that way. We probably do, too. We’re just too dense to realize it.

4. Repetition Builds Confidence. Make your dog “do it.” Then make your dog do it, again. And again. And then again, in a different environment. A hundred times. Two hundred times. Repetition builds confidence. Soon, you’ll see your dog realize this exercise is familiar. And familiarity builds confidence. It doesn’t matter what behavior you’re working on getting your dog to overcome: It can be sitting while people walk past. Or walking over a man hole. Or coming when called. Repetition builds confidence.

5.  … read the rest of this article in Adam’s “Secrets of a Professional Dog Trainer!”