5 Ways to Train a Nervous or Shy Dog

5 Best Ways to Train a Nervous or Shy Dog

Many dogs who are rescued or who have been left in a confined space for a long time can become shy and very nervous around people, particularly those who have been subjected to abuse by their owners.

The important thing to remember when you own a nervous dog is that they don’t understand what is going on, it will take them a long time to adjust to their new life and become comfortable with you.

dog training tips for shy dogs                           image source

Trust takes time to build and that’s what you’ll be trying to do over the course of a few months as they settle into their new life with you and your family.

Best Dog Training Tips for Big Time Results

Be Different

The way you go about training is different than with other dogs because they are a lot more reserved and shy.

You will need to choose exercises which help to build up their confidence, allowing them to interact with you and other dogs too.

It may take longer to teach a nervous dog a new trick, because you will also be spending time building up trust, but it will be all worth it in the end.

The important thing to bear in mind is that your pet may have gone through a traumatic experience in their life, and their trust in humans could be very wounded.

If you move too fast, and accident could happen out of fear and you could be left looking up the steps to take after a dog bite. Be patient, your pet will learn.

Distance Learning

Distance training is something which will prove a useful tool in gaining your pet’s trust and building up their confidence, it involves finding the distance at which your pet becomes anxious over a certain situation, and reacting to this in order to calm your dog’s nerves.

For example, your pet may be scared of bridges or large vehicles. As you walk toward the subject of their fear you will notice them beginning to pull more and become distressed.

This is the point where you need to stop walking, backtrack and note the distance at which your pet relaxes again. At this point you will reward the dog will a treat or play with them to distract them from the situation.

The point of this is to reinforce that feeling of security and show your pet that there can be positives in coming close to their fears.

It will be a form of positive reinforcement you use over the weeks in order to get closer and closer to the subject of their fears, until your dog no longer fears it at all.

The fact is that your dog trusts you, and if they become scared of something they will instinctively look to you to gauge your reaction to it all.

If you don’t show signs of distress, and instead feed them positive thoughts and love, they will begin to realize that the object they are scared of is no threat at all.

They will trust your judgement and be happy for it.

Focused Attention

Distractions, like above, are a great way to help your pet overcome anxiety and get on with their day happily.

As you approach another dog and your pet becomes nervous and skittish, whip out their favorite toy and use it to focus their attention away from their surroundings.

It makes your dog change its thought process and helps them overcome anxiety when faced with scary objects or situations.

This way of training your dog will also require you to brush up on recall skills.

You will need to make sure that whenever you call your pet’s name, they come to you.

To do this, sit with a family member or friend on opposite sides of the room.

Call your dog’s name, if they come to you, reward them with a cocktail sausage or small piece of cheese.

If you dog doesn’t look at you when you call its name, tap it on the back until it looks at you.

Call their name again and see if your dog comes to you.

It might take a while but eventually your pet will understand what you are saying and come to you when you call.

The important thing to remember here is that once you’ve trained your dog to come when you call its name, never use the name in a negative way.

Instead, scold your pet by saying thing like ‘Bad dog’ or ‘stop it’- it doesn’t matter what you say as long as you don’t use their name.

Eye Contact

Eye contact is just as important to our pets as it is to us.

It can help us form a bond with our pet as they recognize our face and associate us with safety and security.

It will distract a timid dog from its surroundings and help it feel more confident and calm.

Get into the habit of calling your pets name and making eye contact, then play with them and praise them heavily.

It will help them to associate you with positivity.


Hormones can play a huge role in your pet feeling anxious and stressed, as it does with humans.

Females especially can become very shy and timid when they are on heat if they are constantly being harassed by male dogs.

The issue with neutering our pets is that the trip to the vets can cause a huge amount of stress and emotion trauma to our pets.

It is not wise to have your dog spayed if they aren’t confident enough to be left in the vets.

Rescue dogs in particular could get very stressed if you leave them and they don’t know whether you are coming back or not.

If that sense of trust isn’t fully there yet, taking your dogs to get neutered can make them much more aggressive and regress in their training.

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