Nervous Nelli


Experienced Member
Our new puppy Nelli is very skiddish and nervous of just about everything. From what I know that guy that rescued them didn't take them out or do much. The mom and pups lived in his laundry room. He only had them for a month after he rescued them, but they weren't living a good life at the place before he took them in. I would have preferred not to take a puppy from such conditions, but she was the last puppy, and he was taking her to the shelter. My roomie feel for the poor pup and brought her home. Don't get me wrong, I love her, I just know that she is going to be a lot of work, and training. I just hope I'm up for the challenge! :)

I know he didn't have kids, only had a small min pin dog, and not many people came over to see the pups. He also never took them anywhere except to the vet. She is 11 weeks, and I know they should be socialized long before 12 week mark.

I help run a daycare out of my house, so her being comfortable people coming and going is a must. She has so far become comfortable with me, my roommate, and my mom, and Remi. She doesn't like Chance for some reason. Everyone else she sees scares the day lights out her, and she runs back to our room. I don't want to force her into a situation that makes her become more withdrawn, but I'm not sure what to do. Shes's scared of loud noises, people, sudden movements, and just about anything else you can think of.

How do I build her confidence to explore the house, and go up to the kids, and adults? And eventually to go for walks, and go places without being scared of everything.

I tried having my niece throw treats to her, she will eat the treat and then try to hide behind me, or run back to where she was. She will not take food from anybodies hand unless its me or the roomie.

Should I get her used to the clients and daycare children before taking her out to see other stuff or just do both at the same time? I am within walking distance to a park, so I'm considering carrying her there and just letting her watch people/ ducks/ other animals from a distance. Will this be too much for her to handle?

My biggest concern is her fear turning into a fear based aggression towards people, and other animals.

I am going to try filming her later today, or tomorrow so I can show you guess what she looks like. I'm sure I have more questions, that I'm forgetting.


Staff member
Well, my best advice is to never force her. any strange people should completely ignore her, and toss treats around (without throwing directly at her) but people should not advance towards her at all. Try to have friends come over for extended periods of time, so she can take her own time to get used to new people slowly. ALWAYS make it a positive situation, and yes, taking her out to the park and such, letting her observe people from a distance is a very good plan, just make sure no one gets too close, or does anything to scare her... you may have to be a ninja for awhile LOL


Experienced Member
Well, my best advice is to never force her. any strange people should completely ignore her, and toss treats around (without throwing directly at her) but people should not advance towards her at all. Try to have friends come over for extended periods of time, so she can take her own time to get used to new people slowly. ALWAYS make it a positive situation, and yes, taking her out to the park and such, letting her observe people from a distance is a very good plan, just make sure no one gets too close, or does anything to scare her... you may have to be a ninja for awhile LOL
My sister comes during the day, with my youngest niece, and the other two stay on the weekends so I will ask her to help me. Most of my friends have moved out of state, so I'm going to see if any clients would mind staying later then usually to give her treats, and such.

I just notice she's comfortable with me and my roommate in the back yard and in my room, but gets shy in all the other rooms in the house. We don't spend much time in the living room or kitchen.

My roommate is going to be taking her in the front, we are redoing part of it. And wants her to sit on a blanket near her in the evening. People walk their dogs, and its a semi busy street with cars passing (Every so often, not all the time) and joggers. Would this help or make her more fearful?


Experienced Member
Nelli normally will run and hide in my room when she sees the kids playing. So I cut up some hot dogs, and I would feed her anytime she would look at the kids or a toy that was dropped etc. Any time something made noise and she looked at it instead of running away I gave her a treat.

I had one of the older kids, throw her food, and she would only go so far for it, but that's understandable. He leaned over down to give her it out of his hand, she was fine as long as he didn't talk. But when he bend down on his knees she growled at him. She didn't try to bite him, but growled. I had him sit a few feet away and toss her food, and also have her take it from his hand. She was fine.

After 5 or 10 minutes I stopped not wanting to stress her. She ran to the room and would occasionally come up the ramp to the living room and watch the kids, if they screamed she would ran back down. But after a few minutes she laid down, next to my chair. She wouldn't face the kids, but she did lay down near them.


Experienced Member
Welcome to the "shy dog club". Enjoy your stay :rolleyes::p

From experience, the best advice I can give is to NEVER push her. If she's not comfortable, then take it back a step to where she is comfortable.

If she doesnt like people, then dont let new people near her. Oh and I'm sure you'll find plenty of people who assure that 'all dogs love them' or that if you just give them 5 minutes together they'll be best friends. Well. That's a load of **** too.

I've found with Evie the best way to have her feeling comfortable around new people if is the new people simply completely ignore her. Although it sounds like she's taking steps by herself if she's starting to come up to watch the kids? I'd continue with what you're doing, but make sure that what ever situation you put her in, that she can always CHOOSE to either be in it, or get away from it. She's only going to get more confident if she's not forced into scary situations.

Hate to say it though, but she might not be suited to living in a day care facility as she may NEVER be happy around strange people, and I know Evie for example HATES kids (because they don't listen and they insist on trying to touch her when ever she's not paying attention). That and they make lots of loud noises, run around like idiots and scream. All of which are things that Evie struggles with as it over excites her.

Good luck with her though, and if you have any shy dog questions, Evie B and I are always happy to help :D


Experienced Member
She is still shy around the kids, but we have been leaving my bedroom door open and she is choosing on her own to come up and be near the kids. This morning when I was getting ready for work she actually choose to go up the ramp and be with the kids, without me. They don't try to pet her, thankfully they are all old enough to understand no means no.

She wants to investigate noise, she jumps at first but she will walk over to whatever is and sniff it. She's becoming deaf to the noisess of the daycare, the kids don't bother her unless they are really close. Also if there are too many adults in the room, then she gets nervous. (Could it be because of how tall they are?)

I never force her to come out of the room, or to go to the room, everything is here choice. I reward her heavily with treats when she makes the choice to come see something new, or different. I've had clients toss treats as they leave and she is finding herself wanting to come within a few feet of people for treats, but she is always ready to run.

I agree that this may not be the best place for her, but I'd like to get her healthy and in good condition before really considering giving her up. She has come out of her shell considerable since we got her home on friday. I didn't even think she would warm up to Remi, but she is goes looking for him now. I can't help but stay hopeful! I appreciate the honesty and will keep her best interest in mind. I will give it until she is healthy before making that decision. Fingers cross she can get comfortable here. :)

We took her to a very empty pet store today. There was only 3 employees, and when I asked for help and explained what we needed the first thing the lady did was get in Nelli's face, and try petting her. She didn't even ask if it was okay.:cautious: I have a feeling keeping people way from the 'cute little puppy' will be the hardest thing of all.


Experienced Member
I realized part of her nervous is when you pet her, she will put her head down, and won't look at us. It seems to us that she doesn't like being held. We only pick her up to rush outside in a potty accident, or to get to the car. She does like to be picked up to be put on the couch or bed.

She also puts her head down, when we pet her if we are standing up but as soon as we sit on the floor she is all over us wanting to play.

Are there exercises we can try to help her with being touched?


Experienced Member
I asked a client not to pet Nelli yesterday and she said you have to pull a dog out of their comfort zone to get them to be comfortable with something or someone. I disagree, but what do you guys think? I believe I should let her make the choice to go to people, or to explore something. When she makes that choice she is rewarded for it. I don't think it's fair to shove her in situations she's uncomfortable in.

Anyways we had a family friend over last night, and Nelli didn't run away. She stood under a chair at first but then she came out for love, and belly rubs...and hot dogs. :p


Experienced Member
Forcing a dog out of their comfort zone is called Flooding, and is a CM tactic. No thanks. once a dog is over threshold, it cannot think. by choosing to try something, they are not too afraid to think.
I knew there was a name for it! I couldn't think of it when I was having the discussion with her. I don't watch much CM cause by the time I got into dog training I was watching Victoria Stilwell. I agree that pushing them over the threshold is bad, I've seen first hand what it does to my moms chihuahua, and it's very sad to watch.


Well-Known Member
Forcing a dog out of their comfort zone is how people get bitten.

Thor is highly sensitive to loud noises and fast moving objects. If something falls he runs like a bat outta hell. We work on it with shaping so potentially horrifying things because fun rewarding things. Yesterday he was introduced to the bang game. At first when he saw the teeter move he jumped back a mile but then he offered to put a foot on it very delicately and we built it up from there to where he would offer to jump on it to make it bang (he even tried to go all the way across it at one point).

Siren was super shy around other dogs and people. I didn't force her to go near them but I rewarded her if she did. I let her observe everything and decide on her own if she wanted to try playing with other dogs like Thor was. The first time she went to the red barn she was a little overwhelmed because there was so much going on dogs barking, strange people everywhere so she was pretty much glued to Thor and I and the entire time she watched him intently and how he reacted. Yesterday when we went she initiated play in the waiting area with other dogs. She was happy to see other people. She finally decided that other people and dogs aren't so scary after all.

Time, patience, and shaping is all it takes.


Experienced Member
Exactly why I won't push she do something she isn't comfortable with. I also took over training from my roomie since she also believe in having her out of her comfort zone. She was suppose to be our dog, but I'm super protective of her so she's more like just my dog now. :p

I'm hoping that with time she will come out of her shell much like Siren is starting too.


Honored Member
DevonW, I do the exact same thing with Shivon with the teeter. She's fearful of the movement more than the sound. Although she's afraid of loud noises (pots and pans in the kitchen) We're working on it, slowly, but surely. We'll get there.:)


Experienced Member
We've started taking Nash to the park. We carry her and just sit on benches in different parts of the park. Right now we are only in the less populated areas. She has been fine with dogs and people at a distance.

She had to encounters with dogs that walked right next to us. She started barking at them, but she does that with anything that scares her. So for right now we are just clicking and treating for any looking at other dogs, people, bikes etc. Yesterday she was huffing (she was barking but you could tell she wanted to) at a group of dogs walking by about 10 ft away, they stopped in front of us and she wasn't sure what to do. I started treating her before she bark. She zoned in and it took a bit of work to get her to focus on us. We will be taking her to the park every day or every other day.

Is there anything else we should be doing?


Honored Member
I'm really late to this party (not much time on the forum lately), but it sounds like Nelli is slowly coming around, and you're to be commended - you sound like you're doing a great job!! (y) Keep doing what you're doing, and let her take all the time she needs. Keep in mind that puppies pass thru fear periods, and just about the time you think she's doing really well, she just may once again be scared of her own shadow (and other stuff she wasn't scared of yesterday, or this morning, or a while ago). Don't be discouraged, just step back (literally and figuratively) with her, and "keep her safe" from what scares her, til her fear period has passed (a week, two weeks), and that scary thing isn't so scary any more. Thanks for giving this sweet girl a chance at a normal life.

If it gives you any hope, some friends of mine adopted a Golden at 8 weeks who was the only survivor from a litter who's mom and entire litter died at birth. She was bottle fed and raised in a barn, with no littermates or mom to teach her anything. The "breeder" (I used that term so loosely) didn't get her around any other dogs for any kind of socialization at all. She was terrified of everything, every noise, every "thing", totally, and was food aggressive, big time (yes, at 8 weeks old, she'd try to take your face off if you got near her food!!!, and don't even attempt to take anything away from her that she shouldn't have in that puppy mouth, cuz she'd rip your hand off, totally -- and yes, I'm serious). As I read your thread, I kept thinking of her (she's now almost 2). I encouraged them to get her into puppy preschool classes ASAP. They did, and altho she spent the first several classes under the chairs, she finally started coming around. They did puppy preschool, puppy kindergarten, then beginning, elementary and continuing clicker classes. She's now a really well-adjusted 2 yr old dog, who's around lots of people, kids, goes to the dog park and the beach constantly, and lives with 2 other dogs. They went slowly with her for a long time, and only went as fast as she could go. I walked her several times a week (still do) and sometimes our walks only ended up being a few houses (once she had her shots and could walk), cuz that's all she could do - and some days she could take on the world. They/we always let her be the guide.

Keep up the good work and questions, you're doing so much for her! She's taking on the big huge scary human world one little pawprint at a time, and it sounds like you and she are going to conquer it together. Kudos to both of you!

Linda A

Experienced Member
I too am a member of the 'shy dog club.' I have two dogs that are total opposites! Royal loves everyone and everything. He loves change and introduction to new things. Spice, on the other had, is terrified of strangers and barks at and shies away from new things. It literally takes her months to get used to a person but she does eventually become friends. And once you are her friend you are her friend forever.

I put Spice through the AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy course and she did very well. A few months later we audited a class just to help keep her socialized. Again, she did well. It was as if she was saying 'I know this place and it's good!' She wasn't afraid of any of the new dogs or handlers.

But, take her to the park..... She is as happy as a lark while we are off running around in the open grassy areas. Go near people and she just about turns herself inside out trying to get away. She seems to do better with children than with adults. Last time we were at the park she actually took treats from some children who sat quietly near us.

I got both dogs from the same breeder so I know they were socialized in the same manner. I keep hoping to find out what makes her tick. If I ever do it will be a 'Halleluah!' day!!!


Experienced Member
After following your guys advice Nashville (formly Nelli) is doing a lot better with the kids, and people in general. As far as the daycare goes she could care less about the people she sees everyday. The kids no matter how loud do not bother her anymore. If people are in our yard or our house she isn't nervous around them. She doesn't care for attention, super independent. She doesn't react to noise as much, she jumps if its really loud, but not as frequently as before.

We finally got a clean bill of health from the vet:), and the okay to take her on longer walks, to the dog park, etc. She will not be going to the dog park, but its allowed now.

I've noticed on walks if a dog is walking past us she will let out a low growl and hide behind my roomie, but as soon as the dogs front is facing away she takes off towards the dog to sniff them. Unlike with Remi, I'm not encouraging her to go an greet other dogs, it's her choice. I'm also not coaxing her, and constantly petting her saying 'good girl Nash.' I will say 'good' and sometimes treat for any calmness, no barking or growing, but I'm not babying her. I've noticed she's very attached to my roomie, and tends to get jealous and protective of her. Could this be why she growls?

If it matters I don't walk her with Remington, or Chance. They're both overly excited by other dogs, and will bark, and pull to greet another dog. So she gets walked with just me and the roomie.

Is there anything I should be doing to help with her fearfulness of other dogs, or just keep walking her and let her figure it out herself? Should I walk her alone without the roomie to see how she is?