New Wheaten Puppy is Scared


New Member
I already read the Timid Puppy thread, but I am looking for some advice that is more specific to our problem. Thanks in advance.

We added a 12 week old female Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier puppy to our family over the weekend. We picked her out knowing that she would be a bit of a project as she was definately the most timid of the litter. She has been in our home for two days now, and is afraid of all of the people in the house (me, my wife, and our 2 year old son). She prefers to hide in her crate, or under the kitchen table when in the house, but when outside she is as happy as you would expect a puppy to be. She is still timid, but happy.

We have been researching approaches to help encourage her out of the scared stage, but have come across conflicting information. Some say to shower her with attention and love, while others say to do the opposite so as not to make the condition worse.

We already have a year old Min Schnauzer who is very well adjusted to life in our household. The new puppy loves the Schnauzer and follows him around when he is in the room with her.


Honored Member
Staff member
I disagree with showering her with attention. When she is acting timid, your "reassurance" only reinforces her scared behavior. Now I know Cesar Millan is a very controversial character, but I have seen this method to be beneficial with many timid dogs, and it is in no way cruel or please be open-minded, despite the fact that this is where I learned part of this.
While she is hiding(in the crate or under the table or wherever), crouch down and put your back to her. The alpha theory suggests that this is actually you submitting to the dog, but I'm not a believer....through certain horse training methods and my own view on dog behavior, I see it more as simply helping the dog to trust you and see you as no threat because you are allowing yourself to be in a vulnerable position to her. I could go into a long description of this, but I won't. You may be there a while, and if you need to, just sit down. Since you didn't say if she is simply quiet and frightened or shaking and terrified, I'll give both options. If she is quiet but acting a little uneasy, stay where you are. If she is terrified, give her more space, but keep your back to her. Find a distance where she is more relaxed. Eventually she will calm down. I would do this frequently, and when she begins to act calmly with you at a certain distance, slowly start moving closer. Don't jump from six feet away to right next to her. She will not be ready for that. You may have to move literally inches at a time. That's okay. Be patient. Petting her under the chin will help increase her confidence--it would take a while to accurately explain why, but it does. Since she's still quite young, your height can be unbelievably intimidating. Try to stay on her level as much as possible. If you have to lay on the floor, do it. She will be much less fearful of you if you are not towering over her.
Socialization will most likely be taken painfully slowly with her, if she's as timid as I'm assuming. (Since I haven't actually seen her behavior, I don't know...just assuming she's very, very timid.) She has only been in your home two days. She still has to adjust to the stress of the new place, the new people, the other dog, the loss of her littermates and mother, etc. Try not to force her to accept you. Take everything at her pace, even if it feels as if progress is so slow it's almost nonexistant. She will make improvements much better if you allow her to take things slowly rather than rushing her. I know I'm forgetting something, but I can't seem to think what exactly...I'll edit later when I remember. Good luck, and feel free to message me if you have any questions.

Aha! I remember one thing, although it's not what I was thinking that I had
Now I know prey animals and predator animals are extremely different and may learn in different if this sounds bizarre and dumb to you, feel free to look up my post on "What Dog Trainers Can Learn From Horse Trainers." It explains the similarities between predator and prey training. Anyway...
I show lambs and steers, and when you first get them they are terrified of people. With some of mine, I have sat in an area of their pen with a good supply of their food and simply waited for them to show interest in me. When they show even an ounce of improvement, their reward is being left alone. Rather than me sitting there and them cautiously picking at the food near me(or later on, in my hand), I let them simply relax and have their time to themselves to check things out after they have had the beginning lesson that I'm not so bad after all. Anyway, hope all or at least some of this helps you. If I think of anything else, I'll just edit again. Lol. :)


Well-Known Member
I can totally identify with your situation. I have a female boxer, 16 mos. old now that is very timed and shy. I brought her home at 7 weeks of age and she was very scared of any and every thing from the start except for Blue, our 11 year old, Austrailian shepherd mix. Daisy (the boxer) is slowly coming out of her shell. I take every opportunity I can to take her out in the world. I try not to make a big deal about her cowering and shaking when a stranger approaches. I tell them she's in training, ask them to not look directly at her and depending on how she's acting, ask them to pet her from under her head, rather than coming down on top of her head. Believe it or not, she's actually made great progress. I take every opportunity, also, to praise her and make a big deal about her completing a trick or behavior in a different place other than home to boost her confidence. For us, this seems to be working, although it does seem to be a very slow process. Patience, patience, patience!


New Member
We'll give it a try. Thanks for the response.

A little more description of the problem: She is not shaking, but is obviously uneasy. She is not peeing in fear as some dogs may do, but her tail is usually between her legs (we catch her wagging it on occasion). Yesterday she was also holding her head very low, but we have seen some improvement in that area. She doesn't make eye contact, but her head is starting to come up.


New Member
Was she raised outside or just not-in-a-home-environment?
It's possible she just fines inside scary! Does she enter inside by herself or do you have to bring her inside? If she won't enter inside herself, I would be rewarding interaction with the door to inside. And make inside the place of all good things - FOOD and TOYS. If possible.

If she really likes your other dog, it may be okay at this stage, but do make sure that both dogs can function as normal dogs away from one naother! You don't want them to become dependent on one another.

I would just ignore her when she's being scaredy. The most I would do is sit down (perhaps with back turned as suggested) and let her approach me.

Jean Cote

Staff member
Wow. So many good suggestions!!!! :dogsmile:

My border collie is pretty shy and timid, although she has probably never been to the extent that yours is. But the good thing is that your dog is still a puppy. A lot can change in just a few weeks.

It just sounds to me like it is a new home, and that she feels overwhelmed. If it were me I would keep her in one room and then to socialize with her. The things you should be conscious of is the noise that you make, this includes the sound and tone of voice. If you speak loudly and harsh then your dog will be scared, but if you talk to her in a soft voice she might be more open to come to you.

Another important thing that I believe is important is to not leave her alone to spend time in her crate or under the table for long periods of time. Especially if you are home, you should be interacting with the puppy and maybe set up a blanket in the corner of the room so that she can sleep on it when she needs to.

The more time the dog spends with you, the more it is going to be used to you and will loosen up her guards.

Get her toys, and chew toys so that she can play with. Get fun stuff so that she can have fun with you. Bring out a plastic bag or something that she can chase (but take it away so she doesn’t eat it). Anything that gets her involved with you and out of her fearful state will be beneficial.

With time, you can get her accustomed to different rooms in your house, and then the entire house. One thing that you will definitely need to do with your dog in a few weeks, will be to get her used to other environments and strange people. Walking her around the block, and going to the park and school parking lots are great places to build up her confidence.

Going to a shopping centre and standing outside is also an excellent way to get the dog to get accustomed to strangers. And since you have a puppy, everybody is going to want to pet her. You can even give her treats while she is being pet or ask the stranger to just give her a treat. This will help get her ‘shyness’ away.

Well these are my little suggestions,

I hope that everything works out for you!



Experienced Member
Timid and frightened puppy? I recognise that situation. :) We took the 'runt' of the litter, and as a consequence have a very timid dog. But, as I hope Ellie shows, it can be overcome, at least to a reasonable extent.

'Showering with attention' is a somewhat nebulous term that will mean different things to different people. From experience, I would say that you should shower with attention, but make that attention constructive and beneficial to the pup's particular issue. My recommendations would be:

1. Be on the floor as much as you possibly can. This will mean that you are available for the pup to interact with more frequently, and it will be on the pup's terms. It's far less worrying for the pup when it has decided to be the one to instigate the attention. Pup is also more likely to interact with you, as your height will be lessened. Ellie was awful to work with because she absolutely hated my height looming near her.

2. If possible, feed from the hand. All dogs need a trusted source they can run to when they feel anxious. For timid dogs it becomes all the more valuable. The aim is to be so valuable to the pup that when it gets nervous, it runs to you, not the crate, or the table. Having done this with Ellie, I would never not do it again with another dog.

3. Play and train. Play and train. Yes, I mentioned this twice because it's so valuable. Both will help build the dog's confidence, and with timid pups, this is so sorely missing.

4. Be patient. Patience is key here. It's a new home for starters, and all dogs, regardless of age or mental make-up take some time to settle in. I suspect that, like I do with Ellie, you will have to learn to live with her naturally timid personality. It's the price we pay for choosing the most timid pup in the litter. Ellie is now nine-months of age, and each week I see her getting a little bolder.

5. Exposure. It's tempting, I think, to want to shield the timid pup from experiencing new horizons, in case they get scared. I really don't recommend this at all. I think it's actually more important for them to experience new horizons. More important perhaps than for normal well-adjusted pups. Just be prepared to withdraw if the pup gets too anxious. Go to shops, to train-stations, to friends homes, to training classes, out in the car, near rivers, forests, cities, skateboard parks, and so forth. Sometimes it will mean standing there like a lemon for thirty minutes or more while pup gets brave enough to take one step forward, but hey, that's one step more then it would have taken thirty minutes prior. :)

I think you'll have an advantage ultimately, in that you have another dog that the pup can learn from. This should help.

Good luck....


New Member
Great suggestions! Thanks to everyone...

leema;6121 said:
Was she raised outside or just not-in-a-home-environment?
It's possible she just fines inside scary!
She was raised in a horse stall with the rest of her litter. I think the biggest problem is that she hasn't had a lot of interaction with people. She had never been in a house before coming through our front door.

leema;6121 said:
Does she enter inside by herself or do you have to bring her inside?
When we get up in the morning, she runs out the door with our other dog and just seems as excited as can be. When it's time to come in, she comes running right through the door as soon as it is opened. Once she is done with her morning romp in the back yard, she settles back into her fear stage and retreats to her crate.

I want to spend some time with her in her element (outside) but we got ten inches of snow yesterday and I am at home with a sick 2 year old. I can't take my son out in the cold right now, and I'm not going out without him. As a side note, both dogs love the snow.


Honored Member
Staff member
Ah, CollieMan has a good point with the "showering with attention" part. With her being timid, in many ways you must devote more time(and attention) to assessing her needs, more so than you would a well-adjusted pup. What I meant by not showering with attention is petting her and cooing to her while she is in a fearful state. Is she as timid around YOU when she is outside? I think working with her in her element as you mentioned would be beneficial. If she can learn to enjoy your company outside quicker than she can learn to enjoy you inside, then the transition will be easier. Shame that you can't do that now! You've gotten many good suggestions from everyone here, and it should help you. ^^ Hope your child gets better soon, and WOW hope those ten inches of snow don't hold you back too much! Good luck to you.


New Member
Scared Wheaten Puppy

I too have a very timid wheaten puppy (11 mos. old). I am curious where you got yours from? We got Riley from a breeder in Tennessee when he was 4 months old and I don't believe he had any socialization until we brought him home. I can tell you that it has been a different experience than we expected, however we could not love him more! He makes slow progress and opened up to my husband and I, but is still very timid toward "strangers". He runs around the backyard in circles, but if someone other than my husband or I pops their head out to watch him, then he stops. All I can say is be patient. He will slowly come around and may come around faster than our pup. They are the most loving dogs and I wouldn't trade ours for the World. Please feel free to email back with any questions.


A great book I recommend: "Help for your fearful dog" by Nicole Wilde