timid adult dog


New Member
I have a very timid 2 year old golden retriever. I always talk kindly praise and give her treats.. She loves to fetch and play chasing. When I attempt to teach to to sit with treats she will cowardly lay down. When we play she will come running when called but when I just call her even when she knows I have a treat she will cowardly slowly come and lay down. She has got over her fear of dog except when they act aggressive she cowers and allows them to beat her up. She will get excited but not play rough with dogs. Until she was 1 1/2 she piddled when people came into the house even though she would timidly come to them. If given a couple of minutes or so of not acknowledgment she would not piddle. How can I build her confidence and teach her tricks? I have trained previous dogs of our with no problem but the standard way doesn't work with her.


Experienced Member
I guess you could try doing some shaping games.
If she is used to the clicker, sit down with a bunch of treats, grab your clicker, and click for anything, that she does. Don't train for a specific trick you have in mind, just let her discover, that she can't do anything wrong, and training is fun.
But really, click for anything. If she comes to you, lies down, lick her nose, or anything.
Just let her see that she gets a treat for anytihng she tries.
When you see that she is CRAZY for doing trainings, you can start training a specific trick, but a very easy one, to let her see that it's still good, and she gets an even bigger praise/reward if she does what you want.
But ALWAYS stay positive. Never scold her for anything during a session, keep your sence of humour! :)

Hope I could help!
Let me know if this helps.


Experienced Member
I agree with szecsuani. For timid dogs luring can be intimidating simply because you have to move your hand above their head. Free shaping can actually create a lot of confidence in a dog. It tells them that no matter what they do they're not going to be wrong! Eventually you can start to shape specific behaviors. For sit and down capturing might be easiest, whenever she sits on her own, click and throw a treat! Eventually they do it expecting treats and that's when you can put a command to it right before she does it!


Honored Member
Staff member
Right now you should also pay attention to your body language while you are training her. If you are standing and towering over her, you are most likely intimidating her. Although most trainers will tell you to always stand, in this case I would actually recommend sitting during training. If she gains confidence with you on her level, then this will help a lot when you get above her level. Train just as you normally would, but from a sitting position. Once she becomes confident here, you can try a few tricks with you standing. By now she should understand that you=food and click=food, which should have helped her become more confident. I have done this with many timid dogs with good results.


Experienced Member
This is certainly something that I have experience of. As you will perhaps read from my own dog's blog, my dog Ellie was a litter runt, and this means that she is a naturally very timid dog. Very timid indeed.

If I take my own dog as an example, I couldn't train heel-work for some time, because my height scared her. She wouldn't come near me without cowering.

You are right, having a timid dog does bring about some really quite unique training challenges. Last weekend, my dog passed her Gold level Kennel Club Good Citizen exam, and she's still growing in confidence each day, so you can turn a timid dog around to some extent For what it's worth, here's my advice:

Allow the dog to take some liberties. This means letting her jump on the couch, and maybe sleeping on your bed. The timid dog needs to learn to have ultimate trust in you, and she will gain comfort from being close to you. If you push her away, then she feels that she has nobody to run to when she needs to. You can stop this when she develops more confidence, as I have just done with my own dog. (She's no longer allowed on the furniture, after having been allowed on it for the past year.)

When the dog gets it right, make her feel like a million dollars. Over-praise if you have to. Conversely, when she gets it wrong, do nothing. A timid dog needs no punishment, or even harsh words. It can only serve to set them back and make them more timid.

Work at the dog's level. This was how I finally got around the height issue with my own dog. I had to train her with me sitting or kneeling on the floor so that I wasn't towering over her. I can't over-state the difference this small move made.

Play tug, and let her win a few times. Then even allow her to run away with the toy with you pretending to chase her. Ellie now loves this.

Give her plenty of opportunities each day to succeed and to feel special. Each success she achieves will build her confidence. Spend a few minutes each day on the floor, training with her, even if it's behaviours that she already knows. It's all about building her confidence.

Never ask for more than she can deliver. If she has to cower, then you've asked for too much. Just remember next time, and lower the expectations.

Try doing some exercises which give her physical confidence. I, for example, used to take the cushions from my sofa and balance them on top of each other, and encourage Ellie to jump on top, gradually increasing the height each time. I would always make sure that she never feel, but would allow the cushions to sway around when she was on them. Again, it's about the confidence.

At two years, your own dog is still plenty young enough to gain in confidence. Hope it helps.


Experienced Member
my golden 4yo is also shy and i've had some horribly fearful fosters. i taught my dog and my last foster tricks with clicker and do agility with my girl to boost her confidence. above all ignore shy behavior and praise reward bravery or just staying steady. don't get too excited or put her on center stage too much. praise that is quietly delivered or just food is fine. let her come to u for affection, don't go to her. don't overly reassure or say it's okay good girl u can do it etc. quite comforting is much better. u don't want to inadvertently reinforce or reward fearful behavior.

if she is afraid of going outside don’t go and coax let her go first and throw food like chicken out the door. sit down and don't stare. if you must look at her do it with your side facing her not head on. pet and give attention from side or rear. don't hug or gush.

i agree with previously posted. patience patience patience and humor. if there is some exercise she likes do it. goldens are high drive dogs and need a lot of exercise to help them be mentally stable and happy. does she like to fetch? that would be great. hide treats around the house and show and encourage her how to go around and hunt for and find them.

walk by her and ignore her but toss some treats near her. you become the neat person that makes chicken rain from the sky. don't call her ever for anything that she might not think is fun. go calmly clip on a leash and reward for coming with you. don't ever pull her by leash anywhere, it would be better to let her go first or carry her. better yet plan ahead for extra time and encourage with food and let her decide to come.

good luck, i know how hard it is to see your dog afraid.


New Member
I'm a little concerned about this part of your post-
"She has got over her fear of dog except when they act aggressive she cowers and allows them to beat her up. "
Who are these dogs? Do you have other dogs? Or are these dogs that you encounter in social situations? What do you mean by 'beat her up'?
Either way, it sounds like limiting her contact with them, when possible, is a good idea.
Also, I've never had that problem, so I'm not sure the best way to go about it, but letting her be bullied by other dogs is not going to help her confidence any, and some intervention on your part would be helpful there.


Experienced Member
great point. making sure she has good experiences with dogs is the best way to help. have u thought about a well run class for shy dogs w/an experienced instructor??