Timid, Frightened And Not At All Playful


New Member
So if you read my introduction you know I have a rescue GSP puppy in PC Kazakhstan.

She is so afraid. Of everything.

I have never seen a puppy more timid or frightened. She never shows aggression, never growls or raises her upper lip. But she is regularly terrified of life. Her tails is between her legs 70% of the time, and never wags unless we are returning home from a walk. I feel terrible for her, and don't know how to help her.

Even playtime with her is something I don't know how to handle. She is sweet and calm and lays down often. I understand it could simply be her temperment - Frankie could simply be a laid back kind of girl. But the fear just isn't normal.

She is very smart - I've had her three days now, and she already understands that when we go outside and stand in a specific area of grass I am waiting for her to pee and poop. She tries everytime to please me, and always manages to squeeze something out of her bladder (which of course I reward with praise and touch).

Here are some examples of how fearful she is:

  • When we are outside on our walks, if another person comes toward us (and they will) she makes a beeline for between my legs or for my right side (so that I am between her and the oncoming person).
  • When we go outside for potty breaks, she immediately does her business and races back to the entrance to our building. Her tail only wags when she sees me following her and we head back inside.
  • When I introduce a new toy I hold it, show her it, and put it down on the floor for investigation. She might sniff it, but generally she just doesn't care. If I roll it across the floor, she startles and runs away from it.
  • When we went to the bazaar (lots of people) she simply refused to walk, peed herself and trembled. It was so sad.
I am also worried about possible separation anxiety. She howls when I leave (for about three minutes, I timed it, I'm worried about my neighbors!). Everywhere I go in the house she follows me, and when I hold still she general sits or lays on my feet.

I love my GSP and I want her to be a happy, healthy, well adjusted dog. I will be taking her home with me when I leave in July of next year. But I worry about her, even though I know she is new and a lot of change has just happened.

I could go on and on, but I'm sure you'll all have questions.

Oh yeah, and the culture here isn't dog friendly. Children either run from or try to kick puppies and dogs. There are no dogparks.




Honored Member
There are some dog lovers here who will probably be by to help you, they've been able to make some remarkable progress with their shy dogs. Tx_cowgirl has a link to dog leash cover, which you can attach to your dog's leash, which reads "Give Me Space" which might help reduce the number of hands reaching for your shy dog.

Most breeders and vets think shy dogs are born that way, it's a recessive gene, the parent might be 'normal', but, you can still make a shy dog better, or worse. You can help this dog become his best self.
Here's two videos, which might help you get some ideas.
Here's one called "How to help your dog love being home alone"

and here is one on helping a shy dog learn to become more comfortable about being touched:

best of luck with you new dog! Remember, things she is afraid of, should never be forced upon her (not that you are doing that). That'd be like, if you were deathly afraid of spiders, and someone threw spiders on you to 'cure' you, well, that would probably make you worse, and make you less trusting of those who allowed this to happen...

But, if everytime you saw spiders, $20 bills fell outa the sky, well, it *might* help you develop a new association with spiders.

Don't force your dog to put up with unwanted hands on her.

also, if your dog ever does growl, take care you never 'correct' or 'scold' the growl, you DO want your dog to be able to give warnings if she is reaching her threshold. If you 'correct' a growl (not that you are), that won't make your dog 'nice', it only makes your dog silent. Then you are left with a dog who has learned to skip the warning growl, and goes straight for a bite, which is last thing you want. (i mean, IF your dog ever begins to growl at ppl out of fear, then calmly remove her away from that which she growls at.).

BEST OF LUCK, i do believe you can help your new dog become her best self!


Honored Member
My dog has entirely different issue than yours, but learning how to tell my gangsta to 'calm down' has helped *my* dog maybe more than anything else i've tried. Not sure it'd work with *your* dog, but, it helped *my* dog. You *might* be able to tell your dog to calm down, and help reduce her fear level a bit, with slow blinks, yawns, deep sighs, etc.

For *my* dog, he had to LOOK AT ME to see the signal................... like doing a yawn or slow blink, while your dog is looking at something else, or walking ahead of you on a leash, doesn't help much. so i had to train my dog the cue, "Look at me", to be able to give my dog the calming signal.

I found for *my* dog, it helped if i gave him the cue BEFORE he freaked out....once he'd already freaked out, they were far far less effective, had to be done BEFORE he got close to his target.


Honored Member
Staff member
Frankie's behavior towards newness sounds like my Zekers when he was a puppy.

Do make each interaction positive, but do not force interactions. With Zeke, he does not like food but is insane for tennis balls, so when he sees a new person I do try to get the person to toss tennis balls for him---but no petting. I've working to plant the idea in his head that every single person in the world has a tennis ball and will throw it for him, so it's fun to check them out. So I do make the circumstances more favorable, by getting strangers to always toss a tennis ball for him, but I do not ever try to make him approach anyone. Everything is his decision. For many dogs this would be a terrible idea, but for dogs like Zeke I think it's a good thing. He does not have to be pet by anyone. He does not have to approach anyone. He does not have to love people. He gets to decide when he's done getting petted by a stranger and he gets to leave(walk to the other end of the leash or walk away from person).

Basically, if we stop and talk to someone, he's thinking, "Hmm, that person might have a tennis ball. They might give it to me. I don't know them and that's scary, but they might have a tennis ball, and I looooooove tennis balls..." So generally he will approach someone, of his own volition. People are not allowed to pet him unless he asks for it--approaches, sniffs, tail wags. When he gets uncomfortable he can walk to the other end of his leash or come back to me and the person doesn't get to pet him anymore. He has a positive experience with a person, and then gets rewarded by getting to be left alone.
Zeke used to flatten himself to the floor and soil himself anytime a new dog or person approached him, but now he is sooooo much better. He will actually walk up to people and allow them to pet him. He is still fearful of people, and is no social butterfly, but is much more comfortable about investigating strangers. All interactions he has are positive, and he makes many of his own decisions, so he isn't pressured to "get over his fear."

If Frankie does like food, recruit a volunteer to walk around and just drop treats randomly, don't even look at her. The more people you have do this, the more she will begin to think, "Treats rain from the sky when people are around!!!"
Pay attention to her body language and protect her. If she looks uncomfortable, don't push an interaction. Let her chill out and try later.
You could also try(if possible where you are at) going somewhere where there are lots of people but you can be far away. Let's say it's a department store parking lot. Go sit somewhere where she is comfortable and can see the people but there is no actual interaction. Reward her when she looks at them and she's calm. People become a sign of treats.

Because she reminds me very much of my Zekers, I do not think that she will ever be a social butterfly. I certainly don't mean to discourage you, DO WORK WITH HER, because she can improve greatly! Zeke has, and every new person he meets is another step in the right direction. He surprises me every day with something; his confidence has grown so so much. But do not think that you can "fix" her, that you or anyone else can make Frankie an outgoing people-lover. She is young, and has a lot of learning ahead of her. You can help her see the world as a safer place, and help her improve.

If she is scared and comes to you, do not coo to her, snuggle her, etc. Don't make her think she does have something to be scared of. If she is scared don't call her to you so you can hug her fears away. If she chooses to come to you, just let her be with you and that's it. Whatever she is scared of, act like it's nothing. If you're walking by a rock and she's terrified of it, don't acknowledge it. It's a rock, whatever. Go on like you haven't noticed anything. If a loud noise scares her, ignore it. It's nothing to you. If you react to her fear, you're reinforcing the idea in her head that she has something to be scared of. She will look to you for everything to see how she needs to react.

If you take her outside, she does her business, and then runs inside, oh well. Sit outside not far from the door.
"I'm scared Mom, I want inside! Please come with me!!!" You come in, and ahh, everything's okay now. Just let her go inside and you stay out, but not too far out in the yard at first. Frankie wants to be inside, oh well. Eventually she will come out to be with you, because ultimately you are her safety net. When she comes outside to you, lots of loving, petting, etc, then go inside. As she improves, raise the expectations. Sit outside further away from the door and wait for her to come further from the house. Eventually the whole yard will be safe.

Z was like you describe Frankie when he was a puppy. Now, he does approach people on a fairly regular basis and does let people pet him. Earlier this year he actually was very friendly with the vet and vet tech when he got his vaccinations, I was astonished! He has grown a lot, and it's been a looot of work but it definitely shows. Z will never ever be an outgoing, social butterfly, but he does continue to improve every day. Most people just think he's a "shy dog" now instead of the dog that's freaking out about the person looking at him across the store.

The videos posted are great. Do try those exercises.
Good luck with little Frankie! :)
And this is the link for the "Give Me Space" leash sleeve and bandana if you wanted to see those.