Timid Puppy

Discussion in 'Puppies' started by hockey390, Jan 2, 2008.

  1. hockey390 New Member

    I've tried to imagine it will go away in time as my puppy gets more familiar with situations, people, objects, etc., but I'm going to just come out and admit it.. My dog is timid.

    I don't mind that she gets scared of objects laying on the ground and won't go near them. If she hears a loud noise she usually runs the other way. And the most important of all, which is the reason I am writing for suggestions will follow.

    When I originally found this site I started reading the training pages looking for a nice spot to start. I read everything from the beginning, and decided to start at the "Lure", and "Stand". I skipped the part about how to properly have your dog accept a treat, which I just decided to go back to since my pup wasn't accepting as nicely as I wanted.

    When my dog doesn't accept properly I give a sharp "OUCH!", remove my hand from the area quickly, and walk about 5 feet away. When I walk back (probably 15 seconds later) to make another attempt, my dog wants nothing to do with trying to get the treat. I really have to coax her to even keep her from lying down and looking ashamed. Am I going about this wrong?

    If there are any tips for my general problem with her being timid I would greatly appreciate your advice as well.
    My dog is a 5 month old female Golden Retriever.

  2. CollieMan Experienced Member

    hehe Now this is a subject I know a little about. My own dog, Ellie, was the runt of her litter and she was extremely timid. It's well documented around here, the problems this gave me when trying to train her initially. For ages, she was scared of my height, which meant that I couldn't really do any close-up work with her, and it became very frustrating. If I verbally corrected too harshly, then she would cower and I'd feel awful.

    Can I suggest you completely drop training for a couple of weeks. Use those weeks to focus on play. I mean play where she gets to tumble about with you quite a bit. Make it play on her level. Get down on the floor with the dog as much as possible. Interact with her as much as possible, even if you have to lay flat on your back and sing like an idiot. (Hey, if I can, anyone can!) Let puppy learn that you are HUGE fun to be with. Use these times to build her confidence without her realising what you are doing.

    For example, when you are playing with her, lift her two front paws from the ground, lift her legs, rub her belly, and so forth. They are all tiny little things but they will help build the dog's confidence. Treat her with food bits just because, instead of waiting for her to do something good. She'll get to the point where she sees you as the best thing since, well, since the last best thing she ever knew. :) Show her as many new things as you can. I would sit my dog on top of the stationary car, the outside bin, and all sorts. Things that she may never do in her life, but they were all experiences to help build confidence.

    Further, if you stop training for a while, then you won't need to give any "Ouch" corrections. Usually, they would be fine, but with a dog that already has little confidence, such things may serve to make them more timid towards you. I had to revert to "Nooooo, that's not what I asked for..." for a while, as my usual "ah ah" sound was too harsh for her.

    If you try to force things, you'll just end up feeling bad, and it sounds like you perhaps already are. Also, try not to do anything "quickly", including removing your hand. Timid dogs don't react well to things being done quickly, in my experience.

    It can and will get better, but it's not going to happen overnight. Work with what you have right now -- a timid dog. Have fun with her, let the confidence build naturally and in a fun way, and the rest will come, I promise. Ellie is still what I would class as a timid dog, but she's incredibly improved over what she was, and she's now seven months of age.

    This is also one of those cases where I'd encourage you to let the dog sleep with you, if it's practical. For timid dogs, everything is bigger, darker, wider, taller, and louder than it is for more confident dogs. The more you can do to help them deal with it, the sooner it will get resolved.
  3. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    Great advice, CollieMan! I don't really have anything to say. Lol. ^^ Zeke was an incredibly timid pup when I got him, and had very little socialization. He lived with four outgoing, sweet border collies, all much older than him. His brother was his exact opposite---extremely outgoing, loved anything that could give him any attention at all, VERY curious, and very open-minded. His border collie buds were all used to human interaction, and animal interaction. His owner(actually not the people he spent the most time with) hardly ever paid attention to him. He ran loose, as they lived on one of the largest ranches in America. He was shy, and didn't tag along with his extrovert brother and friends, which would have helped him. His owner didn't socialize him, and basically just fed him(sometimes). When I brought him home, it was a huge change. At first he was a little scared of all the attention, but he quickly welcomed it with open arms...err, paws. I believe this big change from almost no attention to lots of attention greatly attributed to his separation anxiety.
    He was separated from my other dog for a long time, as he was just so small and he was extremely intimidated by Rusty, who wanted to play rougher than Zeke could handle. I slowly began letting them have short, supervised play sessions. Since he wasn't overwhelmed by so many dogs, just playing with Rusty helped improve his confidence. (Rusty's scared of almost nothing.)
    How do you hold the treat when you give it to her? In my experience, most dogs will use their tongue more than their teeth to get the treat from an open palm. This way, they aren't taking the treat and your finger with it, but they're still getting rewarded. No correction needed. If you hold the treat between your fingers, she's more likely to try to grasp it, accidentally nipping your hand. May work, may not...just depends on the dog.
    I agree that giving her some time off would be good. Socialization will help her, if you take it slowly. Very slowly. I wouldn't suggest running out to the nearest pet-friendly store that is full of dogs and people and noise, of course. The slower the better.
    I would recommend following the tips CollieMan has given you. Be patient, and good luck. :doghappy:
  4. hockey390 New Member

    All very good info so far, thank you both.

    I would just like to give a little more in depth info on her stage of timidness so we are on the same page..

    She is not afraid of me by any means. She is even trying to jump into my lap while I am typing this..:dogsmile:
    When I first got her the breeder described her as having "spirit". She has a bunch of normal puppy energy, and socializes with our 7 month old black lab to the extreme.. Playing, growling, running around, stealing toys, all that normal puppy on puppy play. I would maybe describe her timidness as being more so of easily startled.. If I bang my hand on the table right now she will look, but not run and hide.

    When I run at her she gets into a pounce position and is ready to play. I take her to PetSmart a couple times a week, and she rides in the car with me on trips around town and long distance. At PetSmart she is absolutely fine, with an exception to the automatic door when we go in and out, where she sort of runs through quickly and in a defensive crouch.

    When I talk about her "timidness" I feel more so that she feels afraid when she KNOWS she did something wrong.. I definitely don't feel she is timid on a level like one may immediately think of as maybe a dog to cowers, or a pup you might get from the pound.

    I may be in partial denial, who knows.. But she sleeps by my side every night, and when I leave and others are home to watch her and she isn't in her kennel I am told she sits by the door until I get back.. :dogwub:

    After reading this, do you still advise me to take time off for just associating time? If so I plan on doing it, but I just want to make sure we are on the same page.. I more so was expecting something more on the lines of the saying "noo....no..." like you did state.

    Anyways, thanks for the advice! Sorry for the long message back.

    ***EDIT BELOW***
    Oh and also, when I am holding the treat between my thumb, index, and middle finger only. She tends to lick my fingers quite a bit though, and usually the part I don't like is she will try and grab with her teeth, not her tongue. Sometimes I feel a really light tooth on my thumb.
  5. CollieMan Experienced Member

    OK. Reading the above clarification, I don't think we were on the same page.

    I'm a tad confused though. (Easily done, I'm afraid.) :)

    So are you interpreting her looking at you in that case as her being startled? Or are you demonstrating that she's okay with you?

    That will fade in time as she becomes more and more accustomed to it. Me, I would completely ignore it, and I mean completely; just keep on walking like it never happened. What we humans can tend to do at times is over-analyse things and turn them into major stumbling blocks by expecting them to happen each and every time. I'm a great believer in leading by example with dogs.

    How do you feel that she "knows" she has done something wrong? Let's say that your family have been out for the day, and left pup at home. When you return, she has chewed up your favourite shoes, urinated on the carpet, and left you a nice steaming puppy pudding on the sofa. How exactly would you react to that?

    Nothing wrong the first part at all, in my view. However, the second part isn't very healthy. It could very easily lead to a case of full-blown separation anxiety and that can be a nightmare to resolve. What you're saying is that your dog is so dependant on you that it will ignore another dog, the rest of the family, and toys, in preference to just sitting there waiting for you. What's going to happen if you have to spend a night away, or a weekend?

    I'd look at trying to reduce that dependency while she is still young, if I were you.

    No. Though I think it's a healthy thing to do from time to time anyway. But in answer to your issue - no, I don't.

    I remember these days well. When I was teaching Ellie to loose leash walk, I was sort of forced to hold my treats in the same manner so that I didn't drop them as we were walking, and I could feed them into her mouth. By the time I would get to the end of the walk, particularly on cold mornings, my finger tips would be stinging where the teeth had nipped me a little.

    However, once she got all of her adult teeth through (and matured a little more), she just learned to better control her own teeth. The only thing I can really suggest for that, if it's really concerning you, is to change how you hold the treat. Perhaps just on an open palm, for example.
  6. hockey390 New Member

    WOW, lots of great info here.. Thanks a whole bunch!

    Next time I will proof read what I write so there aren't any mix ups, like I'm sure were caused now that I read what I wrote.

    I'll try and get this all cleared up and answered... Here we go!

    This was a bad example I gave.. When I first got her she would have jumped and ran when I did that.. I have been working with her on the loud noises (seeing how one day I'd like to hunt with her). I had some work done on a mirror, and it came back wrapped in brown craft paper (the type you might wrap a box to ship in). I removed the paper and had it sitting on the ground, when I moved it around a lot it made loud noise and she gave it the look of (what in the world is that thing) with her ears back, and didn't want to get near it. I bang pots and pans around while I am getting her food ready prior to meals to associate Loud noise = I get something I enjoy, which has progressively gotten better. At first she would jump and run in the other room, and now she is sticking around, just in a little more "ready to run" sort of manner if need be. The hand on the desk didn't shock her, which could be that it just didn't surprise her much, or maybe she is okay with me, as you stated..

    Good advice. I tend to even slow down a little at the door.. I think I always fear that it won't open if they are closed or something and I will run face first into it. :dogcool: But I will try just confidently walking straight up and through from here on out.

    If this were to walk in the door and she was laying with a shoe in her mouth or something she wasn't supposed to have, I would give her a solid "NO!" As for the messes, I have read enough to know that you can't do anything about the past, so I would be mad, but keep my cool. She never does these things though *knock on wood*. I keep her crated when I am gone, with a few chew toys and a shirt of mine. The messes have happened in the cage before, but her punishment enough was to have to stay in there with it until I got home. Lucky for me though, my pup is not a chewer.. Now if I came home WHILE she was leaving her present on the couch, she would get the same "NO!" and I would grab her by the collar and lead her outside. When I say she KNOWS when she did something wrong, it's usually when I catch her in the act. Like an accident inside, if I catch her as soon as she sees that I see her, she gets the look of "I did something wrong".

    This I will look into. She had MAJOR separation anxiety when I got her. She was one small puppy out of two litters (19 dogs) that were all together. So when I took her away she clung to me. When she was crated she howled for hours at a time.. Wow those days/nights were rough... But I will ask those that watched her recently how she was exactly.. If she stayed by the door the whole time, if she did just at first, etc.. I agree there, I don't want a dog to do that, because I've watched dogs like that for friends/family, and it makes me kind of sick to see the dog just miserable that they aren't with them.

    Emma just lost all her K9's a week and a half ago, so those are coming in, and she is still growing in her adults in the front as well. This may or may not have something to do with it, but good tip. How would you suggest I hold the treat when trying to "lure" then? Still a closed palm? I was holding it in between my thumb, index, and middle finger, and if she got excited she would sometimes lunge and try and grab the treat with her teeth. This is what immediately lead me back to the lesson's on properly receiving the treats, because I did NOT want that.

    Hopefully we are close to the same page, and anyone who has decided to read basically what has become a short book on this topic, feel free to jump in! :msngrin:
  7. CollieMan Experienced Member

    To me, and without seeing it first-hand, this sounds like perfectly normal puppy behaviour and response. I'd be willing to bet that at some point, in the not too distant future, that initial natural nervous reaction will switch to a natural curious reaction, as she experiences more and more of the world around her. Again, I would say that it will help to lead by example though. If you make an issue of a particular sound, or you cuddle the dog when it makes an issue of the sound, it will soon learn that it was right to be afraid. "Hey, she's moved in to protect me, I was right to be afraid. I knew it!"

    It's a classic syndrome. It takes so little for a dog to read us and react to what it reads.

    Good response. I'd also be sure to give her something that she is allowed to chew though. I really just wanted to see if you were shouting at her if she'd done wrong. I guess not. :)

    I don't think they know they've done something wrong per se, but it goes back to dogs being great cue readers. "Hey, hang on, I've heard that tone before, and I've seen the way she screws those eyes up before. Hey, last time this happened... Uh-oh. I better run!"

    It sounds like we got our dogs in very similar circumstances. Ellie was the "runt" from 14 dogs, and, in all fairness, she's never going to have nerves of steel. But she improves as each month goes on. I think the best you can do with such dogs is let them have as many successes as possible, in order to help build their confidence, and go really easy on the corrections. Overly zealous corrections or training techniques can break such dogs.

    I don't think it matters how you hold it when you're luring, so much as how you hold it when you actually feed it to her. I can tell you how I do it.... Actually, can I? Let's see...

    My hand is outstretched, palm up. Then I place the treat level with the first "crease" from the end of the finger, on the index finger, so it's essentially resting between the two fingers. I then use the thumb to secure it in position, but push it slightly between the two fingers. That way, when the dog is to eat it, I just lift my thumb and she takes it from between my fingers, not my finger tips. If you can't imagine this, shout and I'll photograph it.
  8. hockey390 New Member

    I will respond more to these comments in the morning... I am just going to sleep after a long day's work tonight, but this comment stood out... I know exactly what you are saying, and I will try this..It is ALMOST like you are describing holding a bowling ball, but a very GENTLE way of holding the bowling ball, with your thumb the one securing it in your hands.. I will try this.

    I will comment more on this tomorrow when I am more awake.
  9. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    Haha, well I'm out of tips. ^^ Looks like CollieMan's covered the necessary bases for you and your pup. I will say though that simple slow socialization to loud noises will help her become braver. =) You've seen this with the pots and pans. Keep it up. :dogsmile:

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