Helping a Shy Dog?

I rescued my Sheltie 4 years ago. He is still so shy he doesn't play, or even come to be petted. I spend time with him going for walks and teaching him tricks. He's smart and picks up things fast, but he is afraid of plastic bottles, stomping feet, loud noises, and just about everything. I just don't know how to calm him down and get him to relax. He must of been abused as a pup. And it breakes my heart that he doesn't seem to have fun. I've had other dogs, but he is the only one ever I can't get to. I don't want to push him. I thought after 4 years he would know he's safe here. I'm at a loss as to what to do for him.

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February 12, 20170 found this helpful
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My friend adopted a cat whose owner hit him with a shoe. For as long as that cat lived, he hid under the bed every time she went to put on her shoes. She treated this cat like a king, by the way.

I think you have to accept your dog the way he is, show him love, and realize that he may not change.

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February 13, 20170 found this helpful
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Helping our animals can sometimes be difficult - in part because we are "feeling" for them and do not really know how to help them. Most of us are just trying to express our love and hoping they will understand. This seems to be your case but this type of behavior is sad for you and your dog and can sometimes be changed.


I really like Cesar Millan (aka Dog Whisperer) and he has articles on almost every behavior dealing with animals, especially dogs. Here is one that you might want to read and you can also email him about your problems - I hope you can help your lovely dog:

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February 17, 20170 found this helpful
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Watch your own behavior around him.

When he hears a stomp or noise he will react. You'll feel bad for him. You may lean towards him, or say It's Okay, or pet him.
When you do this you are actually reinforcing his fear. I know that's hard to believe but it's totally true.

Dog's aren't humans. When a human is scared, we reassure him or her to calm them. When a dog is scared, any positive energy you send their way will just make them think they are feeling or reacting the correct way. It's your "stamp of approval." So basically, without realizing it, you've been reinforcing this fear for 4 years. That's why he doesn't grow out of it.


There are 2 things you can do:

1. Ignore. If the dog seems unsure, just ignore. Behave like nothing is happening. Be sure you don't feel sorry for your dog. They can sense this. Think of something pleasant instead and continue the activities.

2. Discipline. If the reaction is fearful, discipline the dog like he's done something wrong. I know that goes against your gut, but you haven't seen any change in four years so obviously you have to do something different. Your dog needs you to tell him his fear response is inappropriate and out of proportion.
If he tries to run, tell him to sit. If he barks that high-pitched bark, make him be quiet. If he tries to hide, get the leash on him and make him lay down next to you.

Don't feel sorry for him. He'll sense it. He needs to know someone is in charge and won't let anything hurt him. Soon he'll see that you are trying to teach him to face things head on like you do. you don't run and hide from water bottles, and as far as you're concerned, neither does any member of your pack. with strong leadership his behavior will change.

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March 12, 20170 found this helpful
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4 years is long enough indeed. You may have inadvertently been reinforcing her fears.


Try this BEFORE meal time. If he is motivated by food, then using her favorite food, (at meal time) hold the bowl in your hand, or better have him eat from the palm of your hand and while feeding him, small portions from your hand, gradually increase the volume and proximity of the items that he fears most. Make meals fun, fun, fun and mix the "fears" with each hand portion. GRADUALLY, Add items during one meal then skip a meal. Gradually and with Fun, praise and add "fears". Feed at different locations and have friends help. Rome was not built in a day. Patience is the key.

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