Behavior Modification Plan for Fearful, Shy or Timid Dogs

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Do NOT attempt to use these techniques with your dog if they respond in any way aggressively or puts your safety at risk.


Counter conditioning and training sessions as listed below will build confidence and positive association with things they may fear.

Consider attending a basic obedience class to develop proper behaviors and build a bond with your dog as well as socialize him with other people and dogs.

Reward calm behavior around new people by offering treats if your dog looks at people and does NOT cower or run away.

Your guests or any strangers may also toss treats to continue to build a positive association. Do not rush a dog regarding accepting the strangers or people he behaves fearful towards. This should be done on his terms and allow this to take as long as he needs. This will build his confidence as he is the one who will know best when he is comfortable. People should not approach a fearful dog, it is best at this time to keep them at a distance and if he wants to approach them be sure to take this opportunity to have them toss a treat.

BE PROACTIVE! Be sure to recognize good behavior and reward it. Good behavior in a fearful dog’s case would be willingly moving around guests and strangers.

Work in small steps when training or shaping behaviors to avoid pushing the dog past his threshold for comfort and into a defensive or fearful mode. This will only set you back in helping your dog.

shy dog

Keep treats around the house so they are handy. Use the clicker (or a marker like a verbal click or word) as much as possible to benefit from its usefulness as a “good things are coming” signal when you see an opportunity.

Incorporate other rewards such as toys, walks, belly rubs etc. to also add positive associations to people.

I hope these suggestions will help you with your dog’s successful transition to becoming a part of your family.


Constance Dwyer, CABC
Certified Animal Behavior Consultant
copyright 2013 – Constance Dwyer – all rights reserved

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