All dogs have their own special way of greeting each other when out and about. There’s the overenthusiastic bounce, the stop-stare-ignore routine or the never-ending cycle of bottom sniffing. But if you’ve noticed your pooch’s tail tends to slip between their legs, or worse – the lunge and bark – you could have a nervous dog on your hands.
But don’t despair! The Tailster team has been looking into how you can encourage your timid hound to socialise with other dogs so you can help them build their confidence.
Knowing your nervous dog’s limits
Whenever you’re working with your pup, be aware of their limits. If your pooch struggles with night-time walks (aren’t we all a little bit scared of the dark?) it’s probably best to give these tips a go during the day. Save walks in the dark for later when your nervous dog has found his paws.
Keep an eagle eye on your dog’s stress levels during any training sessions. Some signs of stress can be extremely subtle – blink and you’ll miss it. Yawning, lip-licking and darting eyes are all indicators that your dog is feeling less than happy. If you suspect they’re becoming overwhelmed, pop them on a short lead and don’t be afraid to let fellow dog-walkers know to keep their dogs from bounding over and undoing all your hard work!
Our top two training methods
1. Counter conditioning
You’ve got your dog in tow, their favourite ball and headed to the local park. But as soon as you arrive, your pup clocks that they’ve got company and they’re less than impressed.
Pack your pup’s favourite treat and pick a distance from the rest of the dogs at the park that your furry friend seems comfortable with. You’ll need to feed them every time a dog comes into view so that eventually, they’ll associate the sight of the dogs with a delicious reward. Over time, you can gradually reduce the distance until they are comfortable with sharing the park with others.
2. Turn and go training
You’re walking down the pavement with your nervous dog on the lead and they spot another dog, cue barking hysteria and a rather worried-looking dog-owner swiftly crossing the road to escape.
Set out on your walk and be alert. Whenever you see another dog, turn swiftly in the opposite direction, whether your dog has started barking yet or not. This gives them the chance to get their emotions in check and calm down. Turn back around and keep an eye on how they react. If they start to bark, repeat the exercise until they can walk calmly past the dog (if it’s still there that is).
Remember, remember regular exposure
Once you feel as though as your no-longer nervous dog has nailed our Tailster training tips, you should have a much happier dog on your hands. But the road doesn’t end there.
It’s easy to slip back into bad habits – something that’s true for people as much as our pets. So you’ll need to keep topping up that training to keep how you’re handling the situation consistently.
Why not consider finding a dog walker? Confidence boosted, packing your pup off for a walk with lots of other furry chums is one of the most helpful things you can do to help them socialise with dogs of all shapes and sizes.
Don't blame yourself
Many pet owners fall into the trap of blaming themselves for their pet’s fearfulness. The reality is that nervous behaviour around other dogs could have been triggered by anything, from a lack of socialisation in the crucial puppy days or an unfortunate encounter in the park.
You may never fully understand the cause but luckily for you – and your pooch – you don’t need to know why your dog is acting a certain way in order to help them.
Remember to take the training slowly – patience is key when it comes to adjusting your dog’s behaviour.