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  • Tammi Avallone

Tips to Help your Shy Dog Come out of Their Shell

Although many dogs get excited about any new experience in life, not every dog is super-confident. In fact, a shy dog can find life terrifying in unfamiliar situations.

So, what can you do to help your bashful pup come out of his shell? Read this guide to find out what you can do to help your shy pup.

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Article Summary

Crate Training

Your dog’s crate is a safe, secure, comfortable environment where your furry friend can relax, chill out, and take refuge when he wants some precious alone time. So, crate training is a great way to provide a shy dog with a space where he feels more confident. Take crate training slowly to build your dog’s confidence and avoid leaving them in the crate for more than a few hours at a time to avoid stressing your canine companion.

Obedience Builds Confidence Your dog will feel calmer and more confident if he understands exactly what you’re asking of him. You can achieve that by teaching your pet the basic commands, including “Stay,” “Sit,” and to come to you when you call him. When teaching your dog, always use positive reinforcement training methods. Never get impatient or overbearing, even when your dog doesn’t understand what you want straight away. Use your dog’s favorite toys and treats when training your pet and keep sessions fun and upbeat. Begin by training your dog indoors. Once your furry friend is more confident, introduce distractions, such as the TV or kids playing. When your dog stays focused on you, take your training sessions outside, keeping a leash on your dog if you think he might run away.


Shy or nervous dogs don’t generally respond well to typical socialization methods. In fact, taking your dog to a busy dog park or street can make your pet even more afraid and panicky. So, you need to think outside the box. Instead, have someone sit quietly in the same room as your shy dog. That person can occasionally drop a treat on the floor for the dog to take. Your volunteer shouldn’t talk to the dog or try to interact with him; just offer an occasional treat. When the dog trusts that person, repeat the exercise with the dog’s new friend standing up. Gradually introduce different friends to carry out the same exercise. Finally, up the ante by having those people take the dog for a walk on his leash.

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Anxious dogs often struggle to enjoy their lives, spending too much time worrying about things. You can help to break that cycle by teaching your dog new, fun games. If your dog has a canine chum, even better! Have both the dogs play together, enjoying games such as “fetch.” Simply by playing a game, you can distract your shy dog from things that make him nervous. Take your timid dog to different places to play. A shy dog has what’s called a “worry radius.” When strangers come within that radius, the dog becomes anxious. Over time, as your dog gets more confident and relaxed, you can reduce that distance. If you’re playing in an unfenced park, keep your dog leashed.

Plenty of Exercises

Essentially, a tired dog is a relaxed dog! If your dog doesn’t get enough exercise, he’s more likely to worry about life. Dogs that become anxious in parks or other public places can benefit from playing games with you in your backyard. So, be sure to give your dog plenty of daily exercise.

Directed Walks

Some very shy dogs can be extremely fearful of other dogs. The usual greeting rituals, such as play-posturing, nose-to-nose, and nose-to-tail, can be terrifying for a timid pup. So, use the directed walk technique instead. The dogs should remain leashed. Walk briskly, keeping the dogs at your dog’s “worry radius.” Don’t allow the pups to touch or sniff each other. After a few minutes of walking, stop, have the dogs sit about 15 feet apart, and reward them. Move on and repeat the exercise. Gradually, over time, you can reduce the distance between the dogs but don’t allow them to touch. That technique convinces your timid dog that walking is much more important and takes precedence over his fears of the other pups.

Desensitization Training

By exposing your dog in a controlled way to a situation that he finds worrying, you can gradually build your pet's confidence. For example, if your toy breed dog gets anxious when he hears bigger dogs barking, record that sound on your cell phone. Have the volume really low, and sit with your dog, offering treats and reassurance. When your dog remains calm, give him a treat. However, if your pet shows signs of anxiety, simply reassure him, only treating your dog when he relaxes. Gradually increase the volume until the dog ignores the sound and shows no signs of anxiety at all.

Scent Games

Most dogs love scent games, and you can use that to help build confidence in a shy dog. Begin by hiding a treat somewhere fairly obvious. Tell your dog to “Find it!” If necessary, lead your dog to the treat and praise him. Once your dog gets the hang of the game, make the hiding places more challenging. This tip works so well because searching for the treat keeps your dog’s mind focused on something.

Establish a Routine

Dogs love a routine! If your dog knows when to expect meals, walks, and playtime, he’ll be less anxious because you’ve removed all uncertainty from his day. If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, he will cope much better with your absence if he knows when you will be leaving him alone and when you’ll be around.

Remove Anxiety Triggers Certain triggers usually cause timid dogs to become anxious. So, by taking steps to remove those triggers from your home environment, you can help ease your dog’s anxiety and make him more relaxed and less shy. For example, if your dog is afraid of your vacuum cleaner, wait to vacuum your home until your dog has been taken out for a walk by another family member. Or try the Merci Collective playlist to help calm your dog.

Crystal Healing

It’s not just humans that can benefit from the benefits of crystals! A shy dog can be encouraged to come out of their shell and feel more confident by using the correct crystal therapy. Read more on our blog about crystal healing for pets, and take our crystal quiz to see what crystal best suits your pet's needs. A shy dog who’s frightened of his own shadow can be made more confident by following a few simple tips and tricks. Take time to train your dog, establish a regular routine, give your dog plenty of exercises, and recruit a few friends to help with desensitizing your pet. Be positive, sympathetic, and patient, and you’ll be rewarded with a calmer, less anxious canine companion.

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