Do not coddle your canine's shyness
Question: My sister refuses to take her dog to the dog parks or out of the house, ever. She insists that her dog is shy and is terrified of parks, gatherings and other people. How can I convince her that it's not healthy to keep her dog as a shut-in?
Answer: Dogs are similar to children. It's hard for parents to change a child's behavior if they continue with the same approach. You've got to be willing to change, if you want your dog to.
Dogs are hard-wired to be social creatures. And the more you coddle their issues, the more issues they're likely to have. Canines need to get out of the house for a number of reasons that are essential to their health and happiness -- including exercise, stimulation and socialization.
While we don't recommend that shy dogs be thrust into large crowds, we do recommend small steps in a more social direction.
Invite your sister and her dog for a short outing -- a brief walk around a quiet neighborhood or a deserted beach -- when there's not a lot of traffic or noise. Start taking the dog on short drives. With a few of these experiences, she'll see how much her dog enjoys the sights, sounds and smells. As the dog becomes more confident, it can slowly move toward greeting other humans and dogs in passing.
Q: Can shy dogs be encouraged to socialize?
A: Not all dogs enjoy the company of other canines, and dog parks can be too overwhelming for some. Find a friend who has a dog similar in size to your sister's and stage a meeting at a neutral place such as a park or sidewalk.
Holding the dogs on leashes pulled tight can increase the risk of fighting. On the other hand, turning them loose together can lead to disaster. If possible, start with the two dogs at a distance from each other, each one interacting with the person holding the leash. As they behave calmly, move them gradually closer, continuing to keep leashes from being pulled tight.
Exposing shy or fearful dogs to a variety of small, short-term positive experiences will help to build the animal's confidence and your sister's.
The Hawaiian Humane Society welcomes questions by e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org
. Indicate "Pet Ohana" in the subject line. Or, write "Pet Ohana," Hawaiian Humane Society, 2700 Waialae Ave., Honolulu 96826.