Written by Laurie Yost, Mosha’s mom and owner of Playful Pups Retreat
Playful Pups Retreat is proud to be a Fear Free certified facility. Laurie also holds the highest level of certification through PACCC (Professional Animal Care Certification Council) with a CPACO certification (Certified Professional Animal Care Operator).
Mosha, now 5 and a half months old, has been on a journey to boost her confidence levels. Being fully committed, we have embarked on a mission to help her feel more secure in new environments. In addition to our outings together, the Puppy Social Skills Program at Playful Pups Retreat has been a huge steppingstone to getting her to the point she is today. Join us as we explore ways to help Mosha conquer her timidity and discover what you can do if you have a sensitive dog like her.
Understanding a Timid Dog
Timid dogs like Mosha can easily be overwhelmed by unfamiliar surroundings, leading to anxiety and increased stress levels. It’s crucial for pet parents to recognize the signals their nervous dog shares and do try to keep them in a calmer state of mind.
On a recent trip to a local park Mosha was overstimulated by all that was going on around us, she was rapidly glancing in every direction and walking in zig zags as she tried to take it all in. It was evident she was experiencing sensory overload which can be a trigger for timid dogs. As we walked, I reassured her with my confidence in the surroundings, dogs are very intuitive and will feed off our emotions.
As we walked, she calmed down and began taking treats which is a good sign, or so I thought! She quickly confirmed she was still too nervous by having diarrhea, another tell-tale sign she wasn’t fully comfortable yet. Stress can wreak havoc on a dog’s digestive system, causing loose stool or diarrhea. If your dog experiences these symptoms in new environments, it’s likely they are feeling anxious. Recognizing when your dog is in a state of overwhelm is crucial for their well-being.
Building Confidence, One Step at a Time
It is important to understand that the key to helping our nervous dogs is through gradual exposure. We started visiting the same park multiple times over a few weeks, allowing Mosha to become familiar with the environment at a slower pace. This consistency has been vital in building her confidence.
On our visit today it took almost one lap around before she began to display some stress reduction behaviors. She began focusing on me, taking treats and then I was happy to see her start sniffing the ground. Sniffing and smelling is a natural behavior for dogs and allows them to use their greatest sense to assess the surroundings and this activity can be soothing.
Another notable behavior I saw from Mosha was yawning. Oddly enough yawning isn’t generally a sign of tiredness in dogs, it can also be a way for them to alleviate stress. It’s essential to pay attention to these subtle cues to gauge your dog’s comfort level.
Patience and Encouragement
Patience is important when working with a dog like Mosha. I never push her too hard, or too fast, but allow her to set the pace when we have our outings or meet new people. Positive reinforcement is a key tool, so I always have a stash of her favorite treats and she also is quite a momma’s girl, so praise is another valuable tool!
Nurturing a timid dog’s confidence is a journey that requires understanding, patience, and gradual exposure to novel experiences. It is also important to focus on the signals our dog shares with us. They speak to us in many ways, as a dedicated pet parent it is up to you to learn their “language” and to go the extra mile to ensure your dog’s happiness and well-being. Learn more about the Puppy Social Skills Daycare Program where professional puppy trainers help to build confidence and socialization during every visit.