When you're selecting a new puppy, your heart may go out to the little fur ball cowering in the corner. Shy puppies evoke our sympathy, inspiring our human instincts to coo and entreat the recalcitrant pup to come out of his hiding place to let us pet and cuddle away his fear. Not only may this reinforce his shyness, but his symptom of hanging back can be a sign of problems to come, making him a poor choice to take home.
Fear or lack of confidence can be one of the primary causes of shyness in a pup. Fear can develop into serious issues, such as fear-biting or aggression, as the dog grows. Everyone who comes in contact with the dog must be savvy to techniques to help your shy pup become confident.
Most dogs in a litter will come over to greet you; one hanging back can be an early warning sign of a health issue. Pups in good health will be alert, curious and ready to play. Avoiding human interaction can be a sign that the pup is not feeling well due to an underlying condition that may cost you a bundle of money down the road. The tendency for a puppy to shrink from human contact can result from oxygen deprivation during birth, resulting in a dog that may have difficulty learning or coping with his environment throughout his life.
Correcting Fearful Behavior
If you've already adopted a shy pup, don't give him attention when he is behaving shyly. Giving a fearful pet physical attention or tossing a treat to defensive, barking, snapping, or cowering dog has the opposite effect of the behavior we hope to obtain. Allow the puppy to approach and sniff a while to safely satisfy his curiosity. Let him retreat to his crate or other safe zone where he can observe the situation and emerge when he feels confident to do so.
A dog that won't come to you might not be shy. He may think he's dominant. Pack leaders do not approach their followers for affection, they let the followers come to them. By approaching a shy pup with a high-pitched entreaties -- equal to submissive whining in his mind -- you will be reinforcing the pup's idea that you are his follower. Professional training and diligent practice will be required for all household members and the dog to change the pack dynamic with a dog that sees you as his subservient.