Some dogs are naturally anxious, while others show skittish behavior because they’ve been frightened, hurt or had bad experiences in their past. If you want your pup to interact successfully with other dogs, obedience training, exposure and lots of love and patience can help put you on the path to developing new puppy friendships. The younger the age you start training your pup, the better your results are likely to be.
Put your dog through basic obedience training, if you haven't already done so. A skittish pup may be more comfortable with individual one-on-one or owner-instruction rather than a group obedience training school program. When your dog learns, understands and responds to basic commands, it will give both you and your pup a greater sense of control and an understanding of behavioral expectations. This can make the socialization process go more smoothly.
Slowly introduce your dog to other people, places and animals. If you have a friend or family member who has a well-mannered, gentle and calm dog about the same size as your own, that's a good place to start. Get the dogs together on leashes in a neutral setting for a short period of time. Give each dog individual attention and don't force interaction, but provide positive reinforcement like treats and physical affection if your pup is interested and engaged with the other dog. If he's skittish, physically calm him and remove him from the situation if necessary. Pushing interaction can exacerbate the problem.
Once your dog has a few positive controlled experiences with other dogs, expand the scope of your socialization efforts. Always maintain leash control and leave a situation if your dog becomes overly anxious or agitated. For example, go for a walk in your neighborhood and make advance plans to visit familiar dogs along the way. Take your dog with you to appropriate public venues, like dog parks, and provide positive reinforcement when he interacts well with other people and animals.
See Your Vet
If your dog doesn't show signs of improvement and seems to have continued levels of anxiety around other dogs, talk to your vet. Your pup may be suffering from some type of anxiety that can be treated with behavioral therapy or medication. If your dog was previously in an abusive situation, was attacked by another dog or has some other history of trauma, your efforts could require a good deal of time and patience before your pup will be comfortable around other animals.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.