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Shy dog

June 18th, 2011, 04:37 PM
Hi everyone!
We have just adopted a dog from our local SPCA. She is a Border Collie mix (we think she is most likely mixed with Husky, as she has bright blue eyes, big paws and she howls :) ) and she is VERY shy around people. We asked for some background information before we adopted her, hoping to understand why she is so uncomfortable around people, but unfortunately she came from another shelter and they didn't give any information about how she got there or what she has been through during her four years of life. So we don't know if she was just found, or surrendered by her previous owners... But we think either she was mistreated by someone before, or she wasn't properly socialized.

She acts well with other dogs, she isn't too shy around them and plays correctly, although she is very submissive.
With people though, I've seen her use all the calming signals I could think of: panting, licking her nose, avoiding eye contact, trying to act invisible, acting sleepy, ignoring us and sniffing the ground, moving very slowly, yawning, head low or to the side, ears back, tail low and general body posture low and hesitant. She becomes very stiff when touched and she freezes there, avoiding eye contact and one paw lifted most of the time.
So I was wondering if any of you had some advice on how to act around her, how to help her build some confidence and trust.
We are trying to take it slow with her... She has a crate, and she goes into it when she wants to be left alone or when she gets a little too nervous. We give her lots of praise, and we try to give her treats but most of the time she is over her emotional "threshold" and won't show any interest in them. We also try not to stare at her eyes directly, walk straight at her, crouch or hover over her, pet her on the head (she crouches down when we touch her head) or do any moves that might seem threatening to her. We also try to have her do things on her own, and not force her to do anything (e.g. getting out of her crate, coming to us, going to her bowls to eat or drink, getting into the car, etc)
Other than that I'm not really sure what to do... She comes most of the time when we call her, and she seems more and more confident when she comes to us. She also follows us a lot of the time around the house, so it seems her curiosity sometimes is stronger than her fear.
She does sleep a lot too, and I find it odd... Obviously, it's hot and she's stressed so she could be more sleepy, but she's a four years old Border Collie and Husky mix, so I think it's more out of boredom because she's too shy to get out of her crate. She has toys, and she seems interested in them, but we don't see her play or chew on her toys. I'm trying to make her do some exercise, I take her for walks but she's too shy to play and she doesn't seem very comfortable to walk beside me either. I guess she'll be more comfortable with time though, as she still has to learn that she can trust me.

At least she never growls or shows any signs of aggressiveness. She seems very uncomfortable sometimes, but not enough to feel she needs to defend herself. We try to keep her stress and fear levels as low as possible in order to avoid this, and I'm at least glad she communicates a lot through body signals. I wouldn't want her to feel threatened or people to think she's a dangerous aggressive dog while she actually is just afraid. :(

Have any of you had experiences with shy dog? What did you do and how did the dog react? Do you have any advice?
Also, do you think it would be best to introduce her to other people now or wait a little and let her get used to her new environment before we do that?
Thank you!

June 19th, 2011, 11:10 AM
Hi Cheshire,
Thank you for adopting this wonderful dog. In time, I'm sure she will become a wonderful addition to your family, who you couln't imagine living without.

There are some wonderful trainers and experts on here, who I know will be able to offer you some great advice.
In the meantime, here's my :2cents:

I think the first thing you should continue to do is take her on lots of walks. By having her connected to you through the leash, it will help to create a bond. Also, your confidence on the walks will be passed down through to her as well. And at the end of it all, if you're able to tire her out (which may be difficult for a boarder collie x husky :p), she'll be less nervous by the time she gets home.

I would also suggest signing her up for some obediance classes with you. Even if you think she is fairly well trained already, the classes will help her build confidence in herself, and build a closer bond with you.

Best of luck on the journey that lies ahead. It sound like she is lucky to have found you.

June 19th, 2011, 12:35 PM
Bless you for adopting this sweet girl and omd, does she sound like our Macie when she first came here in 2004!! Macie had been raised in a barn with little canine or human contact for her first year, then was rescued and housed in a facility with lots of canine companionship and then came here. Although she'd learned to play by herself by the time she arrived (she'd carry sticks or toys around with her as she patrolled the yard), she still had no clue how to play with the other dogs. When we approached her or asked her to do something she didn't understand (which was just about everything), she'd do that stiff-legged, head down sort of thing...sounds like your girl withdraws the same way.

We gave her a lot of space to do her own thing until she adjusted to her knew life. When she approached us on her own, we praised her quietly (because too much excitement in a voice would put her back into her withdrawal pose) and gave her good pats. Training sessions were very short and we took it very slowly, always ending up with something that she knew well so she'd feel proud at the end. I also groom the dogs every day and put her in the middle of the sequence--so she'd see a few get groomed before her and a few afterward. She stiffened up at first, but gradually came to value the one-on-one time grooming afforded.

Voice is always upbeat and positive. Our body language with her is always very friendly and confident. As she got more confident about her interactions with us and allowed me to handle her more, I threw in a "Macie tall and proud" phrase. If I saw her out in the yard with her head up and eliciting interest in something I'd call out, "There's Macie tall and proud!". If she went into withdrawal, I would ask her, "Where is Macie tall and proud?" and gently lift her head with my hand and give her a kiss on the noggin. Eventually, she started lifting her head on her own and coming out of her head-tuck and stiff-legged pose when I asked her where "Macie tall and proud" was. :D

But it wasn't until luckypenny, one of our members here, convinced me to try clicker training that we had our 'big breakthrough'. For some reason, Macie 'gets' clicker training more than she 'gets' voice work. It was like a light went on inside! Now she begs for training sessions. :dog: (I was so excited!: So if you haven't tried it, yet, maybe do some research on clicker training and see if it works for your shy girl.

If she seems more comfy in your yard than walking next to you on the sidewalks in your neighborhood, doing some leash training at home (just back and forth, around the perimeter, figure 8s, etc) might help. As she gains confidence, take her on gradually longer walks off property.

You're very lucky in that your girl is at least well-socialized with other dogs. It took our Cole and Cass two months of concerted effort to teach Macie to play with them! My Christmas present that year was looking out into the side yard and seeing shy little Ms Macie trouncing our big ol' Sheriff Cole! He was letting her roll him (he outweighs her by 20 pounds) and they were both having a blast!!! :lovestruck: What a great gift that was!!!

Good luck with your sweetie! She's going to blossom and be the best of companions for you :goodvibes:

June 19th, 2011, 04:44 PM
Thank you for the replies!

I will definitely keep taking her for walks, I think she is starting to enjoy it more. Today we went to the park and I ran around with her a little and noticed her tail and ears were up and she seemed to enjoy letting out some of that energy! She seemed a little more confident during the rest of the walk too. :)
We will also consider obedience classes, especially for my mom. I've had an animal behaviour and training course at school, and I read a lot on the subject so I think I could manage to train her on my own, but my mom is having a harder time understanding what to do. So it might not be a bad idea to take obedience classes. She does not seem trained at all... Except that she's housetrained. She's learned "sit" and "come" at the shelter, and we have continued practicing these with her, but that's all she knows for now! :P
As for clicker training, I already have two clickers and I've started training my cat with it, so I would love to try it out with our dog. I find it really fun, and I think she would too! I was just wondering if I should leave her a little more time to adjust to her new lifestyle before starting actual training sessions with her (considering she's been here for only five days)?

Macie's story is very touching and cute, especially the "Macie tall and proud" part! :lovestruck: She was very lucky to have you! Thank you for sharing this and giving me some advice, I really appreciate it! :goodvibes:

June 19th, 2011, 08:51 PM
You got some very good advise, when we got Chewie he was a surrender 6 month old, 15 pound scared to death puppy.

He would not look at any of us, anything to avoid eye contact, he would not go close to the crate or the basement, scared him to death.

He has a damaged voice box and would duck soonest he heard anything loud any rapid hand movement.

Let's just say he was a mess, I worked with him very slowly, he was fine with other dogs didn't like us to much :confused: but with time he learned he could trust us, it took about 6 month for him to completely come out of his shell, and another 4 month to actually go into the basement.

So it will take some time and lots of love, thanks for adopting this sweet girl

Oh Chewie is now 4 years old and the funniest, loving dog ever...Good luck to you and your new girl :)