A happy confidant dog makes a great family companion. Training your dog to not be timid will take some time and commitment, but will be highly rewarding. There are two major fear imprint periods in a dog's development. These happen at eight to 14 weeks and between six to 18 months. During these periods it's natural for a dog to be timid around new things. The key is to take control of your dog's environment, avoiding negative experiences and providing positive fun experiences.
Socialize your puppy to anything and everything it may encounter in its lifetime. The prime socialization period for a puppy is seven to 14 weeks, which coincides directly with the first fear period. During this time you should be providing your puppy with positive associations with a large variety of new things, people, places and experiences.2
Condition a positive response to everything new. During the socialization period, and throughout your dog's life, always make new and potentially scary things into something happy and enjoyable for your dog. Keep yummy treats (most easily in a bait bag that you wear) and a toy on hand. Feed or play with your puppy when it sees new things and meets new people. Go to the vet for just a cookie visit and leave without having anything done.3
Provide a safe place for your dog. At home and in the car, set up a crate for your dog where it can go when it wants to be alone. Never enter or remove your dog from the crate. At parks or class, bring a mat and teach your dog to lie down on the mat while being rewarded. This helps it learn to be calm and relaxed in new and potentially scary situations.4
Learn the signs of fear in your dog. Common signs of fear can include a tucked tail, lowered stance, whale eye (seeing the whites of the eyes), barking at a scary thing usually while backing away from it, raised hackles, hiding, submissive urination, ears held back, looking away or down, and shaking.5
Never force or bully your dog to deal with a fearful situation.
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