Shy Dog Training – A Reader Needs Your Help

I have written a few posts about shy Dog training and my very slow efforts to make Daisy a much more confident Dog. It has been a long time, but she has become much more confident both in herself and when interacting with other Dogs and people.

She is by no means a super confident Dog and I doubt she ever will be, but she has come a long way and it is great to see her enjoying life so much more. Anyway, a few days ago I got an email from a reader who asked for my opinion on how to curb some unwanted behavior in her Dog. The email authors Dog ( I won’t give her name) has come an awful long way and has gained tremedous confidence since she has been under her care. Below is the email and my response. Please take a few minutes to read them and see if you can help.

Readers  Request

We need help.

We purchased a very shy puppy from an ad on craigslist.
She is very similar and size and shape your Daisy.  She is a red border collie, shepherd with some cattledog..definately a heinz 57 of farm\herding dogs.

She was 9 weeks old, the people were older and she was living with her mom in a kennel outside in a trailer house\autobody shop.  She was so shy that my husband was not sure about getting her but he felt so bad for her living conditions that he could not leave her behind.  I do not think the people were mean, but I do think she was completely unsocialized and her mom clearly was not well socialized either.  Had all the same issues as your pup.  Submissive urination, would hide behind my husband, TERRIFIED of new people.

So, we went to obedience school, have buckets of treats available so when people came over they could give her treats.  Made sure she alway had an “exit”, told people to ignore her and let them approach her.  Worked on confidence with the “Everything in life is free” method.  Adopted a confident well adjusted year old Newfie\Golden retriever mix from a local rescue to teach her about what being a confident dog is all about.

Fast forward 9 months…We have made light years of progress she is AMAZING with our family. Loves her doggie companion. She is the smartest dog I have ever owned.  Affectionate and incredibly playful, not at all shy with us.  Fabulous with my 6 year old. Good with the people she knows, good with the farm animals (we are on a hobby farm with about 20 acres).

So you are asking what is the problem.  Well here it is.  When people come over that she does not know she barks and barks and runs in circles around them at about 15 feet out.   She ceases to listen and will try and avoid getting caught by me. Sometimes even the hair on the neck goes up.  I tell the people to ignore her.  This will go on a good 5 minutes if I cannot catch her.   She very much knows the command “leave it” and I use it to extinquish any behavior that I do not approve of and in any other situation, including chasing chickens, she responds.  Not in this one though.

Normally, if people are coming over and I know it, I have control of the situation before hand.  It is the people that are just dropping by that throw us.

Anyways any tips would be really helpful.


My Reply


She sounds like a lovely Dog and you have defintely come a long way. Like you, we have had to take it very slowly to get Dasiy to be more confident. It does work, as you know, it just takes time.

It sounds to me like her natural herding instincts are taking over and she wants to be in control of the situation to ease her own mind. She probably is just going by her natural instincts, is a little afraid and her body is telling her to “round ’em up and get rid of ’em”.

That is just a guess mind you. Daisies puppy who is now about 10 months old, is very wary of new people and although she doesn’t run around them, her hackles go up and she barks at them. All Dogs seem to handle their wariness differently.

To be honest I think the best advice is that of simply overloading her with new people constantly. She will soon get used to it then. I have definitely found that the more you confront these type of things the quicker the Dog will simply see it as part of everday life.

I am sorry I can’t be more helpful but I think if you can get more strangers (friendly ones) who will ignore her, to pay a visit, the quicker she will get over it.

I hope this helps a little, and I wish you all the best.

If you would like, I can put your email up as a blog post and see if anyone responds with any better ideas. Just a suggestion, someone may have had the same experience.

What Can You Do?

As any regular readers know I am not a Dog trainer. I write about what I have learnt from experience or Dog related topics that interest me. I tried to answer as best I could but I know my reply was sorely lacking in any real helpful way.

If you have had a similar experience or know of a good solution then I am sure the author of the email would appreciate your help. Please leave a helpful comment if you can or just what you believe may be of some assistance.

May the Doggie Force be with you all.

7 Responses to “Shy Dog Training – A Reader Needs Your Help”

Read below or add a comment...

  1. Colette Kase says:


    You may speed up the whole process by focusing on what you actually want her to do rather than what you don’t want her to do. Ask yourself this question ‘What would I like my dog to do when I have visitors?’ You need to have a clear answer to this question in your head before you can expect your dog to understand how to greet visitors appropriately.

    Most owners would like their dog to, at the very least, be calm, not jump up and not bark excessively – but in your case, being more specific would be helpful.

    Try only greeting visitors when she is on the lead and under your careful and planned guidance. Think of the lead as the equivalent of holding a child’s hand. It is there to assist her, not to correct her. Practice greetings, as you want her to perform them, repeatedly at the door without visitors, until she is confident. The suggested protocol would be:

    1. Practice with door closed and no visitor.
    2. Practice with door open and no visitor.
    3. Practice with door open with family member ringing bell.
    4. Practice with door closed with family member ringing bell.
    5. Practice with door closed with family member ringing bell and then opening door.
    6. Repeat steps 3 – 5 with known visitor who has been briefed on not making direct eye contact and ignoring her completely.
    7. Repeat steps 3-5 with known visitor making direct eye contact and greeting dog with a treat in a friendly manner.
    8. Repeat steps 3-5 with a variety of visitors greeting dog with treat in a friendly manner.

    Do not move too quickly with this and keep her on the lead for at least 6 months during all greetings. Preventing her from being able to return to or practice previous inappropriate behaviour is absolutely essential.

    Keep things calm and pleasant, using lots of praise, treats and if you use clicker training, that would work too. Maintain a loose lead at all times.

    I tend to teach dogs like this to sit upon greeting, particularly as they cannot sit and run around in circles at the same time.

    Good luck.

    Colette Kase

  2. Three Dog Blogger says:

    Collette, thanks for a very thorough reply. I am sure it will be of help. I think quite often it is very good to get someone else’s perspective on how to help our Dogs.

    Shy Dog training especially can be quite difficult. I have always struggled with teaching obedience without scaring or making my Daisy anxious. However, I have also found that like the reader, once they get in the “zone” there is no stopping them.

    I think the problem the reader has, and I am the same, is that becasue we have lots of space around us the Dogs are always free. They don’t need to be in the house or on leads. It is only when they are being taken somewhere that we ever put them on a lead.

    It may be difficult for the reader to start keeping her Dog on leash. I know I find it tough as I love the fact that they have so much open space to play in. It is part of the reason we moved, to follow such a different lifestyle. The principles are very informative though and I am sure some modified form would help tremendously.

    Hopefully this will be of some help to her.

  3. Colette Kase says:

    No reason at all not to have the dog wearing a trailing training leash at all times. Lightweight cheap nylon cord works well as it doesn’t tend to tangle, knot or get caught in things. But I should point out that if you give dogs lots of freedom before they are able to handle it, you may find yourself with these sorts of problems. Freedom comes once a dog has good behaviour. Not allowing them to get in ‘the zone’ is the key. It is a bit like letting kids walk to school on their own before teaching them how to cross a road safely. My dogs too, have a great deal of freedom but they are only given that freedom when it is safe, appropriate and convenient to do so. One has to make a choice – Is the problem serious enough that I am prepared to do what is necessary to change it, or am I prepared to live with it and maybe, change slowly? It depends on urgency and priorities. None of my dogs are perfect (nor would I want them to be) and I choose to live with some inappropriate behaviours, but if I had to change those behaviours for their welfare or my own, I would have to change my lifestyle accordingly.

    Colette Kase

  4. tracy says:

    I think the dogs just like the humans with all different kind of personallies. From time to time or going through different stages, the personally might change or might not. What I’m trying to say here is go with flow when training Daisy – she seems like a quiet, good dog, don’t push too hard…Dasiy might not be so comfotable about it…just takes time and patience…one more thing, I would like to let you know is that there’s a person who knows pet’s language and she can communicate with them, if you’re curious about it, can check out: and one true funny story from the consultation:

  5. Three Dog Blogger says:

    Colette, good point. I guess it is all about priorities. If the Dog training problem is severe enough then you have to do whatever it takes or live with the consequences. Maybe the reader will have decided that it is enough of a problem to take your advice. I haven’t heard back from her so I really don’t know what she has decided. Thanks for the great contribution though, it is very helpful.

  6. Three Dog Blogger says:

    Tracy, I’m sorry but I saw “Pet Psychic” and ran away! I can’t believe in these things at all. I see it all as a big conspiracy. Change my mind if you can. I dare you 😉

  7. Renee Lee says:

    Thank you for your reply. A new perspective very much helps. What I want is a calm dog that greet our visitor appropriately and post the initial greeting leaves my guests alone. I also have a 1/2 golden retriever and 1/2 Newfie and he is not a shy dog so he was easy to train to do this.

    I used the concept of a long line when I trained her to leave the chickens alone so I certainly think to use it to maintain control when we have visitors. I think I will go back to having her on a 15ft. long line attached to my belt loop at all times when we are outside, unless she is playing a specific game. You are correct freedom is earned.

    Thanks Again