Dog Behaviour Advice - Dog Advice Articles
Building up the Character of a timid dog
Whenever you choose a dog, I would always recommend that you never purchase either a timid or a dominant dog, unless you are familiar with them. No matter how cute they look along with that big AHHH factor, the problems you can have later on, you could well wish you had never seen the dog at all.
The best dogs are the ones that come to you and play with you without showing fear. Keep clear of the quiet one in the corner that does not come forward to you or it keeps clear of the other dogs. Similarly do not choose the dog that climbs over and pushes his way through the other puppies to get to you or is showing signs of dominancy over his or her siblings. Unless you have real experience of such dogs, they will only learn to control you.
One problem is we humans have is a tendency to support the under-dog. With this, together with that cute look, all sensibility of choosing the right dog for the family goes clear out the window.
There are so many books written on how to choose a puppy or an older dog, yet once shopping commences such books are totally forgotten. Only when I ask those owners with dog problems why they chose it, they often admit that in retrospect it was not the right choice.
We do not have a crystal ball nor can we go back in time so we have to try to solve the current problem. All I can say is for the next time they should have patience in understanding what dog they need and take more time in choosing one. Even then, there is still no certainty; at least with more care you are then likely to purchase a well-balanced dog for yourselves.
Timid dogs are turning in on themselves, almost like looking for a small den to curl up into and never come out again. I wrote an article about Shandy. He was the dog that never came out of his kennel for three months. He was prepared to protect that kennel with aggression to keep dogs and humans away. This is no way to survive and the result in the wild would be he must learn to change or he will die, as who would feed him.
Such a dog coming into a home, it will learn which person will feed it and will in order to survive it will attach itself to that person like a limpet. It has to stay by that person and will be prepared to protect them from what it sees as any danger in order to maintain its supply of food.
Looking back at Igor, he is not only timid but also very submissive. This timidity creates the aggression and such dogs will learn to use it to chase people away. With time, they can also learn to bite. It is then it has to change or it will die, as our society cannot tolerate such dogs.
Just the other day an owner called me to say that her little dog had been to a dog groomer. They not only cut a claw too short, cutting through a vein they also shaved off all of its nipples. Now for a dog that is a traumatic experience. Finding a new groomer, we can fully understand the dogs anxiety and resorting to aggression.
This time the vet advised tranquilizers and the new groomer suggested he would stop as soon as the dog became anxious and aggressive. This way he thought it would learn that he was not going to harm it and in time come to trust him.
The actual result was the dog became more aggressive. What it was learning was that its show of violent behaviour was working. This meant the more the groomer backed away the more confident the dog became.
The owners thought the groomer should simply place a muzzle on their dog and get on with grooming, as it cannot bite. They felt that by the end of the grooming, their dog would gradually learn the new groomer would not harm him like the previous one.
I agreed with their opinion and that the groomer’s method, though sounding logical, was not working. It was actually making the problem worse.
Wearing a muzzle like Igor, it will realize aggression does not work. Only the use of the muzzle will quieten the situation for the dog to learn that in time what happened before will not happen again. This way it can become desensitised to its painful memory.
For Igor the use of a muzzle did quieten him, as he would feel vulnerable. He also learned that humans do not tolerate any sign of aggression. Therefore, this has a very positive effect for learning that by constantly meeting many humans in greater safety, he will learn they mean him no harm.
I saw Igor the other week and he had already forgotten me. Once the owner’s friends had finished looking at him, which still had him moving about in a wary manner, there was no sign of aggression. Mind you, the friends were bending forward trying to encourage him to come to them and he would not. Such a stance of leaning over a dog, especially one that is timid, will only make them back away.
Once their friends had gone I pulled up a chair, sat on it, and called Igor to me. He knew he should obey but he paced from one room to another before finally sitting in front of me offering a paw. All it then needed was to tell him to go down and he becomes so lovingly docile once again.
I went for a walk with the wife and Igor without him wearing his muzzle, as there were few people about. He was fine if still a little wary but on our return, as soon as he saw the husband; he rushed up to him and obvious to all he was so glad to see him.
As I was leaving, the wife was holding him on his lead and Igor did not want me to go. This shows he is able to make new friends providing they know and use the correct techniques.
For a timid dog, it is necessary to be in control of any aggression and to teach the dog to suppress it. Once you have that control, then you can build the dogs character up with games that normally you would never play. This is because such games teach dogs to become above themselves. This often leads to the dog dominating the owners and other dogs.
I suggested to the owners that they should now get their friends to learn to play with Igor by letting him jump up at them. In addition, to play pull games where they would let Igor win most of the time. Friends should get down on the floor and mimic play bow. When they have his attention, they should tell him to go down and make him roll over giving him many body rubs and lots of fuss. They should try to get him excited. Offer titbits or even trying to get Igor to chase them.
You will read that to play such games is often ill advised because of the dominancy problem. This is true, but with a timid dog, we need to build his character up until he is almost becoming dominant. Once he reaches this point and he has lost his timidity we can then gradually reinstate the controls. This will then bring him back down again but only to the average level of most dogs.
We all can change our characters if we are given the right encouragement at the right times. This is always providing we understand how such encouragement works and how to monitor such changes in order to detect any possible adverse effects.
Igor’s owners now recognise how much he has altered in such a short time. He is still capable of further changes. I hope that after a few months I will see him just as happy to meet other people, as he is to meet his owners.
When we get to that point then that would be a very nice result.