When we picture puppies, we usually imagine friendly little balls of fur, but what should you do if you have a scared puppy who is reluctant to meet new people and try different experiences?
Why is my puppy so scared?
The most common reason why you may have a scared puppy is lack of socialisation. Puppies are young and have only just begun learning about the world so they are understandably wary of things they are unfamiliar with, whether this be new people, strange appliances, or even other dogs. Many young dogs go through a stage of shyness during their adolescence, typically when they are four to five months old. Most of these fear-related behaviours fade as the dog matures, gains confidence, and becomes used to the triggering situation. Exceptions can develop into problem behaviours though, which is why you need to help your dog overcome their fear.
How you can help your scared puppy be brave
Socialisation involves exposing your puppy to all sorts of individuals, animals and situations, and fostering positive interactions during the early months of their life. By rewarding your puppy when they react well to encountering something new, you can help them understand that it is fun and safe to be out and about. Tick off all the items on our puppy socialisation checklist and your best friend will be happily exploring the world in no time.
Puppy school training
One of the best ways to socialise your puppy is at puppy school. Designed in partnership with Greencross Vets, our fun and interactive course is designed to expose your puppy to many people, pets and situations that they will regularly experience throughout their lives. By teaching them the right reaction to new events when your puppy is young, you will help them grow into a more confident and happy dog.
Not only will your puppy be taught basic manners, puppy school is a great opportunity for puppy parents to do some learning as well. One of the core elements of our puppy school course is teaching pet parents how to communicate with their puppies – how to read their body language and respond appropriately.
A great way to accustom your puppy to experiences they might be afraid of is to gradually desensitise them. This involves controlled situations where you present your puppy with a low intensity version of the object or experience that is causing their fear response, and once they are comfortable, start to increase the intensity until they are fully desensitised to the vacuum cleaner, fireworks, or whatever their trigger is. When desensitising your puppy, it is important that you take things slowly and do not force your puppy into a situation they’re not ready to face yet, and of course always reward them for good behaviour.
If you have concerns about your puppy’s fearful responses to the world around them, it can be worthwhile to seek a professional diagnosis. Bring your puppy in for a behaviour consultation at your local Greencross Vets who will be able to provide you with personal advice on how you can help your puppy become more confident.