Shy Puppies and Expectation Management

The puppies are about to go to their new homes, which is always a really fun time for everyone! We can’t wait to meet you all, and for you to gain a new member to your pack.

There is a scale of shy to outgoing in every litter, and you can definitely see it in this one. Some puppies will jump out of the box to come see you. Some will hang at the back and just watch. Both have their positives and negatives in training, but I thought I’d take a few minutes to address the shy dog, as they can sometimes be a bit more tricky than an outgoing one. Here are a few tips that may help.

  1. Don’t coddle them when they are being shy. It won’t build their confidence, and you may unwittingly reward them for unwanted shy behavior. Instead, when they are being shy in a corner, either ignore the behavior, or calmly lure the puppy out with a treat or toy, and reward the puppy as soon as it shows any interest in you at all. For example, if her ears perk towards you or she takes a step towards you. Praise praise praise and treats.
  2. Don’t discipline shy behavior. A shy dog should be calmly and kindly disciplined for biting or jumping, as should any puppy, however DO NOT discipline the shy behavior. If you go towards your puppy and she slinks back, walk away, and then try again. To say no, or to become frustrated will make things worse.
  3. Encourage her to socialize, especially with people, but DO NOT do too much too fast. An over exuberant person at the wrong time could worsen the shyness. If you have an established dog in the home already, that can be a huge confidence booster.
  4. Make treats really tasty. A good piece of sausage or bacon will make about any dog, shy or not, love you. In the instance of a shy puppy, I am all for bribing. Every time the puppy looks at you is a good time to reward her. Building that positive association with yourself and with other people (have others reward her too) will build a really solid foundation for a naturally reserved dog.

Managing Expectations:

My Dad often, and wisely, talks about managing your expectations. Be sure that what you expect is realistic so that you do not grow frustrated or discouraged with yourself or your new puppy. For instance, if you imagine yourself cozied up in front of a nice movie, while snuggling your sweet puppy, you may be disappointed if you have an outgoing energetic puppy that doesn’t care to snuggle. Or if you imagine your puppy springing into your arms the moment you greet her, you may be disappointed when the puppy hangs at the back of the crate for a while if it is a shyer puppy.

If you expect the puppy to be perfectly potty trained, or to know instinctively that slippers are not for chewing on- you may become frustrated with the hole in the toe of your slipper, or that wet spot on the carpet.

One expectation people often have, that really needs to be “managed” is that their puppy will be human. Puppies are dogs. They love humans and they will want to please you, no doubt. But their needs, their desires, and their habits are dog, not human. We have to be very careful not to treat them like a human. It is confusing to the dog, and can cause a dog to shut down. We also have to be very careful not to take what they do as personal. It’s not personal, I promise.

So manage your expectations: instead of just dreaming up the ideal of how life will suddenly be perfect with your new fluffy friend, think also of what challenges you might have. Plan how you will react to your puppy when she misbehaves. Plan on how you will reward her. Plan on things you can do to boost her confidence in your home and integrate her into your life. If you don’t have a plan in place, frustration will take over and neither you nor your puppy will be better for it.

So, ask yourself: what do you expect with this new puppy? Are those expectations realistic? If so, great! If not, what can you do to change your expectations?

I trained horses professionally for 6 years. I have started and finished hundreds of horses. It is an amazing job, and so rewarding. I found that in training, I made my worst mistakes when I was frustrated. I became frustrated most often because of mismanaged expectations. Sometimes I expected too much of my self. Often I expected too much of the horse. Usually I expected too much of a horse that was going to go into a show discipline- I would get caught up in the perfection that was in my mind, and forget that I was riding a 2 year old. Then I would become frustrated, the horse would sense it and shut down, and I would spend the next two days undoing my mistake. From those mistakes I learned to manage my expectations for the horses I was on, and got tremendous results. The same goes for dogs. Someday your dog can know every trick in the book, will be perfectly potty trained, heel off-leash, come every time when called… but right now your dog is a puppy. A young, very eager puppy with a lot to learn. Remember that when you find holes in your socks, and pee on the floor.

If you have read this far I commend you. 🙂

Can’t wait for you all to meet your puppies! They are indeed precious.




6 thoughts on “Shy Puppies and Expectation Management

  1. Whitney

    This is awesome! I’ve been watching about a billion Zak George and Kikopup training videos on YouTube for the past three months and they say all of these exact same things! One thing they always say is if you begin to feel frustrated during training, just stop, separate yourself from them by putting them in their crate or another room and let them be for a little while until you have calmed down. They say dogs do AMAZING with positive reinforcement and not so great with negative. I’m hoping with all the positive and humane training videos I have watched I’m on the right track!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Laurel Post author

    That is great! Zak George and Kikopup are awesome trainers. I have watched them quite a bit. They have really great advice, and their dogs can do about anything. So fun. An Aussiedoodle is a breed that really will thrive with their method of training. Another guy that is really nice to watch because he is so informative, is Tyler Muto. I really like his calm approach. The dogs he trains also seem very happy, balanced, and solid. He is a very practical trainer. He adds some “negative reinforcement too.” (Negative being withholding a treat, or giving a verbal “no” or a leash correction, not beating the dog etc.) It’s fun to watch lots of people and then take from them what works and apply it to your own dog. Here is a link to his youtube channel:
    He is a pro trainer that takes outside dogs, so a lot of his dogs are full grown and have already developed some bad habits- so your training with your puppy will be different.
    I especially like his use of the place command. I think it is something that I will implement with my Lucy girl, and any other puppy I train. So intensely practical! Jane knows the place command, only I tell her “load” instead of place. Works great at the vet on the scale, and when I want her to stay by the door or something.


  3. Sarah P.

    Thank you for this reminder! It’s easy to get lost in the idea of a puppy and a gentle precautionary reminder is more than welcome. We can’t wait to bring our little one home. 🙂

    I’ll also check out those videos. They sound interesting and gathering different points of view will only help our own system. See you soon!


  4. Pingback: A reminder | Aussiedoodles By Jane

  5. Kristi Grant

    Thanks for this Laurel! Great information especially since Mia was one of the shy pups. Can’t wait to meet Waylon and how Mia and him get along.



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