Well my shy little PBGV is coming out of his shell very slowly. I do not believe that the sweet Corgi has won him over, yet. I think he may be thinking she has too much enthusiasm. However, the PBGV did seem to work better in class this week, so I’m not giving up hope.
Here are my suggestions for working with a fearful dog in class:
When I have a less than confident dog in class I like to have the fearful dog work in a designated area (perhaps but not necessarily gated off) so that they can get comfortable (start to feel some security) with the space they are in. I start the class out working on some stationary exercises like name recognition, sits, downs, attention/watch, even some meet and greets (people only). This gives the dog a chance to scope out his classmates and determine that they are not a threat (assuming that’s the case). Once the dogs are performing these tasks with some fluidity then I will start the moving exercises like loose leash walking.
While working on loose leash walking, especially as a group, I will distribute cones equally spaced around the room, one for each dog. That way each handler knows they have a cone to “go to”, which helps keep the dogs separated. (Note; you may need to reinforce the importance of this spacing, people have a tendency to group together.) This is very important if you have an anxious dog(s). The movement of multiple dogs can be very stimulating/threatening to a fearful dog so everyone needs to be paying attention.
The handler of the anxious dog should give their dog full attention when they are walking. Perhaps offering a hand target from time to time and reinforcing (treating) good behavior VERY frequently. They should also take periodic breaks if their dog’s been working well in the group. Perhaps even leaving the room or going outside so the dog can have a few moments to really relax.
Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Don’t rush the process of instilling confidence. The dog needs to develop confidence in himself as well as in his handler.
Hope this is helpful 🙂