If you’ve read the first post of my series (here it is), you’ve met Freyja and may remember her strange behavior.
When I first met Freyja I was working at a dog daycare. From the beginning, she was very antisocial and would often hide in the corner.
Working with some of the scared dogs, I had developed a reputation for getting them to come out of their shells. So I started working with her, but she still wouldn’t come to me.
If it were just me, her, and a coworker (my other coworkers were all females), she would run and hide behind the coworker. If it were just the two of us—Freyja and I—she would stay far away.
This behavior is completely different from how she is now. If I’m in the shower, she opens my bathroom door and sits outside of the shower. She’s attached to my hip. She’s still skittish around men she hasn’t met before, but she’s getting better.
So, how did I change all of this? It was pretty simple, really.
Freyja was boarding for about four days before I adopted her. In those four days, I gained most of her trust by following three simple steps.
- Space. I started off just sitting down in the same room as her, allowing her come up to me by herself. At first, I sat on the ground with my legs crossed and my hands in my lap to let her get used to being in a room with me. For a long time, I never approached Freyja. Instead, I let her come to me.
- Slow. When I felt like it was time to try and pet her, I moved slowly. I also kept some treats in one hand. It’s important to keep your movements slow and steady to keep from surprising the dog. When Freyja meets someone new, I still tell them to move slowly and not act excited—well, unless she’s meeting a woman, because she loves women.
- Stand. When she was comfortable with me sitting and petting her (without treats), I slowly stood up. Like before, I moved slowly and steadily, since she could easily get freaked out. I allowed her to get used to being around me, and I didn’t move until I knew she was comfortable.
Take your time with a skittish dog. I started introducing Freyja to more and more people by taking her for walks in the downtown area where I live, bringing her to dog-friendly bars, restaurants, and parks.
Often, you won’t necessarily know why your pup is afraid of men. People quickly jump to the conclusion that their dog was abused, but that is not always the case. It could simply be that the dog wasn’t properly socialized as a puppy. Try to slowly expose your dog to more and more unfamiliar situations so he or she can learn to be comfortable.
Also, it’s important to expect progress, not perfection. While Freyja has made great strides since I first found her as that anxious dog sitting in the corner, she can still be fearful of taller men. It’s important to not focus on the shortcomings of your dog, but to instead remember how far he or she has come with training.
I also found that teaching Freyja to sit, stay, and wait for people to approach her calms her down, since she associates sitting with getting treats or praise. It’s worthwhile to try this approach, because a dog that listens to your sit and stay commands will be much easier to socialize.