Are you wondering why your pet hides under the bed or huddles in the corner whenever new people or pets come around? Just like humans, pets can be shy. As a pet owner, you can help socialize your pet and work through his shyness. Just like with shy humans, it may take some time and encouragement, but over time your four-legged friend will open up.
Why your pet could be shy
Shyness can be caused by a number of factors including:
- Genetics – As with humans, shyness can be an inherited personality trait in cats and dogs.
- Lack of socialization – During a pet’s first year of life, socialization with other pets and people is important. Especially for dogs. This helps them learn about the world around them and how to respond to it.
- Abuse or trauma – As pet owners, we hate to think someone could ever harm our four-legged friends. However, if your pet was a rescue, they could have been harmed by previous owners. Talk to the shelter where you adopted your pet to understand their history and if violence may have led to the shyness.
You can help!
Just because your pet is shy, doesn’t mean he is destined to a life of hiding under the bed or avoiding strangers. There are plenty of ways to help your pet overcome his shyness through socialization.
- Host a small gathering – Invite some friends over to your home for a meal. Let your friends know you are working on socializing your dog or cat and give them some treats to give to him. This will help your pet open up to strangers and associate socialization with reward.
- Go to a dog park – Your cat probably won’t want to hang out at the dog park, but it can be a good way to ease your dog into socializing. Take your dog to a dog park. Rather than going straight in, see if you can find a trail nearby to walk your dog on his leash. Help him ease into going into the dog park after a few trips of walking nearby.
- Increase your pet’s confidence – Confidence is key to overcoming shyness. One way to increase your pet’s confidence is through your body language and tone. Be calm in any situation in which your pet might be nervous. Do not comfort them when they are frightened because they will believe there is a reason to be fearful. Your confidence will show them it is okay and help increase their own confidence over time.
- Don’t rush your pet – Shyness will not go away overnight and the worst thing you can do is rush your pet into situations they are not ready for. If your pet is extremely shy and does not do well around other animals, do not force them to be around other animals. Speak with an animal behaviorist or your veterinarian to understand how you can better help your pet.