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Thread: Skittish Pup

  1. #1
    Puppy (New Member)

    Current Great Pyrenees Owner

    Join Date
    Feb 2018

    Default Skittish Pup

    Hey y'all,

    My husband and I got our Pyr baby, Nymeria, about a month ago. The only other dog we have had, up until now, is our 14 yr old Chihuahua.

    Anywhoo, we purchased her from a family who raises them to watch their goats and chickens, but sells them also. She was the last of the litter, and although shy of us was quite comfortable with the other animals (even cats) and young children bouncing around the place.
    When we met her and took her home she was scared stiff (literally, she wouldn't move), gradually though she warmed up to us and our home, since then she has been an angel NEARLY all of the time. I've never been overly fond of dogs, but this baby girl has stolen my heart.

    Now, the only real issue, she is quite terrified when folks come to visit! What do I do?
    We've taken her hiking ( ) and on walks, and while cautious, she was friendly to the people we passed along the way, particularly children. But when our family comes to visit us at home, she runs up the back steps (a very high porch) and proceeds to bark. I assume she is doing her guard dog thing and letting me know when people enter our yard, which is a good thing, but even when I try to assure her that it's ok it takes her quite some time to come down and greet people. Even then she she hides behind me like a small child on their mother's apron strings for some time before she warms up to them. And if you bring a person she isnt sure of yet onto the porch she will start to growl.
    Why is she one way out in public, and so different at home?
    She behaves in nearly every other way, but this one. I realize at home, she looks at it as her territory to watch after, but why is fearful as well? She is skittish almost like a cat! I've never seen a puppy act this way; generally young dogs are overly friendly and confident (would assume from lack of wisdom?) and become more reserved/cautious with age.
    I want her to be able to differentiate between friend and foe, and behave accordingly. Any suggestions? I would be most appreciative!

  2. #2
    Old Dawg (Senior Member) SebastiansMom's Avatar

    Current Great Pyrenees Owner

    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Dallas, TX


    Welcome to the forum!

    How old was Nymeria when you brought her home? It sounds possible that her breeder might not have given her a lot of exposure to new people during her critical socialization period.

    This can be overcome, but it will take some time and patience. I would recommend starting by reading the book, “For The Love of a Dog”, by Patricia McConnell. It is one of several that I keep on both my phone and my iPad for quick reference. The book is largely about dogs’ emotions, and how they can be read through the dog’s body language. Understanding body language is going to be key in helping Nymeria overcome her shyness around new people.

    Chester, my Lab/Pit mix, is an anxious boy who can be a little bit or miss when it comes to meeting new people. It sounds crazy, but I have found that it helps a lot if I let them know a few minutes ahead of time that we are expecting company. “Hey, guys, do you know who is going to come see you soon? Deee is coming over! Isn’t that exciting? Yes, it is! She’s going to come over and pet you and play with you and give you a beefy treat, and I can’t wait! Aren’t you excited? I’m super excited to see Deee!” Then, when Deee comes over, I calmly have her come inside, and have her give Sebastian and Chester their favorite treat.

    I try to make sure to let people know ahead of time that Chester is a naturally fearful boy, and not to take it personally if he doesn’t adore them instantly. I also make sure not to force Chester to greet people he doesn’t want to.

    With the growling, it is important that you NEVER punish the growl. A lot of people mistake growling as being a sign of aggression. It isn’t. It is a non-violent way for the dog to let you know that she is uncomfortable in the situation. Dogs who are punished for growling don’t learn not to be uncomfortable, they just learn not to growl. Dogs who are punished for growling learn to skip growling, and are at risk of skipping right to the bite.
    Sebastian is on Facebook!

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