Ask The Dog Guide: Timid Shepherd

January 5th, 2009 by Dan

Question: My dog is a weird 2 year old German Shepherd. He is REALLY scared of my dad. He hides in my closet and tries to hide anywhere he can fit at. I also taught him how to give paw and when he gets scared he instantly will sit on the ground and put out his paw as if to try and tell you not to touch him. I don’t understand why he does this but if you have any suggestions on how to get him to stop or just explain why he does this it would be very helpful. Thanks.

Answer: It would help to know when and how you acquired your German Shepherd. Is it possible that he could have been abused by a man? Is he scared of all adult males, or just your father? If it’s just your father, is it possibly that your father could have hurt him in some way, even unintentionally?

The sitting on the floor and giving you his paw when he is scared indicates that your dog is confused, anxious, and hoping to please you by offering a behavior for which he has been previously rewarded. He may be afraid that he’ll be punished, and offering this behavior to appease you when he thinks you are angry.

Fearful dogs are often very challenging to own. Work to build your Shepherd’s confidence by rewarding him when he interacts with your father, or even if he ignores him but doesn’t hide from him. You may wish also to consult a professional trainer or behaviorist. If ignored, fearful behavior can become fear aggression when the dog is unable to escape something that scares him. It is important to work to eliminate your dog’s fear now, rather than after a bite occurs.

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