Q & A: Fearful puppy

Q: Whenever we get guests, our puppy hides somewhere. How can I teach him more self-confidence? 

A: Arrange for an accredited behaviourist to come and see you as soon as possible. Canines are a social species – they are curious by nature and should be bounding over to visitors with curiosity and seeking attention.

The fact that your puppy is hiding from visitors during a critical developmental period is of great concern.

Fearful puppies become fearful adults – a fearful dog has the propensity to fear-bite. There is no time to waste! Your puppy is afraid.

Ignoring this and hoping he will ‘grow out of it’, as is so often the consensus, is not going to happen!

Your puppy is not feeling safe to navigate the world. This requires immediate intervention and professional, ongoing assistance to nurture him through the first two years of important social development, in order to assist him in becoming a better adjusted adult dog and able to cope in our world once maturity is reached.

For the time being, allow your puppy to retreat, give him ‘safe spaces’, and do not encourage him to engage with visitors, as this will make the problem worse.

It needs to be on his terms – puppies need to approach people, not the other way around. If he is feeling safe, he will come out from hiding.

This does not give visitors permission to engage or touch. Rather leave him be and arrange for a professional to come and assist you as soon as you can.

Samantha Walpole, behaviourist

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