Training can provide the environment and structure to build confidence in your dog. Agility classes are a great place for people to learn about the sport and learn how to train, but the timid dog may take a long time before he is ready to venture from under your chair or off your lap.
A timid or shy dog can only learn inside their comfort zone. So, training must begin where they feel safe and behaviors must be taught in very small increments. Home will probably be the best place to train and have learning take place for your dog. So, how do you train at home? You will need guidelines and equipment.
There is a variety of equipment that is useful and helpful to have at home. Equipment recommendations are based on your available space and location of training. Do you have a large yard that will hold 10 obstacles? Do you have a small yard where you will need setup equipment and then tear down before you can setup again? Will you be training in your garage or basement, or as some agility addicts, in your living room.
And the Training Begins
For the timid dogs make sure your equipment is safe and sturdy. The pause table is a good place to begin your agility training. A 12” high pause table, with adjustable legs for later use, is a good starting place for all size dogs. Remember with your shy dog, setup your table in an area that is very familiar to your dog. If your dog barks at anything new, just leave your pause table in your house or yard for several days, let your dog inspect and smell it on his own or with a little coaxing, but don’t push to fast, remember baby steps with the insecure dog. To encourage your dog to get up on the table place his favorite toy on the table. When he jumps on the table to get it give him a treat. This may take more than one lesson, be patient.
Eventually, you want your dog to be able to jump on the table with your cue word, “Table”, “Box”, “Kennel”, whatever word you use, Stay on the table as you back away and then Come when you call. Build your distance slowly so that your dog is not pushed to soon.
From Pause Table to Contact Trainer is a nice transition for shy dog. A Contact Trainer comes in different designs. We recommend a 3-Piece Contact Trainer that has one mini A-frame side, a Pause Table, and then a mini Dog-walk side. Your dog can Sit on the table and then be coaxed down the A-frame side or the Dog-walk side. Just remember with the shy dog, training is done in increments, slowly and comfortably, with a little push to stretch him, but not enough to overwhelm him to cause a shutdown.
You can follow the above techniques introducing new obstacles as your dog is able to succeed. As your dog succeeds on each new piece of equipment you will see his confidence grow. Check out My 10 top supplements for aging Dogs: