Timid Springer Spaniel

I believe that Rosie is genetically a timid dog. She previously lived with quite a lot of dogs and they bullied her. She is very scared of dogs.

Timid Rosie hid

As I entered the room Rosie ran over to the young lady and hid beside her on the sofa. The timid dog stayed there the whole time I was with them – over two hours, peering at me around the sofa arm. (Not a good photo as I couldn’t get close).

Rosie has lived with the young couple now for several months and is relaxed and happy and at home with them. She panics and hides when encountering anything or anybody new – most particularly if a person or another dog crowds her.


The temptation is for people to try hard to make friends with the beautiful timid Springer when the very opposite is required. If everyone backed right off, she should gradually venture out to them. This needs a lot of patience and no pressure. The young man and his partner need to stand up for her by not letting people approach her – always be her advocate.

A dog walker comes each day but, even after several weeks, Rosie won’t venture out of her crate apart from to rush out, grab a piece of chicken and rush back in again. The walker sits beside her crate for nearly an hour feeding her chicken.

Without the young couple at home, Rosie obviously feels more vulnerable.

She also barks from time to time when they leave her. This may be because she doesn’t feel safe rather than merely lonely. Their presence gives timid Rosie comfort as she hides beside them.

When they are out she sits on watch at the window and has to cope alone with all the things she sees going past.

There are several areas that they can do a little differently that should, when added together, make a difference. These include changing her relationship with food – both meals and rewards.

They leave her food down down all the time but she will only eat in the evening and in certain places. They worry, persuade and entice. This in itself will add pressure. They give her quite a lot of gravy bones in a day. (I pointed out that at 14Kg herself, it would be like me eating about five times the weight of those gravy bones in rubbish each day. I wouldn’t be hungry either).

A plan for the dog walker

I have a plan for the dog walker when she comes in the middle of the day. It goes like this:

  • Sit down on the sofa – well away from the crate.
  • Don’t look at timid Rosie or talk to her. Drop chicken between the crate and herself – TINY pieces! Don’t entice her. Watch TV or read and ignore her!
  • It may take a few days, but I believe she will venture out across the room for the chicken. She must NOT react!
  • When they get to this stage, the walker should get up and slowly walk out of the room, dropping chicken.
  • Then open the back door, go outside and wait a couple of minutes. Be patient. Don’t call Rosie or talk. After a few days I believe Rosie will join her. When she does, take not notice and don’t even look at her – just leak tiny bits of chicken.

Timid Springer SpanielApart from when anyone comes to the house or walks past the house, Rosie’s main anxieties are when out on walks.

Terrified of off lead dogs

When any dog approaches her, she hides behind the young lady or the man. If the dog is off lead and running up to her, her tail goes between her legs and she runs yelping behind them, even pooping with fear.

On walks Rosie pulls and they keep pulling her back to them. This is probably more due to eagerness to get to the place where the lead is removed than excitement. They can make outings a lot more reassuring and comfortable for the timid dog with a good harness with two connection points. They themselves should relax, avoiding all tension on the lead.

Rosie needs to learn to mooch and to sniff, which no dog will do when not feeling safe. They need not worry about a destination. They will work at giving her confidence by protecting her when faced with ‘danger’ in the form of another dog. When off-lead, she makes a wide detour around any dog. This is what they should do when she’s on lead also.

At the same time, when she spies a dog they can make something good happen.

They will stop throwing a ball on walks as her obsession with this is almost certainly as a tactic to shut out the world around her. Instead the will help her to feel the world they take her to is a safe world.

Starved of the ball it will become a valuable tool. They will give it to her to carry in her mouth as they move away from an approaching dog.

Off-lead dogs should simply be avoided – but life happens. In emergency, they can throw food at it and jog away, hoping the owner will put it on lead. Timid Rosie is small for a Springer, so as a last resort, to remove her from the other dog, they could try carrying her.

Trying too hard

When we have a very fearful dog it’s hard not to get sucked in and try too hard. I feel they are doing this with trying to get Rosie to eat and with pushing her to be friendly to friends and relatives. This only adds pressure.

Rosie’s humans need to act relaxed and let her feel her own way at her own pace, doing everything they can to keep her feeling safe. She will always be a timid dog and they have already made considerable headway. They will now take another step forward.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out here. Finding instructions on the internet or TV can do more harm than good sometimes. Every dog is different and every situation is different. I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog – click here.