5) Change the focus of the visit.
Normally in situations like this, all of the focus is on the guest. The TV is turned off, you and your Shih Tzu are both sitting there looking directly at your visitor, and all distractions are gone.
This causes a very intense situation, where a dog is essentially forced to confront what is happening. And without having built up any skills or having been taught that visits are okay, what would cause his reaction to change in any way?
So, you will want to set your dog up for success by giving him other things to focus on during this time.
One of the best methods is to introduce a fun new toy. Once introduced, reserve this toy for only when visitors come over. You may find that this can actually lead to a dog looking forward to guests dropping by.
You'll want this toy to be something that is very engaging. Some good choices are the ZippyPaws Spencer the Crinkle Monkey
, which has a squeaker, a rattle, and
crinkle paper in the limbs.
If you think that your Shih Tzu would react well to speaking toys, the Pet Qwerks Animal Sounds Babble Ball
lets out 20 funny animals noises, and says a different one each time it's nosed, which is fun for dogs that like to feel that the toy is interacting with them.
5) The goal will be to ignore any shy behavior and reward progress of any kind.
About ignoring -
Ignoring a dog that is clearly shy and looking for comfort is not easy. It does take quite a bit of will-power. However, keep in mind that 1- your Shih Tzu is safe and out of harm's way and 2- This is for his own good, since it will lead to a happier, more confident dog in the near future.
Your Shih Tzu will be looking to you - his Alpha leader - for cues on how to react.
Therefore, ignoring shy behavior sends a strong message that shyness is not needed and is not warranted.
You will get this message across by not reacting to his shy ways. Do not gently push your dog away, do not offer any words of comfort at all, and try to avoid saying the phrase, 'It's alright.'
Also, if your Shih Tzu takes off to hide, do not try to coax your Shih Tzu out. It will need to be his idea.
You'll just set out the new toy, and focus on speaking with your guest.
The only time that interaction should be done is if a Shih Tzu is jumping up on his owner or otherwise causing a disturbance. If this is the case, the dog should not be reprimanded, but he should be placed in his playpen
or other area for a short time out.
About rewards -
With many types of training, such as housebreaking
, reward should be given with super enthusiastic words of praise; however, with this you'll want to be more low-key.
Any sign of not being wary should be rewarded. Each Shih Tzu that suffers from shyness will be unique in what qualifies as progress.
If a dog is so shy that he won't even leave your side, progress may be taking one step away, or perhaps quieting down if there was whining. These things will qualify as a reason to give reward, so do look for subtle clues.
If your dog does
leave your side to investigate the new toy, allow him to play for 5 minutes or so, and without interrupting so much that it would break his focus, quickly palm one treat to him, say, 'Good dog', and go back to your conversation.
6) As things improve, the guest will give out a treat.
It may take several visits; however, a Shih Tzu will slowly learn that his human is not acting as if there is reason to be wary, and he will slowly feel safer and safer to play with his special toy. As this is happening, he is getting small rewards for confident behavior.
And with this, there will come a time - on visit #2, 5, or even 10, that there is enough confidence to interact with the guest.
When this happens, have that person speak in a happy, friendly voice and palm a treat.
7) Gradual increases in frequency and duration.
As a Shih Tzu gets used to this new way of reacting to guests, and his shyness is abating, slowly increase the time that visitors stay and how often they come over.
Every dog has a limit as to how much interaction and busyness they feel comfortable with. So, it's not a bad thing if after a certain amount of time the dog wants to retreat to his bed or other resting area.