Helping an Insecure Dog Confidently Adjust to His Environment

Updated on July 26, 2019
midget38 profile image

My dog, Misty, was an insecure dog and I hope to educate fellow dog guardians so they can help their canine friends.

My new pup hiding to feel protected.
My new pup hiding to feel protected. | Source

Is My New Dog Aggressive or Insecure?

So you have just adopted a dog or bought a new puppy and are completely ecstatic over your new member of the family. The joy, however, is a little dampened after a while. Your dog begins to cower under chairs and beds when you approach or snarls for no apparent reason. His relationships with people and other dogs is also shaky.

What the owner in the scenario above has on his or her hands is a rather insecure dog or puppy. The dog is unsure of his environment, lacks confidence in himself and manifests his fears by behaving in a seemingly aggressive manner towards people, animals, and his owner. He also begins his search for ways to feel protected.

How do we help a dog who suffers from emotional insecurity or, on an even more disturbing level, past trauma? This article will delve into the causes of canine insecurity, its signs, and make some suggestions on what owners can do if they find that their new furry companion needs a little help to get over the things that overwhelm them.


What Are the Causes of Canine Insecurity?

We humans have a wide range of phobias and insecurities and quite simply, so do dogs. There are many causes of a dog’s lack of self-esteem and confidence.

Genetic Disposition

A dog may already be predisposed to being shy when he is born. He could have parents who are timid and thus inherited the tendency to be a bit more withdrawn.

Some breeds of dogs have a generally less friendly disposition. These are:

  • Akitas
  • Shiba Inus
  • Salukis
  • Neapolitan Mastiffs
  • Komondors
  • Dogue de Bordeaux
  • Black Russian Terriers
  • Catahoula Shepherd dogs
  • Australian Shepherd Dogs
  • Chow Chows
  • Xolos
  • Cardigan Welsh Corgis

It is good to remember that generalizing a particular breed of dog as friendly or otherwise is not advisable. With proper socialization, any dog can get used to being around others and can be a welcome companion.

Lack of Early Socialization

Dogs, like children, need to interact with others. Socialization needs to take place when they are young so that they can get accustomed to the people and other dogs around them.

A friend made a mistake with her 19-year-old (yes, she has lived a long life) Bichon Frise, Mei. Mei had an early tendency to be withdrawn from people as a puppy and being afraid of flea infestations, my friend did not want to walk her. The result was a little dog who became quite resistant to visitors to the home and, of course, other dogs.

It was only in her later years that Mei got to walk around her housing estate, by which time it was a little too late. Neighbors who walked past became a little afraid to see her because she would snap at them and their dogs.

Traumatic Past Experiences

Unfortunately, some people have a rather unsettled relationship with dogs. Their dogs become victims of rather aggressive and even abusive behavior. The unsympathetic treatment could have left them rather fearful of being approached by or approaching people.

Alternatively, it may have gotten into fights with other dogs, the experience leaving it with a bitter taste in its mouth. The offshoot of that is frustration when coming across other dogs, especially if it is bigger than itself.

I have encountered a Yorkshire Terrier which was adopted by the owner of a pet shop after being abandoned by its previous master. When I tried to pet it, I almost got my finger voraciously bitten off. It remained in the corner of the pet shop, cowering as if something dreadful was about to happen in the next minute.

Lack of Proper Leadership

Very much like children, dogs need guidance. If an owner distances himself from his dog and does not assure it that it can turn to him when it needs food, play or a walk, the dog begins to withdraw. A dog also needs an owner to let it know that it is safe being around other people or those of its furry kind.

Mei, mentioned above, is a dog who lacked leadership. Not having the guidance she required, she saw everything around her as a threat. Till this day, she regards everything around her with suspicion.


What Are the Signs of Insecurity in a Dog?

The signs of insecurity in a dog may be obvious or may only be observed over time. Whatever the case may be, an insecure dog will display some rather telling traits.

It Sits in the Corner by Itself

An insecure dog will feel the need to be protected from whatever it perceives will harm it. It will withdraw into a corner, crouch under a bed or hide under a sofa when it feels threatened.

It Snarls When Approached

An insecure dog will growl at whatever it thinks will do it harm. A point to note is that this is often mistaken as aggressive behavior on the dog’s part. Rather, the dog could be worried that it is about to be attacked and go on the defense.

A Dog That Yawns Frequently Could Be Insecure

When we get used to our dogs, our tendency is to treat them as little human beings, much like our own children. We, therefore, see yawning in a dog as a sign of it being sleepy.

A dog’s yawn, however, can have a few meanings attached to it. It could be getting more oxygen into the lungs. Quite often, a yawn acts as a calming signal to other dogs or shows that it is stressed by something in the environment.

If a dog does so very frequently, it's worth looking around the environment to see what could be making the dog frazzled.

A Panting Dog Could Be an Insecure Dog

A dog might pant in anxiety or excitement when something around him makes him a little disturbed. If you notice a dog panting, take a look at its entire body language. If its ears are folded back, it is likely being nettled by things around him.

An Insecure Dog Takes a Submissive Posture

If a dog crouches or has its ears folded back, it is not confident of itself or unsure of its environment. This signals to the owner that it is time to break him in!

If a Dog Frequently Urinates, Something Is Bothering Him!

Frequent urination can have a number of causes, and it might be good to take the dog to the vet when it happens. A probable cause if it is stress or pressure from the environment.

I observed this in my dog, Misty, recently when I brought her to the vet for a follow-up check on the neurological problems she has unfortunately developed due to old age. Unfamiliar with the environment, she began urinating, defecating all over the area around her and whining. It takes time to cajole her into stepping into the vet’s office.


How Do I Help an Insecure Dog?

Helping a dog to overcome his insecurities requires a little time and observation, but is nevertheless not impossible. There are a few things that owners can do to help.

Establish Yourself as a Pack Leader

As said before, the dog needs to know who to turn to and trust. It is only then that he can be more secure with his environment. Start teaching simple obedience skills like sitting, staying, and to come. This helps him to trust and associate himself with you.

Do Not Coddle Your Dog When It Is Afraid

For many, the first instinct would be to give our dogs a hug or pat. That is in fact reinforcing to the dog that being afraid is the right behavior.

Instead, reward your dog whenever it acts with confidence. This will reinforce his boldness.

Allow Your Dog to Face Its Fears

If your dog is afraid of people, gradually expose him to more of them. Limit his interaction with the person he feels secure with. Do not impose the interaction on the dog but let the dog make the decision to come to that person.

If your dog is afraid of a certain person around the house, for instance, a child, let your child prepare the dog’s meal for the day. It helps them to bond and teaches the child a little responsibility.

If your dog is afraid of other dogs, let him get to know a dog which is smaller and calm. As it gets comfortable, introduce it to bigger dogs with more active behavior.

Introduce Your Dog to a Little Agility Training!

The purpose of agility training is confidence building. A dog, like all of us, feels good about itself after crossing or going through obstacles. Take it to dog runs or agility training classes!

What Kind of Dog Do You Think You Have?

See results

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      5 months ago

      Just rescued a 2 yr old westie mix from Tennessee. He was found on the streets unneutered. For the first few days he was very clingy and always putting his head down in our lap/nudging our hand when we stopped petting him. Also likes to sleep A LOT. We mistook this behavior as him being low energy and submissive. However, we realized very quickly that he is aggressive towards other dogs, especially when meeting on leash. He is clearly an insecure dog who’s never been socialized nor had a strong pack leader. So far he’s learned quickly how to walk on the leash and respond to redirection, but I’m still at a loss as to what to do when we meet another dog on a leash. He can NOT meet another dog nose to nose at this point, but so many dog owners ohh and ahh over a little white dog and want their dog to make “friends.” Any suggestions for dog interactions would be helpful.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      My daughter just took in a 5 year old Sheba Inu breeder dog. She does well peeing outside but doesn't want to poop. She will act like she wants to then stops. She, of course, is great around other dogs but when at her home she doesn't eat. She also whines and walks circles around the living room. She also will not let you touch her. She will come to my daughter when she has the leash in her hand but not any other time. She has had her for more the 6wks now and we haven't made any progress. What should we do now.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thank goodness for that, glimmer! Separation anxiety can be worked through, there are some excellent hubs here on HP that address the subject! Have a read!! Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Meldz! Yup, when they snap, they're just reflecting insecurity. They pee when they're afraid too. Thanks for sharing!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Claudia Mitchell 

      7 years ago

      Luckily this is not a problem with my dog. Our problem is separation anxiety. It is absolutely horrible for him, even after 7 years. Good info for people that need it.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      This is very useful Michelle. It really helps if we can understamd the behavior of our pets or other dogs. Now I know that grawling doesn't really mean they want to bite. They are just shy and cautious.

      Thanks and have a great day. :-)

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Hi, Alexandry! Wow, kudos to your talent & patience. It really takes a lot of that to train dogs with issues they have to overcome! Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Patch of Earth, read the signs of fear in the dog. If he has pulled back ears early on pull him away immediately and shift his focus to something else. You could reward him when he stops growling, but remember balance and not to over treat.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      He certainly sounds insecure and a little wary of people. Try introducing them to him slowly, Patch of Earth.

    • patchofearth profile image

      Rebecca Long 

      7 years ago from somewhere in the appalachian foothills

      My dog is very fearful. He doesn't snap at people but he will nearly pull himself out of his harness to get away if someone he doesn't know gets too close when we are out walking. I am not sure about his history. He was grown when I got him. Do you think these tips will help?

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Farricelli 

      7 years ago

      Nice article! Clicker training has worked wonders for my insecure dog. I hold clicker training classes for those dogs who have lost initiative either due to harsh training techniques or simply being of a tentative nature due to their genetic makeup.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Nell, thanks! Glad that he was a happy dog.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Yup, that's how people are, Ruchira! Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Mel! Glad to research and share anything on pets!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Sounds like a happy, well-adjusted boy, Jo!! Say hi to your hubby and him for me! Thank for sharing!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Takes time and effort to bond with animals & get them to trust us. Glad that your little cat is now more secure!! Thanks for sharing, Kidscrafts!

    • MelChi profile image

      Melanie Chisnall 

      7 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Michelle, this is an excellent article! I'm sharing all over. You've mentioned so many good pieces of information that not many people know. I didn't know some of those things and I consider myself to be a huge animal lover. Well done! :)

    • Ruchira profile image


      7 years ago from United States


      Your pet is adorable. I don't have a pet but your hub was so matching to human's psychology that I agree with you.

      Useful, interesting:) voted up

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      7 years ago from England

      Hi michelle, we had a really insecure dog a few years ago, but after a couple of weeks he got to know us really well and he naturally came out of himself, great advice and voted up!

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      7 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Michelle, a very informative article, we got Rodney from the shelter, and was told he may never be a cuddle kind of dog, he would snap and bite, not used to being played with.

      However, with lots of love he is now a wonderful little dog, a pussy cat, at the moment he is trying to get my husband to put away the laptop to play ball with him. Lovely to meet Cloudy.

    • kidscrafts profile image


      7 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      Nice article. What you write about dogs can be true for cats too. I have a cat (she is almost 17 years old) and for a really long time (years and years) she seemed afraid each time I would bring my hand to pet her on the head. I suspect she was beaten as a kitten. After a long time with us, she realized that she had nothing to fear.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      7 years ago from Florida

      Great article! I love the way you included photos of Cloudy (looks like snapshops).

      My dog, Baby, has the opposite personality trait: she thinks she is superior to other dogs. She has never been insecure! We got her as a new pup, and tried to socialize her with people and other dogs.

      Voted UP and will share, Pin and Tweet.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great suggestions, Michelle! The dog we have now came from the shelter, and was very insecure. We used some of these suggestions and he is much better now.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Janine! Do keep them for when Lily gets a dog!

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 

      7 years ago from New York, New York

      Yet another great addition to your articles of helping dogs and understanding them. I really am going to have a lot of resources to pull from when we do finally get a dog and I thank you for that!! Also, have doen the usual and voted up and shared, too!! :)

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      On the causes and signs of canine shyness and how to help an insecure dog.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)