If you adopt a dog with the intention of having a guardian for your home, it can be disappointing, if not a little amusing, when he turns out to be a scaredy-cat. Individual dogs of any breed can be shy and sensitive, but some breeds have a genetic tendency to be timid. Surprisingly, some of them are among the largest breeds. If a sensitive and timid dog is exactly what you're looking for, you'll have your pick of assorted sizes and breeds.
Mastiffs are among the largest dogs, but they can be big babies, too. Though they're loving, gentle giants, Arizona dog trainer and behaviorist Sam Basso says that the biggest problem with all types of mastiffs is shyness.
Other Big Boys
As mastiffs prove, just because a dog is big, that doesn't mean the breed is aggressive or fearless. Other large breeds prone to timidness include sight hounds such as Afghan hounds, Ibizan and greyhounds, pointers such as Weimaraners, griffons and German shorthairs, and Nordic breeds including Akitas, malamutes and huskies.
Midsized and Bashful
Vizslas are pointers but, at an average height of 22 inches and weighing around 50 pounds, they are a bit smaller than the larger bashful breeds. Because they are bred to spend time outdoors tracking prey, it is unexpected for a hunting dog to have a timid streak. However, vizslas are gentle, sensitive and some are downright timid. Bulldogs are other midsized breeds prone to shyness. These include English bulldogs, pit bull terriers and bull terriers.
Tiny and Timid
Living in a world where most other creatures seem gigantic and almost everything is big enough to crush you, it's understandable that small breed dogs would have a tendency toward timidity. Though some have reputations for being yappy and snappy, small breeds such as Chihuahuas, Maltese, Papillion, toy poodles, pugs and Yorkshire terriers are also timid breeds.
Any Dog Can Be Shy
Regardless of the breed, any individual dog can have a timid personality. Even if the breed doesn't genetically predispose a dog to being shy, other factors can pull his personality in that direction. Those factors could include being traumatized and not being adequately socialized as a puppy or having continued contact with a variety of humans and other animals. It's important not to reprimand or punish a shy dog for timid behavior. Provide chances for him to get to know other humans and dogs in a safe environment, such as an obedience or training class. Let him come out of his shell at his own pace. By showing him patience and love and working with him consistently, you can help your shy dog become a sweet, affectionate member of the family.
- Veterinary Partner: Timid Dogs - The Best Approach
- American Society For the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Fear of Other Animals
- DogTime.com: Neapolitan Mastiff
- DogTime.com: On the Shy Side Breeds List
- Sam the Dog Trainer: What Breed is Right for You?
- Merced County, California: Dog Breed Characteristics and Behavior
- Animal Planet: Vizsla Guide
- Cara Welfare Philipinnes: Working With Timid Dogs
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.