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Dogs/Shy 6-month old mini schnauzer


We adopted a 6-month old mini schnauzer from a breeder this past weekend. When we met her, she seemed shy, but when we brought her home, it became apparently exactly how shy she was. She was trembling her first day with us, and even after that subsided, she retreats when we approach her (even slowly), she will not accept treats unless we place them on the ground, and she cowers in the back of her crate when we go to take her out in the morning. We have had her two days and she has started to trust us a little more. She is comfortable sitting on our couch (if we manage to find a way to pick her up and put her up there) or on a pillow on the floor and she will sit on our laps for hours on end, but she still retreats. Luckily, she is fully housebroken. I have read that shy schnauzers, past the puppy age, are "ruined" dogs. Is this true? I have also read mixed advice on whether we should be taking her to a group class or not - I'm not sure she would do well in that setting, and there are no group classes meant for shy dogs in our area. What can I do to help her?

I wouldn't say she has been "ruined", but she will never be the dog she could have been. Early socialization is extremely important, but moreso in dogs with similar temperaments to yours. This is the very reason I started doing three home visits with older dogs before I would place them as it made it so much easier on the dogs. By the third visit, they would start to investigate the home on their own, and wouldn't be quite so upset when I left them.

The first week I would break her food ration down into 3-4 feedings, so that she understands that you are the source of her food (never let her free-feed!); all good things must come from you. Be careful of treats, as it is too easy to make a schnauzer overweight, and that can be the source of many health issues later. For the purpose of her socialization, treats are okay for 2-3 weeks, but make sure they are something really, really good (as long as she continues to eat her regular food). For many of my dogs, that has been small bites of string cheese. Always make sure that she does something to earn that reward, though.

Several years ago, I had an older puppy come to me for the weekend to be "fixed", as whenever the breeder tried to sell him, he would run away from strangers screaming his head off. I quickly discovered that in Konnor's case (Britmor The Kon Artist<G>), it was a learned behavior, and got him what he wanted... strangers to leave him alone. (I think some guy with a loud voice scared him initially.) I put a leash on him and whenever I went in his vicinity (which was where he was trying to squeeze under the couch in the living room), I would step on his leash so he couldn't get away from me, and then do that "happy thump" on his sides and talk to him in an excited, happy voice. He got so he would squint his eyes when he saw me coming, but he would no longer try to run away. He quickly came around for me, and then I started hauling him to doggy places, and put him into people's arms, after I explained his behavior. (Konnor ultimately remained here for nearly 17 years.)

I would think you could try something similar with yours, but in a modified way that was less extreme. Make it so that she cannot get away from you (dragging leash), and handle her in a more gentle fashion. (Instead of thumping sides, try massages and sweet, soothing voice... maybe even singing/humming quietly.) She must learn that she has nothing to fear, but that you WILL handle/pet her whenever you desire.

Once she is good with you in the house, start taking her for walks... actually take her everywhere with you that you can. Have strangers offer her really good treats... maybe explain her issues and put her in their arms. (This is where it is better to have "dog people" help you out.) Take her down to your local dog training center, and just sit there with her and watch the classes. Once she is comfortable with you, she should become more comfortable in other situations.... it will just take time... maybe lots of time. Have patience with her and she should come around. Eventually she should be able to handle the group classes, but I would wait until she is comfortable going down there.

Good luck with her! And PATIENCE!!!  


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Karen Brittan


I have been showing miniature schnauzers in conformation, obedience, and earthdog for forty years, and am a professional dog groomer. I am not a veterinarian and cannot answer questions of a veterinary nature. However, I can give my opinion or share some experiences on some health issues. Everyone should remember that this is a volunteer service, and few of us are up late into the night. Medical emergencies require a veterinary visit, or at least a telephone call... not an internet question which might not be viewed and answered until hours later. If your dog is sick or injured, it should be seen by a licensed professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.


I have taught obedience classes and have taught people how to groom for many years.

Learn more about me and my dogs:

Member of: American Miniature Schnauzer Club; Twin Cities Miniature Schnauzer Club; Twin Cities Obedience Training Club; Elk River Kennel Club; Minnesota Professional Pet Groomers Association; Greater Twin Cities Earthdog Club.

Fifty-one years of living with, observing, and training dogs, along with numerous seminars during that time.

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