Some of the pets that encounter the most difficulty finding homes are pets who are shy or reticent to become friends. However, shyness is not a life sentence. There are many things you can do to bring out the sparkling personality that hides between your dog or cat's anxious exterior. Most animals shy away from the unfamiliar, and this can be even more true if they were not properly socialized when young. Their comfort level will increase as the environment becomes more regular and familiar.
It is easy to inadvertently encourage shy behavior in a pet. For example, if your dog demonstrates whining, defensive barking, or snapping, our first instinct is often to attempt to calm and soothe the dog. Paradoxically, we are reinforcing this behavior with our attentions! The best solution when we see shy behavior is to actually ignore it, and to reinforce attempts to socialize with praise or rewards. It's also helpful to avoid bringing on too many changes, too soon.
When you bring an adoptive dog or cat home, the best solution is to prevent a quiet environment and gradually introduce unfamiliar things. Aggressive behavior should be quickly reprimanded, but without excessive attention - save your attention for the positive behaviors your pet displays. Over time, your pet will learn to trust and appreciate the safe and consistent environment you provide, and you will gradually be able to include more variety of activities, environments, and people,
Our featured pet this week is Buffy, a beautiful orange and white domestic shorthair-mix kitty who arrived at the shelter with his two siblings when his owner passed away. Buffy was definitely a shy and skittish fellow when he arrived. However, he has adjusted well to the shelter environment and is eager to find a quiet home where he can wander about the house at will. Buffy does not like to be held very much or restrained. He would really enjoy exploring all the nooks and crannies in his home and finding the best locations to lounge in the sun, with some gentle petting and scratching behind the ears. His sweet disposition will win you over when you come to visit him.
The next time you stop by the NCSPCA, please be sure to take the time to meet some of our less outgoing pets. Remember that these furry friends have been through a lot of chaos, from whatever circumstances brought them to us, to the noisy and busy environment of the shelter. There may be a wonderful personality hidden beneath those anxious eyes, just waiting to come out.