Think about how large everything in your home is compared to your Yorkshire terrier and you'll understand how easy it is for your Yorkie to be a bit shy and fearful of new things or people. A little caution isn't necessarily a bad thing, but you don't want a dog that's afraid to meet new people or see new sights.
A good puppy class not only lets you and your pup have a good time and begin formal training, it also lets your puppy know that it may be a big, wide world, but you'll be sure it's a safe one. If your Yorkie learns early to look to you for how to react to some novel situation, you can help her lead a happy, self-assured life.
Shy puppies should not be forced into the midst of play in a puppy class. That will only convince them that you're a dangerous leader who will put them in danger. Instead, let them observe from the sidelines. Remain calm and relaxed, and praise and reward any desired behavior such as stepping forward into the room. The trainer may invite you to come early or stay late to give your pup the opportunity to explore without all the other dogs around. The trainer may also suggest you try a scent called Rescue Remedy that seems to have a soothing effect on many dogs (and people). There's also an item called a DAP dispenser that some training centers use. DAP stands for dog-appeasing pheromone — it's a scent that's comforting to dogs.
Dogs that tremble, whine, and try to hide at the sound of sirens, fireworks, or thunderstorms can be a real worry for their humans. As a first line of prevention, try not to be reactive yourself. It's normal to jump at a sudden loud sound, but it's crucial to then make light of it rather than rushing to comfort your Yorkie. Remember the jolly routine from Chapter 13.
Dogs that become noise phobic can become destructive, climbing the drapes or chewing up possessions in a frantic attempt to make themselves feel better. Phobic dogs are also prone to running aimlessly, so you have to be careful to keep them safely indoors.
As a temporary measure, you can ask your veterinarian about using some tranquilizers. Always get the correct medication and dosage from your veterinarian. Because the breed is so small, you could easily overdose a Yorkshire terrier.
If you happen to have some Zoloft or Effexor or any of the other common human antidepressants in your medicine cabinet, don't just reach for one for your Yorkie. While canines and humans do share some medications, others can be deadly for dogs. It's a standard rule that no one (whether human or canine) should take anyone else's prescription medication.
As a longer-term measure, use desensitization and counter-conditioning. You can buy tapes or CDs of the common noise triggers. Play them at such a low volume that your Yorkie doesn't react, and do pleasurable things such as play with toys or practice some training, with plenty of treats. Over a span of sessions, increase the volume just a tiny bit at a time. You want to do this so gradually that your dog never reacts badly. If you see any signs of nervousness, stop the session. Lower the volume for the next session.
This is a lengthy process, made more difficult if the fear-triggering noises can occur without warning while you're trying to desensitize. So don't wait until the end of June to start working on fireworks. Use tranquilizers if you know a thunderstorm is approaching.
Shyness with People
You might see two levels of shyness — actual reluctance to approach strange people or hand shyness. If your Yorkie is handshy,she may be perfectly happy around anyone until a hand reaches toward her. You can avoid hand-shyness by practicing collar grabs with positive results (see Chapter 15), avoiding patting on top of the head, and not allowing anyone to grab your Yorkie roughly or without warning.
For people-shyness, you need to enlist friends and family to provide your Yorkie with as many positive interactions as possible. Don't force her to approach people. Instead, have someone sit on the floor with a handful of treats. Ask her to look away from your Yorkie, engage in pleasant conversation with you, and occasionally toss a treat toward the dog. As long as the dog will get the treat, the person should toss it a little closer to herself each time, while continuing to ignore the dog. Repeat this procedure with as many people as possible. Over time, your Yorkie will start to associate approaching people with getting treats.