Help! I Just Rescued a Timid Dog and He’s Obsessively Clingy!


Hello Don. I just adopted a pet from a couple that had to make the difficult decision to let him go. I’d like to know if your Perfect Dog system would help my new boy. As of a week ago, he was terribly shy and clung to me. Now, at least, he likes my kids. That being said, he seems to have a separation anxiety problem. Even if I’m outside in the yard, he has to look for me and whine and cry. What can I do? Other than this issue, he seems to get along with other dogs.



I can understand your concern, but rest assured that my Nature-Based Discipline, Praise & Play Method (see my “Method” page) is exactly what your dog needs. I actually devoted quite a large section of my book (Wake Up and Smell The Poop!) to discussing timid dogs – and I also discuss rescue dogs that have seemingly come from rough backgrounds. It’s a very helpful and enlightening read, however I’ll touch on a few key points for you below.

The most important concept to grasp is that timid/skittish/shy dogs need a strong, confident authority figure to rely on. When they have a proven, reliable, consistent, and capable leader they can put their trust in, they relax. Their minds begin to rest knowing they have someone to defer to in all situations.

This doesn’t mean that this type of dog becomes even more “clingy” after the training. Rather, the dog learns to be content when separated from his leader because firm rules and boundaries have been established for the dog’s conduct – no matter the environment and no matter who is present (or not). That is, the dog learns to accept that his leader must know what is going on and what is best even if the dog doesn’t.

On the other hand, if you don’t rise up to be what your dog needs you to be, he will always be uneasy, anxious that he has to try to deal with situations that he feels ill equipped to handle. Timid dogs generally always end up at the bottom of the pack hierarchy, very content to let others rule the show. However, if you take away all of the stronger dogs that the timid dog looks up to, suddenly the reserved dog feels exposed and vulnerable. He will react in all kinds of different ways to various situations – even displaying aggression (which is fear aggression in this case) – to try to cope, and he will always be unstable until a worthy leader comes back into his life that he can depend upon.

Note what I said above about being a proven leader. It takes a little time to gain your dog’s trust that you can be a capable authority. Don’t expect it to happen overnight, but it will happen. However, if there’s any inconsistency in your training (e.g. at times you’re weak, or you let certain things slide), you will severely undermine what you’re trying to achieve. So, when you begin my Perfect Dog training, you will begin to notice wonderfully positive changes – but only as long as you carefully follow my instructions.

You can expect your dog to gradually loosen up and settle in to his new life with you as long as you don’t let our emotions get in the way. Some people fail to do what’s necessary for their dogs’ long-term wellbeing because they feel sorry their dogs. Yet, this is the worst thing they can do. Dogs simply don’t think in the same way our human brains function.

Consciously choose to think like a canine, rise up as a strong pack leader in your timid dog’s life, and you’ll watch your skittish dog quickly mellow. At that point, you’ll be able to introduce my more advanced training lessons into the dog’s life. This is when your relationship with him will get really exciting and he’ll truly feel like the perfect dog!

– Don Sullivan, “The DogFather”

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