5 mos. old English Springer Spaniel who has become timid on walks

by Jyll

I have a 5 mos. ESS who over the last month stops dead in his tracks when he spots a person (with or without a dog) approaching us while out walking.

He's very socialized - attends a puppy socialization class 1x/week, plays with the kids in our neighbhorhood (as well as our own kids), plays with the neighborhood dogs, loves having visitors at the house, etc.

I can't figure out why all of a sudden he has to stop and wait for the person to approach us and once he realizes they are "ok" he's ready to jump all over them and give them (and receive) love and attention.

He's also typically a happy, well-rounded puppy. Not overly hyper or timid at other times. Although when greeting another dog he usually is the more submissive one at first greeting.

Is this typical for this age? Any suggestions on how to get him past this stage? I've just started trying to entice him with treats as the person approaches so I can keep him walking. Not working so well, but today was the first day trying this tactic.


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Sep 14, 2011
Timid puppy
by: Barbara

You have just described the way my nearly 5 month old springer is behaving now. I think they must become aware at this age of possible danger. Only this morning on our walk she reacted in the same way and will not budge until the person has gone by on the other side. If they greet her she is absolutely fine and friendly. I too was thinking of taking her to a busy shopping centre so that she gets used to people. Like yours she loves all the puppies and owners at puppy training classes, is a really friendly dog at all other times with family including children and dogs. It really must be a stage they go through at this age.

Sep 13, 2011
Diversion and confidence training.
by: Alfie

At 5 months your dog is probably just becoming a little more worldly-wise than he has been up to now. This is typical behavior in a male ESS of this age, especially as you say he is mostly submissive with other dogs.
Focussing his attention on a ball is useful to divert his attention and better than offering treats, but doesn't fully address the "problem".
I use quotes, because his timid behavior isn't necessarily a problem. He has come to learn that certain people walk differently, seem more aggressive or maybe just wear the wrong colour which sets his alarm bells ringing. He's reading signals we humans can't see.
To boost his confidence you could try taking him a walk into town on his lead. Choose a time when there is likely to be lot's of people busily commuting from work. He will feel suitably ignored by them, but at the same time reassured by being on the lead beside you.
After several of these types of walks he will begin to equate the percentages and realise that most strangers mean him no harm.
With continued ballplay diversion when in the park also, I'm sure your young dog will soon be brimming with aloofness to all passers by. :)

Sep 13, 2011
5 mos. old English Springer Spaniel who has become timid on walks
by: Anonymous

Does your springer like a tennis ball/fav toy?

When I rescued my springer 7 months ago - he was the same with dogs. So when I saw other dogs approaching I'd distract him with his ball until the dog was there and then let them interact - so he wasn't totally focussed on the dog approaching.
He's come on loads now and now wants to actively go and say hello to some dogs.
I would try something like that or continue as you do with treats. Don't make a big thing of it though as he will pick up on you feeling anxious which will in turn make him more anxious.
Just approach it as fun - try to practice it with people you know but he doesn't.
Good luck!

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