No eye contact
Bentley is extremely shy. He is 8 mos old and we have had him 6 weeks. He was raised in a kennel with other dogs and not alot of human attention.
He is very wary of people and its an ongoing issue we are dealing with. We havent been able to take him out in the piblic because the breeder neglected his puppy shots and the last ones are being given tomorrow. This really irritates me about this breeder.
He sees eye contact as a threat. I know this because I play fetch the ball and he will only return it when I look away. I accidentally figured this out a few days ago. He is so distrustful. If you are looking at him he will not come when called. I have been working on the come training with a leash but not much success. I have had to put a 15' cotton rope on him sometimes to get him back in the house to catch him.
I have tried treats and that doesnt work either. He truly acts like his life is at stake which is strange with me because he never lets me out of his sight. I am home with him all day every day and he is at my feet 24/7 in the house, even takes naps on my lap.
I dont know if its because he was brow beaten by the alpha dog in the kennel, if the breeder abused him or what. I am planning on taking him to a socialization class and that is going to be hard because when he has a leash on he cowers and hides between my legs and is so terrified.
Funny part is he isnt like that out in the yard on his own. Would not know its the same dog. He is very smart, learns really fast and we have to be very careful - no scolding.
He is very affectionate and loving and extremely dependent on me. I have never had a dog like this so it is a learning process to deal with him.
Well, I have NO formal training in how to train your dog but I used to foster beagles, hunting beagles who lived their whole lives in outdoor run. Some where just plain crazy about being a pet and being in the house but some where beyond shy. My only foster failure (I wasn't meaning to adopt a dog) was the MOST shy beagle I had ever met. Skylar was only 4 years old, however he came from a beagle hunting dogs professional breeder (read: some crazy redneck in the woods who bred for money only) The first few days Skylar spent at my house he was really only in my backyard...he ran when I approached him even with food. I just figured he would come around on his own but he didn't. I had only one other dog at the time and he was afraid of her too and I think he was happy when she found her forever home. I spend hours laying in the garage floor with freeze dried liver trying to get him to take it from my hand. I even referred it to taming a wild animal, but I never once feared he was ever going to harm me (however I was careful not the force that theory, fear biting would pretty much end his life) It took even longer just to GET him into the house, then EVERYTHING scared him...the kitchen sink running, the TV for sure, even lights turning on. I knew about 3 weeks into having him that there was NO way I could give him up.
What I am saying is YES your dogs social development is behind other dogs his age however it will take time. Try working with him on leash training in his own yard since he is comfortable there. You might even want to introduce him to a new friend in the yard too. I won't worry too much about it either, even if he remains a shy cavalier some just are.... My parents have a shy dog, he hides when people or the family dogs are around but generally he's a great little guy.
Continue to work with him daily and be patient. It sounds like you are already winning him over. One of the first "commands" that I was taught was "look at me". A treat is given when he does this, and you can practice this all the time. Whenever he looks at you -- praise and give treat. I used a clicker, but that is optional. Offer "high value" treats (like real chicken or something he really likes) for getting the result you want. Practice when he is feeling happy and non-stressed -- like when you are playing with him in the yard. Most dogs are food motivated so this should be easy. You could also work with him when he is hungry, to give him some extra motivation.
I have a shy cavalier, and he came to us at 8 weeks, so I'm guessing it is just his personality. We did puppy class and met lots of people and dogs on walks, parks,etc. -- did all the things we knew to socialize him, but he just prefers the immediate family. Everyone always wants to pet him and he will sit patiently, but at the same time he looks at me like, "is this goign to be over soon?" He is just shy. In our house, he is a clown and plays beautifully with my kids and other 2 dogs. Outside, he walks calmly but seems happiest when the walk does not involve outside people or other dogs.
That being said, once Bentley gets his shots, you could try a socialization class. Given his fear, it might be best to go to puppy or small dog class. If he is truly intimidated by the class, maybe the trainer can recommend personalized training. Eight months is still young. He may never be outgoing, but you don't want him fearful.
You have one useful tool already if he likes your lap and feels secure there. Take him to different places, perhaps even carrying him there, not trying to walk him on the lead (though do keep a lead on him!). Then just sit quietly with him on your lap so that he can watch what is going on but from a secure place; give him treats, if he can cope with it play with him - everything to make being out and about a happy experience. You can do this watching people, watching traffic, watching dogs and people in the park, sitting near any regular noise he finds difficult. I did this with a young dog who was frightened by a very noisy fountain in the city centre; we just sat there for a little while every time we were in town until he gradually got used to the noise and realised the fountain wasn't coming after him even if it did move! Many dogs find eye contact threatening - it's one of the things that can provoke a fear aggressive response from some breeds.
Kate, Oliver and Aled
Was just going to post what Kate posted :). Shy dogs in particular will avoid eye contact and trying to look directly at a shy dog is very intimidating/threatening to them. So just relax, do as you are doing, and try looking sidelong only rather than directly as your dog settles and grows more confident. :)