Nervous around other humans

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Hello, /r/DogTraining!

I should probably start by telling you a bit about my pupper. His name is Ziggy, and he's almost 8 years old. He's part chihuahua, part something else (I think papillon). He weights about 9 pounds, so he's a little guy, but relatively large for the type of dog he is.

He's a lover. A huge lover… but only with me and my husband. My husband and I tend to be homebodies, and when we got him about ~12 weeks, he had come from a puppy mill of sorts. Older couple, just bred their dogs, kept them out in the barn. It wasn't malicious, by any means. Just an older couple that hadn't realized the standards had changed. (Not justifying it by any means, and I couldn't leave him there, even if it was supporting bad practices.) Needless to say, he didn't get a lot of socialization as a puppy. And by not a lot, I mean none.

As I was saying, my husband and I got him at about 12 weeks old. He was a nervous guy, and my husband took 3 days off of work to spend with him and not make him afraid of everything in the world, and honestly, I think we did pretty well. We took him to puppy training, since we ourselves didn't go out a lot (we still definitely don't.) He handled it like a champ!

As an adult dog, he's about what I was expect from a chihuahua when it's just me and my husband. He doesn't bark at shadows. He isn't anxious. He doesn't shake or get scared around the house. Noises don't rattle him. I, personally, think he's pretty great in terms of his size and what's typically "expected" of his breed.

As for training, he's not food motivated. He's not playtime motivated. He's praise/affection motivated, and we've used that to our advantage for the commands we find relevant and important for him to lead a happy, safe, healthy life with us.

Here comes the struggle… He doesn't like other humans. When he was little, the people we did introduce him to were very grabby or "trick him into coming to me" or "please pick him up and give him to me." I think this had a huge impact on how he developed in terms of relationships with humans. Unfortunately, most of those people were people we couldn't just cut from our lives, but also refused to adhere to our requests in how to approach/treat him.

Needless to say, when it comes to humans that aren't me or my husband, he's a poor little nutcase. I'll try to list-ify it, to make his behavior easier to understand in written form.

**He Does Not**

Yelp

Bark in high pitched tones

Bite/Nip/Attack

Shake

**He Does**

Low pitched bark (errr-uff)

Refuse to approach

Put his tail between his legs

Keep his distance when the person moves towards him

Keep himself firm planted near me/my husband

Overall, the behavior may last for 4-5 minutes. There's absolutely zero aggression. His bark/vocalizations don't seem panicked. Outside of his tail going down, he doesn't display a lot of physical signs of anxiety.

I've tried doing some research into how to handle this. How to get my dog to be more comfortable with other humans (has zero problems with other dogs), but the cases I read are all "x dog is anxious the entire time other people are present" or "x dog is aggressive towards other people."

I don't ever expect my dog to run and greet strangers. Maybe I hope for that ONE day, but at this point, I'd just like him to not see every other human as a danger. It just impedes on his life, and it really breaks my heart.

Any suggestions would be extremely welcome. Thank you in advance!

Edit: If you need any more information, please please please let me know. I'd be happy to share. 🙂

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