Those who claim to know things tell us we mustn't anthropomorphize when discussing dogs. Yeah, well, there's an argument against picking your nose in the car while waiting at a stop light. Both no-no's have a purpose.
Presumably the good and useful purpose of nose picking need not be explained at length. Let's proceed to the matter of anthropomorphizing a dog's behavior. Consider the shy dog. Like the shy person, the shy dog generally approaches social encounters one of two ways: retreat or attack.
In retreat mode, the dog and the person avoids the social encounter to spare themselves the ordeal that shyness can be. The dog hides in the basement while his owner entertains in the living room. The person declines an invitation and stays home.
The alternative reaction is attack mode or just plain being aggressive. For the dog this may involve growling, showing teeth, or even biting. For the person it may involve obnoxious jokes and bombastic soliloquies. Sounds like overkill, no? That's why anthropomorphizing can be effective to explain dog behavior. Now we can understand why the dog is bearing his teeth or snapping- he's shy and afraid! Just like the person who talks too loud at a party. He's self conscious and is overcompensating by being a loudmouth jerk.
It turns out that anthropomorphizing is a good old common sense way to explain dog behavior. Understanding makes it easier to help. Shy dogs, like shy people, can learn to handle their shyness. That awful feeling probably never fully goes away but it can be controlled. Who hasn't felt the fear and done it anyway- and lived to tell about it? We can help our shy brethren to feel the fear and do it anyway too.
The retreating shy dog is best left to his own curiosity or desire for companionship. Leave the door open. The dog can come up from the basement and peek into the living room on his own. Ask your guests not to make a fuss over his presence. Little by little the dog will join in. Like the shy person who sits alone on the sofa at a party, he puts himself in the mix. Eventually somebody will sit down and share in a pleasant conversation. Slow and steady wins over the shy.
The attack style shy dog can be encouraged to join in the fun in the same way. One coveat: be sure the guests understand the importance of giving the dog some room. Rushing up to the dog and cooing, "oh aren't you so sweet! Don't be shy!" and getting in the dog's face is not going to help and may get somebody hurt. What's needed is the same treatment other party guests give the loudmouth shy guy. Ignore. He eventually realizes the pushy strategy doesn't work and tries something else. Hopefully he goes with the be yourself method, that's a winner.
Shyness is an uncomfortable feeling. Ask a shy dog. He'll tell you about it.