Build Your Dog’s Confidence – How To Go From Mutt To Super Hero
Having a confident dog is every pet owner’s dream. Confident hounds can join their respective owners in almost any activity that they engage in. They are pleasant to bring to the park, walk around the neighborhood, and bring to the clinic for a routine checkup. Unfortunately, not all canines are confident enough to face many of life’s challenges. Here are some pieces of advice to help you in building confidence in dogs and turn your pet into a super dog.
Understand the Reason for Your Pet’s Lack of Confidence
Like humans, there are many reasons why a dog can be fearful, anxious, or lacking confidence. This is why it is important to gain a deeper understanding of the reason for your pet’s low level of confidence.
Dogs that had bad experiences are often fearful or very anxious. They may show anxiety whenever they see another dog because they got into a fight with another one in the past. Now, the pet feels insecure every time another dog is around. It could also be because of the use of shock collars that deliver a beeping tone. Every time your dog hears the beeping sound of the microwave, it already associates it with the negative experience.
Genetics can also play an important role in your pet’s confidence. There are canines that are timider than others. Poor breeding practices can also lead to lack of confidence in dogs. Pets that give birth to puppies in very stressful conditions can also produce puppies that will grow lacking in confidence.
Many dogs also do not like sudden changes in their lives. There is a condition in dogs known as neophobia. They grow very anxious whenever something “new” gets introduced into their lives. For these dogs, anything “new” is scary. Inadequate or poor puppy socialization can foster hypersensitivity in dogs. It makes them feel less confident about themselves and about the world.
If you would like to learn how to help a fearful dog gain confidence, you should start with an inventory of what scares your pet. You can also include situations that make it very anxious.
Train Your Pet Dog
Many of the reasons for a dog’s lack of confidence are brought about by negative experiences. Training can help them create more positive and more pleasant experiences. Instead of fearing or getting anxious about a possible trigger, dogs can learn to focus their attention on more positive experiences.
Training your beloved hound requires observance of a few basic rules of positive reinforcement training. First, always provide the dog with special treats that they cannot resist. If you use their ordinary kibble, they will not consider it as something special.
Second, get a training clicker. This is a small device you can use to mark the behavior that you desire for your pet. In case you don’t like a clicker, then you should choose a verbal marker. Be consistent in the use of such verbal cues. If you say “yes” or “good” the first time, make sure to use the same verbal cue all the time. This is very crucial in performing dog confidence building exercises.
Third, know the correct sequence of using the clicker or verbal cue and the treat. Always mark the dog behavior using the clicker or the verbal cue first before giving any treat. It is also crucial to give the treat immediately after marking the behavior.
Always be consistent in your approach. This avoids confusing your dog, making it less confident. Do not rush the training sessions. Your dog should dictate the pace of the training.
If you are not sure about how to do it correctly, getting a professional dog trainer can help. There are also seasoned dog owners who still seek the expertise of dog trainers, despite having worked with dogs all their lives. If these pet owners still seek professional assistance in the training of their dogs, then there is no shame for newbie pet parents to do the same.
Give Your Pet the Chance to Choose
Most of us have this notion that our dogs should abide by our rules. We control what they can eat and when they should eat. We also put limits on what they can do in and around the house. While there are certain rules that dogs should always adhere to, there are also instances where you can let your dog choose the rules.
Living by the rules provides order in the house. For the dog, however, it may translate to an infringement of its freedoms. When walking, for example, some dog owners will not allow their pets to stop and sniff around. The dog does not get to “choose” the kind of activity that it wants to do. In its mind, its owner does not trust it to make “sensible” choices. This can be a serious blow to the dog’s confidence.
One way you can be successful in building confidence in dogs is by giving them the chance to make their own choices. Giving them the ability to make choices in some of their activities can help build their confidence. However, as the pet parent of your dog, you should make sure that their choices will not bring them harm.
Play Confidence Building Games with Your Pet
Training your dog can help build its confidence. However, it also needs a more fun approach to gaining confidence. You can do this by playing a number of dog confidence building exercises.
One of the easiest games you can play with your pet is “targeting”. This entails training your dog to touch your hand with its nose or paw. This is a fun way to help your pet focus its attention on your hand than anything else. Start by holding out your hand. Most dogs will sniff it right away. If it does, mark the behavior, and reward your pet immediately with the treat.
If this does not work, try rubbing the treat on your palm to help entice your pet to sniff it. Over time, work to remove the treat. When you issue the “touch” command, your pet should already touch your hand with its nose.
- Find It
Another activity that pet parents can institute in how to help a fearful dog gain confidence is the “find it” game. This is quite easy, too. Start by standing some distance facing your dog. Place your treat pouch around your back so the dog will not see it. Hold a treat in your hand without showing to your pet. In a cheerful voice, say “find it” and toss the treat to either your right or left. Your canine friend will go and get the treat.
Before it picks the treat with its mouth, mark the behavior. It is crucial to mark the behavior before your dog eats the treat. Your pet will come back to you. If it does, say the magic cue again – “find it” – and toss the dog its second treat. Do this several times, tossing the treat farther away.
- Get Behind
There is also the “get behind” trick. In this game, you are teaching your pet to trust you and make you its own shield. Start with your canine pet standing in front of you. Tell your pet to “get behind”. Lure it towards your back by showing the dog its treat. The moment it sits behind you, click, and give your pet its yummy reward. Repeat this until the pet shows consistency in going behind you.
The next phase is to pause after saying “get behind”. This gives your pet a chance to “choose”. If it moves, mark this behavior and offer the animal its reward. Over time, you can reduce the number of luring maneuvers you give to your pet. It should move behind you the moment you say “get behind”.
These three games are very easy to teach to dogs. They are very useful, too. For example, if you are walking with your pet and it sees something that makes it very anxious or scared, you can say “touch” to focus its attention on your hand. Or, you can tell your canine friend to “find it” as you toss a treat nearby. These are very simple tricks that can help in building confidence in dogs. If you have a timid dog, using the “get behind” trick can give it more confidence in your walks or any other outdoor activity.
If your canine friend already has a few activities that it loves to perform, you can use these to keep its focus on the activity and not on what is making it nervous. The pet needs to learn that good things can also occur even in the presence of something that is scary or anxiety-provoking. As such, if you have a pet that loves to catch treats that you toss into the air, then you will have to use this activity.
Building your dog’s confidence takes time; hence, your patience and perseverance. Make sure to start your confidence building activities in an area where it is safe for your pet. Help your pet overcome its fear and anxiety by being calm and confident yourself. This is perhaps one of the most important pieces of advice you can ever get in learning how to help a fearful dog gain confidence.
- How Confidence-Building Exercises Can Help Timid Dogs – PetMD
- Help your anxious or fearful dog gain confidence – Animal Humane Society
- Tracking Work Can Help Build Your Dog’s Confidence – American Kennel Club