So maybe your dog is a little skiddish, unsocialized, or generally shows symptoms of anxiety or uneasiness in certain situations. Or maybe he doesn’t show any of these, but you just want to give a little boost to your furry best friend. But how do you build confidence in your dog? Here are seven ideas to get you started!
One of the biggest reasons why dogs aren’t confident in different situations is because they have never experienced weird sights, sounds, smells, and situations (lets call these the 4 S’s). As the owner of a new puppy, you should strive to introduce your puppy to at least one new experience each week, if you can pack in more, go for it!
Even if your dog is grown, it isn’t too late to expand exposure. Start slowly introducing your dog to the 4 S’s. Take him on a few trips to Home Depot. Start by just walking through the store, picking up something you need in a quiet area. The next trip, walk him around the garden center, allowing him to sniff the plants, the bags of fertilizer, and ask him to stand on the empty pallets (no merchandise, of course). The next few trips take him closer and closer to the lumber section where the saw often turns on and off. It’s not the most pleasant noise, but it will get the job done. Reward your dog for handling the situation, and be sure to continue exposure to make sure that progress continues!
Maybe you have an awesome, not super expensive agility center in your town or at your dog park, or maybe you don’t. Agility doesn’t have to be super serious or expensive to get the job done. Find something that your dog is naturally good at, and build off of that. If your dog is anything like mine and loves to jump, try an adjustable pedestal jump and encourage him to hop over it, and eventually fly over the higher rungs! If you have a slower moving dog that is a little shaky, try walking him over an A-Frame slowly and work on it (in sessions) until your dog is happy to walk over it, or even run over it, and enjoy the experience. Agility equipment can be easily made, and some pieces can be ordered off Amazon for pretty low prices!
3. Clear Boundaries
You didn’t think this was going to be all fun and simple stuff, did you? Knowing what behaviors are acceptable and not acceptable helps your dog become confident in his own decisions. So, set boundaries and stick to them to help your dog’s best self come shining through!
4. The “Touch” Command
Another one of my favorites! This can be taught to a dog of any age or stage of training. Start with a piece of high value reward folded in your hand and move you hand slowly towards your dogs nose. If he goes to touch your hand with his nose, say “touch” and “good” (or another marker) and give your dog the treat. Repeat this until your dog totally gets it, and then ask him to touch without moving towards him, again, reward and praise. Practice this until it is no longer a challenge for you dog, and then start transitioning to other objects, you phone, the remote, a toy, and any other random things around your house that wouldn’t be harmed by getting a boop from your dogs nose. Make sure to keep marking the behavior and rewarding. Once this is a no-brainer in the house take it outside, you know that flag on your neighbors lawn that always freaks your dog out? Or the trash cans that are terrifying? Use the command around those with your hand. Once your dog gets comfortable getting close, ask them to actually touch the object (aka, face their fears). Once they realize that the trash can isn’t going to eat them, walking past it becomes no big deal. Touch is AMAZING for dogs with anxiety related to new objects, or any objects that they are unsure about. Just be sure to go slow and only push them a little at a time. Some of these nervous guys will need some pushing, but make sure to teeter the line between exposure and making the problem worse. If you aren’t sure where that line comes in, ask a trainer!
5. Handler Confidence
Yes, I mean YOU! Your dog gets nervous and freaks out on walks around other dogs (we call that leash reactivity) So you go to pass another dog on your block and you get super uncomfortable, grip the leash tight, start walking at a different pace, maybe even sweating a little. These aren’t secret behaviors. Your dog knows that these are happening, and while you are only worried about them, they in-turn become worried about you. It’s a vicious cycle. Work on the issues at hand and have the confidence to lead your dog through these situations. It will make life more pleasant for both of you.
6. "Place" in Weird Places
Bench down the street, place. Random tree trunk, place. Large rock, place. 5 Gallon bucket, place. Fire hydrant, place. Within reason, ask your dog to hop on and hold a “place” on anything you can find along your walk. Always check for something that could hurt their paws and don’t go too high off the ground until you know they can handle it. Once they get up there, praise them like crazy! And then ask them to do it again ;).
7. Advocating for Your Dog
Another super important one. Be your dogs ally. If your dog is terrified of dogs, don’t make him do “touch” to your neighbor’s dog, or even the fence by their house. Through training, you can help them control their reactions around things that make them scared, and they may be able to let go of many of those fears, but you don’t need to push it unnecessarily. If your dog is more comfortable walking on the other side of the street than the crazy barking dog, take him on the other side of the street. If your dog doesn’t like strangers, don’t let strangers approach him. There’s two sides to this training game. We protect our dogs, and they learn that we are leading them and will take care of them. If we are not protecting them, they tend to advocate for themselves, usually with barking, growling, biting, or darting. Let’s keep our end of the bargain and make sure that our dogs know that we have their backs all the way!
Welcome to Everywhere Dog Blog!
Tips, tricks, and lessons learned from Everywhere Dog and their journey!
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