8 Steps to Help Build Confidence in Your Dog
Many dogs suffer from a degree of nervousness in a range of situations – ranging from slight fear to full-blown anxiety. This is often the case when they are confronted by situations, places, or other living things that they are unfamiliar with. But if you want to build your dog’s comfort, there are plenty of ways of doing so. However, you need to be willing to accept that there are no overnight solutions and building up your pup’s confidence is bound to take time and patience. So, in this blog post, we are going to look closer at how to build confidence in an insecure dog.
What are the Common Signs of Dog Anxiety?
Canines will exhibit some telltale signs when they are going through a bout of anxiety. Looking out for these can help you to determine what the main triggers are. There are some that seem quite obvious like a lowered body stance, tucked in tail, and ears drawn back. But you may notice some other indicators such as panting, lip licking, and even shaking. If left unchecked, fear can turn itself to aggression when dogs feel threatened and like they need to get the threat to back off.
What Causes Dogs to be Fearful?
There are plenty of situations that can cause your dog to react in a fearful way. For example, it could be loud noises from fireworks or thunderstorms. It could be that they are confronted with a new person or dog who they don’t feel comfortable around. In fact, there are some breeds that are more genetically predisposed to suffer from anxiety such as German Shepherds, Poodles, Bassett Hounds, Cocker Spaniels, and Bernese Mountain Dogs. Sometimes, dogs can suffer from anxiety due to underlying medical issues such as hearing loss, hypothyroidism, and pre-diabetes. And then there are the puppies who have not been properly socialized and those taken from their mothers too soon. Past traumatic experiences can also lead to fear and anxiety.
Can You Prevent Dog Anxiety?
The prevention of dog anxiety is best done at a young age as this is when socialization can play such an important role in their development. Socializing your puppy means gradually exposing them to new people and pets. Of course, you have to do this in a safe and supervised environment. You need to continue this exposure as your puppy moves from adolescence into adulthood.
How to Help a Fearful Dog Gain Confidence
There are plenty of techniques that you can use to turn a fearful dog into a confident dog. Here, we will look at 8 steps that help you in your quest.
Step One: Work Out What is Causing the Anxiety
The causes of anxiety in dogs can be various, so you need to begin by working out what is causing the issue in the first place. Once you know what your dog is scared of, you can take steps to control or limit exposure to the triggers.
Step Two: Start by Teaching Some Basic Obedience
Basic obedience training can help you to keep your pooch under control, as well as helping them to get through a host of situations. First, you are going to need a reward that your dog really responds to. If you are using dog treats, these need to be offered in small portions. Otherwise, your dog can get too full too quickly, and this can also be a contributing factor towards your pooch becoming overweight. You should start off with the basic commands such as ‘sit’ and ‘stay’. The development of obedience techniques can help to draw your dog’s attention to you, which can act as a useful distraction away from whatever was causing them the fear in the first place. Obedience training is useful because it helps you to develop a language with your dog that you didn’t have before. It is also helpful in building up trust. When your dog has faith in you, they trust you to take the lead and this can help to provide a degree of reassurance.
Step Three: Limit Exposure Where Necessary
If your dog is scared of something very specific, you can try and limit their exposure to the trigger. For example, if there is one mean hound at your local dog park, you can start taking your dog elsewhere, thereby building up the confidence to be outdoors that they may have otherwise lost. If you know that there is going to be a thunderstorm or a firework display in the near future, you could create a safe space for your dog that has a bed and is full of their favorite toys and anything else that is going to help them feel at ease. If the room is soundproofed, this is going to be even better. This isn’t to say that you can so easily avoid all scary situations, but there are some in which there are no benefits to exposing your pooch to them.
Step Four: Introduce New People and Situations Gradually
It can be overwhelming to your four-legged friend when they are confronted with new people, animals, and situations, so exposure should be gradual and limited. Otherwise, you are at a serious risk of overwhelming your dog. The more control you have over the situation, the better placed you are to help your furry friend. Distance is important as you are likely to notice that your dog becomes increasingly scared as they approach whatever is causing the fear. If you have trained your dog well, you should be able to hold their attention on you for a while, but there may reach a point in which you are unable to do so. See how close you can approach the object or person and gradually start to move in closer, always monitoring your dog’s reactions as you move in.
Step Five: Allow Your Dog to Socialize with Other Canines
Dogs are social creatures who tend to enjoy being around their own kind. Allowing your dog to spend time with other dogs can seriously help them to feel more confident. Your pooch can learn from other canines, seeing them confront what would have been considered scary situations until they realize that they don’t have to be afraid. But you need to take into account your dog’s own personality. It can take time for your dog to feel comfortable around others, so don’t rush them into anything too quickly. And this approach of socialization also tends to work better in younger dogs. Older ones tend to get set in their ways, so you are going to need to take a lot more of a patient and measured approach.
Step Six: Try Agility Training
Another form of training that can help to build confidence in your nervous dog is agility training. There are plenty of aspects to this involving tackling various parts of a doggy obstacle course. You may wonder exactly how this translates to building up your dog’s confidence. First, it exposes them to new situations and allows them to learn different skills that they may never have thought of before. But it also allows for the development of strong bonds between humans and animals, which can help to build trust in other situations.
Step Seven: Use Targeting
While you have probably heard of obedience and agility training before, targeting may not be a term that is familiar to you. Essentially, it involves your dog touching a certain part of their body to achieve a result. You start off by holding a treat in your hand and getting your dog to bump their nose into it until they develop the association of touch and reward. Nose targeting is the most common form, but it can also be taught in and around other body parts such as the paw and even the tail. As well as building up confidence, it also teaches your dog the link between action and reward.
Step Eight: Introduce Your Dog to Different Environments
If your dog is kept indoors the whole time or only experiences the same dog park day after day, new environments are more likely to be scary. So, you should take the opportunity to bring your dog to new places, allowing them to explore and become comfortable with them. Just as it is important to bring yourself out of your comfort zone from time to time, the same is also true of your four-legged friend to bring them the confidence they need.
There are various dog confidence building exercises that can help your nervous pooch, and we have tried to discuss a myriad of different techniques that can prove to be useful. No two dogs are the same, so you will need to take the time to discover what works for your furry friend. But getting it right can help your dog to have a new lease of life, allowing them to deal with situations that would have previously been impossible.