Confidence Building in Dogs

Guest post by Laura Pakis, Certified Professional Dog Trainer, and Blogger

Whether you have a seven-week-old puppy or a ten-year-old, all dogs need to have their confidence enhanced. This gives the dog the ability to make decisions without overreacting and allows them to be well grounded emotionally.

Confidence is often misunderstood; it is not an excuse to be a bully or cocky. Real confidence comes not from ego but from the ability to make correct decisions.  Many problems with dogs derive from a lack of self-confidence or relying too much on their owners for security. This often causes problems like excessive barking and attention seeking and in extreme cases health disorders and sometimes self-mutilation.

There are a variety of methods to build confidence but they always involve methods that let the dog know that you are the leader.

The Agility Method

The Agility method is especially helpful for starting young puppies out on the right foot. It is beneficial for puppies as young as six weeks to go through the course.  It requires the use of equipment such as a ladder on the ground, a teeter totter or a catwalk (all low to the ground).

Young dogs should never be allowed to jump from the equipment, as their bones are still very soft and they could be injured easily. The confidence these young puppies gain from completing something initially scary or difficult and your praise is something they will always relate to you, their new owners.  This shared confidence makes for an easier training and a smoother transition to obedience.

The Exposure Method

Use the Exposure Method if your dog is afraid or has never experienced other dogs–it is important to take it slow. Take your dog for a walk on a leash to a park where he can see other dogs with their owners. Meet dogs one at a time at first and work up to two, three… more dogs. The leash shouldn’t be too tight because he can feel restricted and vulnerable. This might then turn into fear – a prime cause for a dog fight.

You should act nonchalant among the other dogs. Dogs can pick up behavior patterns from others around them. If he notices you’re completely relaxed, he might decide there’s nothing to be afraid of.   No matter what, encourage your dog for any attempt he makes and be generous with praise when he does complete a task.  Praise for the small things like getting close to a new man and work up to the larger goals like saying hello to the stranger.

A dog can take months of such therapy before he gains some confidence. Above all, be patient.  Don’t yell at your dog, taunt him, or hit him; this will only make things worse for dogs that have no self-confidence.

About the Author
Laura Pakis believes obedience is a not a trick but a way of life and shares her knowledge and views on Spike’s Dog Blog by Acme Canine.