Nobody wants a dog that shows symptoms of uneasiness or anxiety in certain situations; dogs that are not social, and very cautious and reserved. We all want dogs that have confidence, composure, and self-assurance. These kinds of dogs are often called “bomb proof” or stable.
More so, confident dogs are less aggressive, and they easily trust their owners, other people, as well as things in their environments. The best part is that they are healthier and longer-lived than shy and fearful dogs.
So it is smart to learn ways to raise a confident dog, and this article will show techniques you can take to instill confidence in your dog from an early age.
Without much ado, check out these 7 ways to raise a confident dog:
1. Expose them to a new experience
Dogs tend to become fearful when you don’t expose them to weird sights, smells, sounds, and situations. That’s why as the owner, you need to introduce your new puppy to at least one new experience per week.
You can also expose adult dogs to a new experience to build confidence. Start slowly by walking them through the store, picking up stuff at a quiet section. The next trip, walk them around the garden, allowing them to sniff the bags of fertilizers, the plants, and ask them to stand on the empty pallets.
On the next few trips, you can take your dog closer to the lumber section with the noise of the saw going on and off. You can reward them for staying calm in this situation. And don’t stop the exposure to keep up the progress.
2. Try agility training
You can build agility by finding something that your dog naturally loves and building off of that. If you have a slow-moving dog that is quite shaky, you can walk them over an A-frame time and time again until they are happy to walk over it, or even run over it.
If your dog loves to jump, you can get an adjustable pedestal jump and allow them to practice hopping over it. And eventually, they may learn to fly over the higher rungs.
You can also try some inexpensive agility center at your dog park or in your town. But note that you don’t have to spend too much to get the job done.
3. Use the “Touch” Command
This technique works great for dogs of any age or any stage of training. You can start by holding a high-value reward folded in your hands and moving your hands towards your dog’s nose. If they move to touch your hand with their nose, say “touch” and “good” (or use another marker) and give your dog the treat. Repeat this process until your dog touches your hand without you moving towards them, and again, reward and praise.
After some time, you can transition to other objects like a toy, the remote, and any other random things around your house that wouldn’t get damaged by getting a boop from your dog’s nose. However, make sure you keep rewarding your dog.
You can move further to use the command around those flags on your neighbor’s lawn or trash can, or other terrifying objects. Once your dog gets comfortable getting close to those objects, you can ask them to touch it. After some time, walking past it becomes a big deal.
It is important to note that “TOUCH” works effectively for dogs with anxiety and fear related to new objects or objects that they are unsure about.
4. Clear boundaries
You can teach your dog about acceptable behaviors and those that are not. This goes a long way to improve your dog’s confidence to make their own decision. So right from the puppy stage, you can set boundaries and stick to them to help your dog bring out the best of themself.
5. Hold a “place” in weird places
You can take your dog to weird places like ask them to hop on and hold a “place on them.” Good examples are the bench down the street, large rock, gallon bucket, fire hydrant, etc. You can ask them to hop on these objects and hold a place, but be careful not to go too high off the ground, except your dog can handle it comfortably.
However, whenever they hold a “place” weird places or objects, don’t forget to praise them like crazy, and encourage them to do it again.
6. Work on your confidence
The handler confidence also matters in building a dog’s confidence. This means your dog is watching you. When you go past another dog on your block, do you start walking at a different pace? Do you get super uncomfortable? Do you grip the leash tight or maybe even sweat a little? Your dog is watching you and knows when these are happening.
So while you’re worried about them, they are also worried about you. That’s more reason why you need to work on issues at hand and develop the confidence to walk your dog through those situations. It will help both you and your dog to live more comfortably.
7. Advocate for your dog
You have to learn to be your dog’s ally if you want to help them build confidence. You don’t have to make them do the “touch” to your neighbor’s dog if you notice they are terrified of dogs.
You can help your dog control their reactions around things that make them scared. This requires training, and they may be able to let go of their fears, but you don’t have to push them unnecessarily.
If you notice your dog is more comfortable walking on the other side of the road than that used by a crazy barking dog, take them to that part. If your dog is not comfortable around strangers, keep them away from strange people.
It is important not to cross the threshold too fast when you’re dealing with a fearful dog. It becomes hard to divert their attention when you get close to the stimuli. Your dog may not even take a treat when they are close to something scary.
So try to start far away from scary things when you go out to work on some obedience training. This way, your dog will still be able to focus on you. If you’ve gotten too close to a scary situation or thing and are unable to get your dog’s attention, you can move back to help them stay comfortable.
There are two sides to this training. You are protecting your dog, and they learn that you‘re leading them on the right path and that you care for them.
If you don’t protect your dog, they tend to advocate for themselves through growling, barking, darting and biting. So it’s good to keep your part of the bargain and make sure that your dog knows that you have their back always.
Dogs tend to become fearful and anxious when they are exposed to a new environment or place that is strange to them. But the good part is that you can help them build confidence right from the puppy stage. You can also help older dogs develop composure and self-assurance by following the tips above. Don’t forget to reward your dog as they become better and more confident.