If you own a dog, then you will know that there are a lot of things in the world that can scare them. Why do some dogs stand tall and brave while others will cower behind the leg of their owner? The difference between the two, is confidence. Just like us humans get anxious and nervous in certain situations, so do our dogs, and if you don’t do anything to help them, then the problem will just get worse and worse. You need to learn how to resolve the issue and manage it so that your pup can have a better, more enjoyable life.
Good manners training
Teaching your dog the basic commands can really help boost up their confidence, this is because they will know how to appropriately respond to your cues, and that makes them feel comforted because they know what to expect. They know what it is you’re asking of them, and they understand the behaviour that is expected. The more things they do correctly, the more praise they will get. You want to focus on positive reinforcement – not a negative one. There is nothing more destroying to a dog (or even a human) than being verbally or physically abused. By doing this, you will confirm to your dog that the world is scary and unpredictable, and you’re supposed to be trying to do the total opposite.
Give your dog structure by having a routine and being that stability they need in their life. Have you seen those dogs that sit right in front of their owner and do all they can to get their attention? Only for the owner to realise that it’s time for their afternoon walk. – This is a dog that has an awareness of time, and that’s created by keeping up with a regular routine that they eventually learn off by heart, essentially being able to tell the time. In addition, if your dog does something that should be positively reinforced, try dog training treats to make sure the good deed does not go unnoticed!
A healthy dog
If you have an unhealthy dog on your hands, then at times they can be harder to deal with because they are in pain which can make them very agitated and even dangerous, or they may not be able to mix with any other dogs for a while due to them having something contagious like a bad ear infection or even fleas, and this can lower their confidence a little as they may forget how to properly socialise. Or dogs may pick up a strange scent from them because of treatment which makes them wary of them as if they’re a stranger. So it’s important that when there is an issue, you treat it as soon as you can so they can have a quick recovery. Flea treatment is very easy to get your hands on so make sure you find the right one for your dogs. Most of the time it is based on the age and weight of your pup, so if you’re not too sure, ask your vet before buying anything.
Touch and click
This is a brilliant exercise that is designed to draw your dog’s attention away and bringing it back to you. Essentially you start out with a clicker and a treat. Offer out your hand and when your dog sniffs it, click, and then give them a treat, as well as verbal praise. Then you can build up from there and get them to touch your hand with their paw, not just their nose. This is extremely simple, and you should repeat this until they do it without even having to think or hesitate. The time will come where you see your dog realise that what you’re asking them to do is touch you with their nose or paw whenever you command them to. Make this into a game so that they think it’s fun and never gets boring – that’s why you add treats and mix it up in terms of when you click and reward. Do it at different levels, stand up high and get them to jump in order to reach you, and hide behind things and call out the command.
Now for the biggest test of them all. Take them out to a place where you know they get nervous, whether that be around people or other dogs. Then when you see their body language change and the paranoia kicks in, hold out your hand and say “touch”. Your dog should hear that and immediately be broken out of whatever they were feeling, putting their eyes (and brain) onto you instead of the scary thing walking past them.
A lot of people have said that you shouldn’t comfort or pet your dog when they are scared, because this allows and confirms them that being scared is a good thing, so a lot of the time they tell you not to do this, as it encourages fearful behaviour. But this is, in fact, an incorrect statement. Think about when you were in a situation that scared you, would you prefer to feel that way alone, or have a reassuring arm wrapped around you? – Exactly. So it’s okay to be there for your dog. You’re allowed to calmly reassure them that everything is okay while that bike begins to approach you both in the park.
A problem like this will only be made worse if you begin to get nervous in situations too, as dogs can pick up many different emotions all down to your body language. So if you start to panic and your tone of voice goes up a few pitches and gets louder while your body tenses – your dog will be on edge because they will be expecting something bad to happen. So you need to be very aware of what you’re putting out there. If your voice is calm and low, your body is relaxed, and you walk or stand with confidence, then your dog will feel secure and safe with you, and that is how they should always feel. If you are concerned that your dog’s lack of confidence is down to you, then you need to get yourself some help before you can help your pup.