Have a pup that is a little on the insecure fearful side? Want to know how to begin building up your dog’s confidence? So that your adorable dog isn’t as insecure and fearful?
Well, then you’re in the right place in this article we go over how to begin building confidence in dogs
1 Understand Your Dogs Trigger
The very first step in building your dog’s confidence is understanding your dog’s triggers and background!
Every dog is an individual regardless of the breed, with that said we want to understand what triggers your specific pup as well as your pup’s background.
The main thing to look for when evaluating your dog’s background is understanding what your pup’s socialization was like.
Between 3-4 months of age, puppies go through a “Critical Socialization Period” Within this period puppy’s essentially create their basic perspective of the world we live in.
Many times whatever socialization your puppy has within this time frame gets transferred over to adulthood.
So what does this all mean?
This means that if your puppy wasn’t sufficiently exposed to certain things within the “critical socialization period” your pup is likely to be more insecure and fearful as an adult due to “lack of proper socialization and exposure”
For the complete definitive guide on dog socialization click here!
Now that we have a basic understanding of your dog’s background let’s look at the bigger picture, what exactly is your dog insecure or fearful of?
Many times dogs can be fearful and insecure to; the environment, other dogs, people, kids, loud sounds, cars, etc…
The objective is to pinpoint what is causing your dog to feel stressed in the first place.
2 Set Your Pup Up For Success!
When building confidence in any dog, we always want to ensure that your pup is set to be successful in the first place!
Setting your pup to be successful is about ensuring that your dog can overcome small obstacles early on. When initially setting your dog up for success, we want to avoid asking too much from your dog too soon if your dog isn’t ready for a given challenge.
Slow and steady wins the race!
For example; if your dog is insecure with the physical act of going outside and hides when you get the leash the steps to set your pup up for success would be.
First, take out the leash, and reward your pup every time the leash is out.
(Do not chase your dog to put the leash on, we want to ensure your pup can first overcome the obstacle of putting the leash before even going outside.)
Second, Once your dog is comfortable with the leash being present, next put the leash on your pup, but only when your pup comes to you, then reward your dog.
The goal here is to help your pup overcome something minor on the road to overcoming something greater, as well as building trust so that your pup begins to trust you more and more in situations your dog may be insecure.
3 Properly Expose Your Dog
If your dog is insecure/ fearful whether it’s the environment, people, dogs, loud sounds, etc. We want to begin exposing your pup to whatever normally triggers your dog.
The last thing we want to do is avoid situations that stress your pup because then your dog won’t learn how to overcome his insecurities which is the exact opposite of what we want!
There are various ways to properly expose and socialize your pup to things that might trigger him/her. Below are ways to building confidence in dogs, properly socialize, and expose your pup to a variety of common triggers.
The basic gist of building confidence in dogs, exposing and socializing your pup is essentially rewards, interruptions, neutrality, and rewards.
Environment: If your pup sensitive to the environment you want to start by just rewarding your pup with your front door open before even tackling your dog’s insecurities outside.
Remember you want to set your pup to be successful by allowing your dog to have small wins on the road to the bigger win.
Dogs: When it comes to building confidence in dogs around other pups you essentially want a “neutral dog”.
A neutral dog is essentially a dog that will completely ignore your pup, neutral dogs are great because it makes it easier for your dog to be successful.
Once you have a neutral dog to help your pup be sure to start a significant distance away from the other dog.
Reward your pup around the other dog and gradually decrease the distance that your pup is from the other dog.
People: For building confidence in dogs around people the concept is very similar to the one above, the main difference is going to be the rules you give the “people” helping you with your pup.
The basic rules for dogs that are uncomfortable around people are: Have guests/people ignore your pup completely. and reward your pup around new people.
Similar to having a neutral dog you want neutral people.
If your pup is already uncomfortable around new people the last thing we want to do is to make your pup more uncomfortable by having new people focus on your pup.
Eventually, you’ll get to the point where it won’t matter if people ignore your pup or not but for now, it’s about setting your pup to be successful and going from there.
Loud Sounds: Many dogs dislike loud sounds and get uncomfortable, to begin building confidence in dogs that are sensitive to sounds here’s what you want to do.
Start with sounds you have control over. These sounds can be anything from a door knock to the honk of a horn.
Whenever you make the sound your pup is uncomfortable with be sure to reward your pup a lot.
Recap: To properly expose and begin building confidence in dogs you want to gradually expose your pup to his/her triggers and reward your pup around the triggers while gradually increasing the intensity of the trigger.
4 Interrupt Insecure/Fearful Behavior
Many dogs have a natural response whenever they feel uncomfortable many times, the response a dog displays when uncomfortable is involuntary due to repeated repetitions of the behavior or because it has become a reflex response.
Our goal is to interrupt the pattern your dog has whenever he/she begins to feel uncomfortable and instead instill a new pattern.
When building confidence in dogs, the new pattern is simply exposure and rewards!
Essentially interrupting your dog from living in an insecure state of mind and showing your pup that although he/she may feel a bit of stress it’s “no big deal” because your there to help your pup overcome that hurdle.
Always remember even though we are interrupting your dog from living in that insecure state of mind. We ultimately want to gradually ease into whatever hurdle you’re trying to help your dog overcome. Setting your pup to be successful!
Ways to interrupt your dog from behaving uncomfortably
Have a leash on: The easiest way to interrupt your dog from falling into the same insecure/fearful cycle is to use the leash!
With the leash, you have more control over your pup and can give your pup guidance through the leash! For more information on teaching your pup to heel read our step by step guide
Essentially what we want to is stop your dog from rehearsing any insecure behaviors.
For example, if your pup is uncomfortable around new people and you have a guest over have your pup on a leash and have your guest ignore your pup.
If your pup is comfortable enough not to try to hide or move away reward your pup.
If instead, your pup tries to run and hide use the leash to stop your dog. Yes interrupt your dog’s normal routine and stop your dog from running and hiding.
Then once your dog is not trying to run then reward.
We understand that this may vary from dog to dog, remember to set your pup to be successful.
That means if your dog is uncomfortable around new people start at a far enough distance that your pup is more comfortable and reward your pup.
From there you want to gradually begin decreasing the distance from the new person your dog is concerned with.
It’s all about baby steps!
An easy way to put his in perspective is to imagine that you didn’t know how to swim (or maybe you actually don’t!)
Would you try to learn how to swim in a 12 ft pool or would you rather start learning the basics on the shallow 3 ft side of the pool than gradually work your way up to the deep side?
The same concept is what we’re applying for your dog.
5 Play With Your Dog
Playing is fun and rewarding for both dogs and humans so let’s use that to our advantage to begin building confidence in dogs!
Many dogs love to play whether it’s fetching, tug, roughhousing, chasing, etc playing is rewarding to your dog!
When it comes to playing many dogs have a preference as to what game they prefer to play. For instance, your dog may prefer to chase a toy and play fetch instead of tugging back and forth.
You spend more time with your pup and know your dog better than most, so take the time to figure out what game your dog truly enjoys!
6 Go At Your Dogs Pace
The key to truly building confidence in dogs is to go at your dog’s pace!
The last thing we want is to is push your dog too far too soon before being ready for a given challenge!
Every dog is an individual your dog may overcome his/her insecurities in a couple of weeks or a couple of days.
The truth is every dog is different, and we must adjust our expectations to where our dog’s current level.
7 Reward The Correct Behavior
Many times the reason why our dogs may be fearful, insecure, and need a confidence boost is simply because we might be rewarding the exact behavior we don’t want!
Here are some ways you may have unknowingly been rewarding your dog for being insecure, or fearful;
Petting your dog and saying “it’s ok”: Many times we tend to try to console dogs the same way we would a human. That is not only selfish to your dog but also be detrimental to your pup’s overall confidence because we are not treating your pup how he NEEDs to be treated.
For instance, If your dog is unsure, insecure, or fearful around other dogs, Your dog will likely do one of 2 things; bark/lung, or try to avoid the dog and walk in the opposite direction.
Now in this scenario if your pup barks or tries “running away” the last thing you want to do is pet your dog and say “it’s ok” because then you are communicating to your dog that behaving “scared, unsure it good and correct behavior.
I’m not saying, not to pet your dog but what I am saying is, be aware of when you begin rewarding your dog.
Are you going to reward your dog for behaving insecure, or are you going to interrupt any insecure behavior and only reward your pup when he/she isn’t actively behaving fearful/insecure?
See the difference in one scenario we are rewarding your pup for being scared while on the other hand we stop any fearful response, help your pup by setting him up to be successful, and reward your pup for small wins leading to the big win!
Building Confidence in dogs isn’t an overnight process but if you stay consistent and follow all the tips above you will quickly see that your pup will begin to blossom into the confident dog you knew your pup could be!
If you want any extra guidance on building confidence in your pup feel free to contact us here or give us a call! Schedule your free consultation to get your pup to be the best version of him/herself!