Shy, anxious dogs can find new places and experiences pretty stressful. However, it is possible to give your pet more confidence.
Read this guide to learn six proven ways to boost your dog’s confidence and increase his enjoyment of life.
How Do You Know Your Dog Lacks Confidence?
A dog that lacks confidence typically shows the following body signals:
- Tucked in tail
- Hiding away
- Ears pinned back
- Lip licking
Some dogs become aggressive when afraid, taking the approach that attack is the best form of defense.
All dogs are different, but the following methods of improving your pet’s confidence are proven to be effective in many cases.
1. Exposure Management
Exposure management involves teaching a dog that something he once found stressful or frightening can be something he loves.
For example, if your dog is terrified of strollers, try sprinkling a stroller with treats. The dog will check out the stroller and realize that rather than something scary, the stroller is nothing more than a fancy treat shelf.
Now, try moving the stroller and its cargo of treats. That shows the dog that the stroller is definitely not something to be afraid of, even when it’s moving.
2. Change Your Dog’s Environment
If your dog lives in an environment that he finds stressful, he is certain to lack confidence. So, you can help your pet by relocating to a different environment.
Ideally, want to take your dog to a place where he’s happy and distracted by enjoyable sights, sounds, and smells.
For example, if you go for a long walk in a place where there’s plenty to occupy your dog, he’s less likely to feel anxious. Your pet will be so preoccupied with sniffing and exploring this wonderful dog paradise his confidence levels will soar.
Of course, that approach might not work for every dog. Some pups might not like the idea of walking in a wild area, so you’ll need to find somewhere your dog will feel relaxed and happy. Basically, this technique is all about reprogramming your dog to view his surroundings as interesting, exciting, and fun rather than scary.
Even a dog crate can be scary for a dog that lacks confidence. So, take the time to crate train your dog correctly, using positive reinforcement methods, and ensure that your pet has a crate that’s comfortable, spacious, and well-equipped, like this crate for German Shepherds.
3. Try Obedience Training
You can boost your dog’s confidence by teaching him new skills, such as learning to come, sit, stay, or lay down.
Obedience training can be done at home in an environment where the dog feels safe and calm. The training enables you to develop better communication with your pet through body language and commands. Once that’s established, you can focus on distracting your dog from something he finds frightening by asking him to do a particular task, such as sitting down.
Obedience training also builds trust between the dog and his owner. Gaining your trust also helps to build feelings of confidence and security in your pet, so it’s a win-win. Once your dog becomes more confident, you can up the ante and try taking him to obedience classes with other dogs in a strange location.
4. Try Agility Training
If you have a young, physically fit dog, agility training can be an extremely effective confidence-building tool.
Agility training entails teaching your dog to jump over poles, run through plastic tunnels, or weave in and out of a line of poles. The discipline not only teaches your dog new skills, but it’s also an excellent trust exercise.
By learning to negotiate the various obstacles, the dog learns that if he listens to his owner, he’s going to have fun, and he’ll develop more confidence in his own ability.
5. Introduce Strangers And New Situations Gradually
If your dog lacks confidence, it’s likely that he’s going to be nervous around strangers and in new situations.
You can help your dog to cope better with new situations by providing your pet with treats as a reward for good behavior. Also, when your dog meets new people for the first time, allow the dog to set the pace and discourage visitors from making the first move.
6. Introduce Other Dogs
In some cases, introducing another dog can increase a nervous dog’s confidence. However, that depends on your dog’s personality and how they cope with other dogs in their space.
A dog that’s open to interaction with other pups will model their own behavior on that of their peers, taking confidence from them. Effectively, your shy dog will learn that other dogs find something previously perceived as scary is actually fun.
If you have a shy dog that lacks confidence, you can use the tips above to help your furry friend to feel better about themselves and about life in general.
The best way to ensure that your puppy grows up to be well-adjusted and confident is to take him to socialization and training classes from a very young age. However, older dogs can benefit from the tips and advice we’ve given in this guide.
Of course, if your dog has very severe anxiety and confidence issues, you should seek the help and advice of an experienced dog behaviorist.