Beginner's Guide To Building Dog Confidence
By Haley Smith
Helping your dog become more confident can have many benefits. Confidence building can present itself in many different forms- some of which you can work on at home. Playing games with your dog is not only fun for the both of you, but also gives your dog a chance to focus on and learn something new. Once you learn your dog’s favorite game, it can gradually be used as a desensitizing technique to distract dogs when they are anxious about a new person, object, or environment. Games can also stimulate certain parts of the dog’s brain that physical exercise cannot!
Tips for a confident dog:
- Teach your dog manners
- Work on obedience during walks
- Go slow introducing new things
- Patience and consistency are KEY!
- Associate training with good things
- Keep your own emotions out of training
- Enroll your dog in a new agility or dock diving course
- Find a comfortable environment for your dog to succeed in
- Let your dog investigate (safe) new things and encourage them to do so
Examples of confidence building games to play:
- Scent games
Hide your dog’s kibble or a favorite treat under an object in a familiar room or in the yard, then release your dog telling them to go “find it!”
- Hide and seek
Put your dog in a “sit” or “down” make them “wait” while you go hide somewhere around the house. Give your dog a release word and watch how fast they find you! As your dog gets better at finding you, make your hiding place more challenging!
- Controlled game of “tug”
Play a game of tug with your dog, but with a regulated “give” or “let go”. Once they release, praise and reward, then play again!
- Shape training
An example of this is teaching your dog to go “under” a table by putting some kibble or a treat near, and eventually under the table. Praise every step of the way!
- Give your dog something else to focus on
Such as focusing on you, a game or treat- this will boost your dog’s confidence by helping them focus their energy on a task, rather than on their surroundings.
Training and playing things such as these in short increments throughout the day helps the dog to keep interest in the task, and ultimately keeps them more confident. Make sure to always go at your dog’s own pace- if your dog displays extreme reactivity, fear, anxiety or aggression, be sure to contact a dog professional to help.