Build Your Dog's Confidence
It always makes your insides feel tied up and sad when you meet an unconfident dog. They tuck their tail, don’t feel comfortable greeting you, pull their ears back, and exude a miasma of anxiety. As a dog walker, there are plenty of small things I can do to help the dog feel safe enough to go outside and potty with me: toss treats on the floor, avoid eye contact, generally ignore the dog until the dog feels safe to approach, and create a positive association with hands/leashing up with treats. A dog walker has a limited amount of time with your canine companion, and there is only so much we can accomplish.
If your dog is showing the signs of fear or lack of confidence, there are a zillion easy things you can add to their daily life to help your dog stand tall and feel safe in a variety of situations. Just remember that having a strong self-confidence is built up from a lifetime of positive experiences, and won’t happen overnight.
You feel a lot less anxious when your body is enjoying that post workout adrenaline high. For some dogs this could mean playing fetch, hide and go seek, tag, or soccer indoors (especially on cold days). For other dogs this could mean a daily walk, trips to the dog park, or weekend hiking adventures. For best results mix and match all of the options listed above.
Allow Your Dog to Make Choices
When your dog makes a choice and experiences a positive result, he/she will feel empowered. This could mean choosing which direction to go for a walk, which toy to play with, whether or not training or playtime is the activity for the evening, or which delicious bone to enjoy during the evening wind down. Respecting your dog’s feelings, ideas, and preferences will go a long way!
Your dog has a great brain for problem solving and scent work. By having your dog work out how to get their tasty meal, without any help from you, they will feel the same accomplishment you experience after building Ikea furniture. For my sweet pup, we feed breakfast in a bowl every morning, and a dinner in a food puzzle every night. We swap out different food puzzles regularly to keep it interesting.
Cuddles and Reassurance
I remember, years ago, everyone was told that paying positive attention to your dog when he/she is afraid will reinforce the fear. Many years of scientific research later and we know that it is WRONG. The exact opposite is true. Providing reassurance when your dog is uncertain or afraid lets your dog know that you’ve got his/her back. So, have no fear, cuddles are actually the answer.
Your dog is your family and your best buddy. If you need more help, or you feel that your dog’s situation is more severe, please reach out to a licensed professional trainer.
With puppy and kitty love,
Lily the Dog Mama