Not every dog is bouncy, outgoing, and sociable; some pups can be nervous and shy in unfamiliar situations and around strangers.
But what can you do to help a dog that lacks confidence?
This guide provides you with some simple tips and tricks for boosting your dog’s confidence and bringing more fun into your pet’s life.
Does Your Dog Lack Confidence?
How do you know if your dog is shy or lacking in confidence?
The following signs are usually indicative of a dog that lacks confidence:
Hiding away from people and other dogs
Shaking or trembling
Ears pinned back and wide eyes
Tail tucked in
A dog that lacks confidence can be aggressive when frightened, working on the principle that attack is the most effective form of defence when cornered.
How To Improve Your Dog’s Confidence
Every dog is different. However, the following tips and tricks are surefire, proven ways of improving your dog’s levels of confidence and self-belief in many dogs.
Create A Secure Environment for Your Dog
Dogs are naturally denning animals that always feel more secure, safe, and confident when they have somewhere dark, quiet, and private to retreat to when they feel stressed or threatened.
You can create a cosy den for your dog by using a dog crate. Dog crates don’t have to be ugly, functional items that look bad in your home. Although most people like to use a wire dog crate, you can also find fabric crates, wooden and rattan furniture pieces, and even pink-coloured crates.
Equip your furry friend’s crate with a comfy bed, a favourite toy, and a crate water bottle. Place the crate somewhere quiet yet close to your family, and your dog’s confidence should improve.
Exposure therapy entails showing a dog that something he finds upsetting or scary can be something he really loves!
For example, take a dog that’s frightened of men wearing hats. Ask a male friend or relative that your dog knows to wear a hat. Get that person to pet the dog and give him treats while talking reassuringly to the pup. The dog will quickly learn that a man in a hat is not scary at all.
Now, ask a person that the dog doesn’t know to put on a hat and offer the dog treats. Eventually, the dog won’t fear men in hats because he knows that those guys might be treat-loaded!
Many dogs, such as Border collies and Labrador retrievers, enjoy learning new commands, skills, and tricks. Obedience training can be a great way to distract a dog from situations that he finds unnerving and might boost his confidence.
To begin with, carry out basic obedience training in your home where the dog feels safe. Move on to training your dog outside in your backyard. If all goes well, try holding your training sessions in your local park, where there are more potential distractions for your dog. Finally, you could try taking your dog to obedience classes with other dogs and their owners.
That approach works well for many dogs because the commands you give can distract the dog from a situation he finds frightening, helping to make him feel more confident.
If there are things in your dog’s environment that he finds unnerving or frightening, that will dent the pup’s confidence. The solution is simple; just move your pet to a different environment!
Think of a place that your dog finds enjoyable and full of fun smells, sights, and sounds. For example, perhaps your dog loves taking trips to the park or the beach. Here, your dog will find lots to occupy his mind and senses, distracting him from his fears and massively boosting your pet’s confidence.
However, if you have a very timid dog, taking him out of his home comfort zone might make things worse. So, think very carefully before you take your scared dog out into the wilderness.
If you have a young, energetic dog, he might find dog agility classes good fun.
Dog agility demands the dog’s full attention to his handler so that he’s not distracted by things around him that might be frightening. In addition, agility training is an excellent way of exercising your dog so that he’s not full of nervous energy.
Agility training involves training your dog to jump over small fences, weave in and out of a line of plastic poles, and run through fabric or plastic tunnels. Agility teaches your dog new skills and helps to build trust and confidence between the dog and his handler.
Nervous dogs that lack confidence often find meeting new people a very stressful and frightening experience.
Build your dog’s confidence by giving him treats and praising him when he behaves as you want him to. When meeting strangers for the first time, let your dog dictate the pace, and ask your visitors not to overwhelm the dog by making the first move.
Bring In Other Dogs
Some dogs become more confident if they have another dog’s lead to follow. Of course, that doesn’t apply to every dog, so you need to assess your dog’s temperament before taking this approach.
However, if your dog is sociable and gets along with other pups, he will probably model his behaviour on that of his peers and take confidence from them. That way, your nervous pup will gradually learn from other dogs that activities he previously found frightening are actually excellent fun!
If your dog is shy and lacks confidence, you need to take positive action to encourage your canine companion to come out of his shell and start enjoying life more.
When your furry friend is a puppy, be sure to socialize him and take him to puppy kindergarten and training classes from day one. That can help to give your puppy confidence that he will take with him into adulthood. However, older dogs can also benefit from the advice we’ve provided in this article.