How to Build Your Dog’s Confidence

Confident dogs tend to exhibit less aggression. They thrive in new environments and have more trust in people and other dogs. They are also easier to train and handle than insecure dogs.

With so many advantages to having a confident pooch, it seems clear that it helping your dog feel secure. This article explores three easy ways to add confidence building to your routine with Fido.

It is important to point out that this article is not a training guide for dogs that have already established phobias or insecurity related aggression issues. If that is your situation, your best bet is to get a local professional trainer that specializes in behavioral reconditioning.

However, by being proactive with your dog in terms of confidence building, you can ward off the development of such behavioral issues down the line. Let’s get started!

  1. Use Positive Training Methods

 Up until a few decades ago, the prevailing wisdom among many top dog trainers was that the best dogs were those that displayed submission to their human masters. It made a lot of sense – especially since many of these dog trainers were coming from police and military contexts which were, let’s face it, a little obsessed with dominance based social hierarchies.

Starting in the 1980’s, a revolution in the dog training world happened as a result of animal behaviorists entering into dog training culture. Instead of focusing on punishment, these methods focused on using the reward to train appropriate behaviors before using punishment (sparingly, if at all).

The bond between dogs and their human companions shifted dramatically. Rather than a relationship built on fear and intimidation, a relationship built on trust and confidence became the gold standard in professional training circles.

Confident dogs bring more enthusiasm to training sessions and consistently out-perform their counterparts trained with a more punishment based style. Hence, in performance circles such as Agility, almost no one still uses the outdated dominance based models.

  1. Combine Physical Exercise with Mental Stimulation

 All dogs need exercise and it can be tempting to think that a walk around the block or a trip to the dog park is enough. Both of these are great ideas! However, unless you are mentally stimulating your dog, you are missing out on an important opportunity.

Here are a few ideas on how to make the most of the time you spend exercising your dog to build confidence:

  • Clicker Train – The basics of clicker training take just minutes to learn but they will unlock a world of potential in both you and your dog. Combining physical and mental stimulation with positive reinforcement is a way for your dog to feel connected to you as well as gain confidence.

Learning tricks and new behaviors give dogs a sense of purpose. By focusing on what they are doing right, you will boost their confidence and trust levels.

  • Dog Sports – Organized dog sports are a great way to combine mental and physical stimulation as well as give your dog a “” Just like people, dogs appreciate knowing that they have a way to shine and gain approval.

Some dog sports like Agility take years to master – but it is the journey, not the destination that counts! Other sports like Flyball and Dock Diving are less of a commitment. You can begin competing in these amateur friendly sports within a few months of weekly training with local clubs.

  1. Expose Your Dog to a Variety of Experiences

Another great way to give your dog the gift of confidence is to expose them to lots of new experiences. It is important that you make new adventures fun, safe and rewarding for your dog. Bring along favorite toys and treats so that your canine companion associates new things with positive feelings.

Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Travel with your dog. If you are someone that is always on the go, consider how you might make your trips fun for your dog to include them in on the adventure. They will get exposed to new things and learn that the world is a safe place worth exploring with enthusiasm.
  • Look for dog-friendly spaces and activities in your area. Dog parks, training classes, and nature trails are great ways to get your dog out of the familiar environment of home to enjoy new smells, sounds, and activities.
  • Socialize with other dogs and people. Take advantage of any safe opportunity to expose your companion to other dogs and people. Every successful interaction builds confidence. Remember to have treats at the ready to reward excellent greetings, especially when your dog is meeting new people without jumping or other undesirable behaviors.

We hope this article has inspired you to think about the importance of having a confident canine as well as give you some practical tips to get started. Incorporating ways for your dog to be positively reinforced, mentally stimulated, and socialized can be great fun!

Remember that your dog relies on you to lead the way for them. By adding their sense of security to your list of priorities, you are warding off potential problems down the road.

In addition, you will reap the rewards of a dog that is more engaged and enthusiastic about spending time with you and your family. Definitely worth the investment of a little time and planning!


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