6 Ways To Boost Your Dog’s Confidence

If you have a nervous, shy dog, he probably finds visiting strange places and meeting new people a stressful experience. Fortunately, with some care and thought, you can help your canine companion to become more confident and outgoing.

Read this article to discover six ways to boost your dog’s confidence and put the fun back into his life!

Is Your Dog A Shrinking Violet?

Dogs that are nervous, shy, and anxious tend to show the same physical signs, including:

  • Trembling
  • Tucking in their tail
  • Shying away from strangers
  • Ears pinned back
  • Panting, even in cold weather
  • Licking their lips

Also, dogs that are frightened can sometimes become aggressive when approached. That aggression can be directed toward other dogs or toward people. In either case, you need to take steps to fix the problem, as you could find yourself in hot water with law enforcement if your dog bites someone or attacks their dog.

Why Do Some Dogs Lack Confidence?

There are quite a few reasons your dog might lack confidence.

Stress

Dogs that live in stressful environments are often shy or lack confidence.

The stress could be caused by a family that rows and shouts a lot or by living in a very busy environment where lots of strangers visit the house throughout the day. Sometimes, moving home can cause a dog to be stressed and upset, as can the loss of a family member or companion pooch. Even the arrival of a new dog or puppy can create disruption in the pecking order of the canine household and cause a dog to lose confidence.

Anxiety

Traumatic events can trigger anxiety in dogs, which can knock your pup’s confidence.

Anxiety is generally caused by travel, confinement, loud noises, and the like. Dogs can also become anxious and stressed by prolonged periods of separation from their human family. Dogs can also suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which might be triggered by some event that causes extreme fear, such as a natural disaster, attack, or loss of an owner.

Fear

When excessive, fear can become a phobia. That phobia then manifests itself as a loss of confidence. Many random things can cause a shy dog to become fearful, including:

  • Thunder
  • People with glasses
  • Men wearing hats
  • People pushing strollers

Most fears can be traced back to a lack of socialization during puppyhood. Socialization is crucial for a dog’s development, as being exposed to many different sights and sounds at a very young age helps to equip the dog to cope with everything he’s likely to meet during everyday adult life.

Genetics

Although an individual dog’s temperament and upbringing will influence how confident he is, some dog breeds are naturally more confident than others.

Experts widely regard the following dog breeds as some of the most confident pups around:

  • Labrador retriever
  • German Shepherd
  • Pitbull terrier
  • Jack Russell terrier
  • English Mastiff
  • Golden retriever
  • Rottweiler
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Poodle
  • Great Dane

Although these breeds are generally very confident dogs, poor socialization, trauma, and health conditions can all affect your dog’s confidence levels.

Health

If a dog is in pain or suffering from a medical condition that makes him feel weak and vulnerable, he will lack confidence. In fact, if a happy-go-lucky pup suddenly becomes withdrawn and shy, that’s a sure sign that he’s unwell in some way and should be seen by a vet.

Hormonal Changes

Female dogs that are in season or in heat can show behavioral changes at various points during a 21 to 28-day cycle. Your dog might appear clingier than usual, or she might be jumpier than usual. However, once the cycle has moved on, your pet’s behavior should return to normal.

We recommend that all female dogs are spayed unless to be specifically used for breeding purposes. De-sexing rules out the risk of unwanted puppies can help to prevent insecure behaviors and can prevent serious health risks for your dog in later life.

Age-Related Conditions

Just like people, dogs can develop age-related conditions that can affect confidence levels.

For example, dogs can suffer from dementia and cognitive dysfunction. Senior dogs might also lose their senses of hearing and sight, which can lead to confusion, distress, and a general loss of confidence.

Leader Of The Pack

Dogs regard their human owners as their pack leaders. As the Alpha, you must set house rules that govern the dog’s behavior and establish a regular routine. That leadership can help the dog to feel more secure and safe and, therefore, more confident.

Tips To Boost Your Dog’s Confidence

All dogs have different personalities and temperaments, and there’s no silver bullet that fixes confidence issues in every pup. However, these methods are proven to be successful in boosting the confidence of a nervous dog in many cases.

1. Exposure Management

Exposure management is a buzzword term that describes the process of re-educating a shy dog to view something he finds frightening or stressful as something positive.

For example, some dogs find cars extremely alarming. So, try placing a handful of treats in the backseat of your car, leaving both doors open. Allow your pup to investigate the car. When your pup discovers the tasty treats, he will associate the car with delicious!

Next, try starting the car’s engine. Add more treats. Now, your dog understands that the vehicle is not something to be scared of, even when the engine is running.

2. Location, Location, Location!

Dogs living in an environment that they find scary or stressful are bound to lack confidence. In that situation, the simplest way to help your dog is to take him somewhere totally different.

Where does your dog love to go? Perhaps your pup enjoys running along the beach or bounding down woodland trails, or maybe he loves to go to the dog park to spend some quality time with his furry friends.

The idea is to remove your dog from the place he finds stressful and relocate him to another location that’s full of lovely distractions. All those new smells, sounds, and sights are bound to help your dog forget what he finds stressful, automatically boosting his confidence and his love of life.

3. A Den Or A Prison?

Most dogs love to have a den where they can chill out and get away from stressors and situations they find frightening, whereas others regard their kennel as a prison.

The crate should be a cozy, secure, and safe place for your dog. When crate training your dog, always use positive reinforcement methods and ensure that the crate is positioned somewhere suitable and is well-equipped for comfort.

Some dogs that find confinement in their crate stressful can benefit from having a kennel with double entryways that makes entry and exit easier. That simple change can make a massive difference to a dog’s confidence in using his crate.

4. Introduce New Situations Gradually

Nervous dogs are usually worse when placed in new situations and when meeting new people. In those kinds of situations, try feeding your dog tasty treats to distract him and reward him for his good behavior. If new people are involved, let your dog approach them first rather than encouraging strangers to move in and pet your pup.

We recommend that you carry out some research to find out what’s the most suitable dog breed for a family. That way, you stand more chance of starting off with a confident dog that will blend into family life more easily.

5. Start Obedience Training

One very effective way of improving your dog’s confidence is to teach him new things. For example, you could train your dog to come, stay, lay down, and sit.

You can help your dog to feel more relaxed by training him at home, where he feels safe and comfortable. Once your dog understands and is obedient to the basic commands, you can use that as a distraction when you’re in a situation that might otherwise upset your dog. For example, if your dog is confronted by something he finds scary, ask him to focus on a single command, such as “sit down.”

Any form of training works especially well for dogs that lack confidence as it helps to develop trust and strengthen the bond between the dog and his owner. When your dog is more confident, you might want to try taking him to obedience training classes in a different location.

6. Dog Agility Is Fun!

Dogs that lack confidence tend to miss out on a lot of the fun that other, more outgoing pups enjoy. If you have a physically fit dog, you might find that agility training can help put the fun back into your pup’s life.

Agility training involves training your dog to negotiate a variety of obstacles, including small jumps, running through tunnels, and weaving through lines of poles. Through learning to handle simple agility courses, your dog’s confidence increases, as does his trust in his handler. The dog also learns that trusting you and listening to what you ask him to do is going to be fun.

Start slowly at home in your backyard, and then take your pet to organized dog agility classes where he gets to join in the fun with other pups. If your dog loves the sport, you might even graduate to competing in small agility competitions!

Final Thoughts

If you have a nervous dog, you can boost his confidence by following the above advice and tips.

A good way to help your dog grow up to be bold and confident is to take him to puppy socialization classes when he’s young. That said, you can still improve an older dog’s confidence by following the tips we’ve given in this article.