Hartwood Library

How to Build Confidence in Your Dog

This is who I am. Your approval is not needed.There are many different causes for fear or anxiety. A dog may become fearful because of one traumatic event, may be genetically shy or fearful, lack of structure and leadership, or not properly socialized. As with people; problems result when the brain and energy are underutilized. Fear is usually a progressive behavior; they can continue to become more sensitized to the stimulus. Shy, fearful and insecure dogs all lack trust. All these dogs can benefit from confidence building.

Just as with us, a fearful or anxious dog does not choose to be in that state of mind. Long-term exposure to stress hormones can cause self-mutilation, increased brain aging, obesity, gastrointestinal problems and damage to the heart.

  1. Give her a job to do (running, agility, fly ball, or scent games). Dogs feel important when they have a responsibility in their pack.
  1. Keep her routine as consistent as possible. Create structure in her everyday life by only rewarding calm behavior (she doesn’t get anything she wants until she is calm). Feeding, going for walks, and play should all be on your terms – she will be more secure when she knows what is expected of her.
  1. Give plenty of exercise, pent up energy with no outlet can produce insecurities, frustration or anxieties. Providing a positive, appropriate outlet for their energy will help them relax and feel more social.
  1. Provide mental stimulation in the form of treat dispensing toys, structured play or obedience. Helping her utilize her mind will help her feel secure and more focused.
  1. Learning new experiences can make her have a better outlook on life. Teach her a new trick! Problem solving is very useful to teach new behaviors.

Take it slow. Let her learn about things at her own pace. Allowing her to sniff can relieve some anxiety. If we push her or overwhelm her, we will make the stimulus even more fearful. Do not baby talk, cuddle or pick up your nervous dog, by doing this we can reinforce the behavior. Once she is calm, then she can get attention.