Okay, you may have noticed that your dog is not like the others you know. While your friends dogs run and play, your sweet little angel can often be found hiding under a bench, shaking or just generally being a loner and minding his own business. If you guessed that your dog lacks self-confidence, then chances are you are probably correct.
So what can you do to help? Well first you will need to acknowledge that these behaviors aren’t necessarily due to a lack of training, but may be a personality trait that your dog possesses, much like a human would. In order to be able to train your dog in the future, you must first assess why they are not as confident as you feel he should be. As they aren’t nearly as capable as communicating how they feel however, you will have to attempt to put yourself in your dog’s shoes, and imagine why he could be feeling the symptoms of low self-esteem.
Identifying where the problem stems from is the first step to helping your dog gain confidence. Could it be that he is not receiving enough praise for good behavior? Similarly, is he being scolded too harshly when acting poorly? Factors like shouting, or a negative touch may also lead your dog to react in a way that affects his mood. If your home is loud and he is afraid of sounds such as slamming doors, this will of course cause nervousness and will prevent him from settling.
It could be that your dog is lacking mental stimulation or activity such as play, and may feel neglected. Too, if he is crated for long periods of time, your dog could also feel as though he is not loved in a way that he desires, and this will also cause low self-esteem. Regular exercise has been proven to boost self confidence in both humans and other animals as well. Have you ever felt a “high” after a good run on the treadmill? Those are your endorphins telling you to keep it up! Making sure your pooch feels healthy, will in turn help him feel confident.
One thing that is important to remember about your canine companion though, is that he will always look to you for guidance. Whether he makes it obvious or not, your little guy picks up on your mood, patterns and behaviors and will often mirror these back to you. So, in order to make sure that he is in a good place, you will have to lead by example. If you want your dog to have a happy, outgoing personality; then speak to him in a pleasant tone of voice. Better yet, sing him a song, open the windows, dance around… you get the point. Just keep it light, keep it positive and encourage your pup!
Much like you wouldn’t berate a friend or co-worker for under-performing when he shows signs of low self-esteem, you should never take your frustrations out on your dog. Consistent training techniques are key to ensure that your dog is not confused when taking direction. If your dog feels as though he is not pleasing his owner, he will likely feel poorly about himself. Therefore, constant praise is necessary when he does well, and gentle encouragement in areas of improvement will be of great benefit. Making sure that your dog is also medically sound, is extremely crucial to his confidence. A pup who is in pain or discomfort will likely not show displays of affection and is an obvious sign that he needs professional help.
Widely known, while the use of treats is a great tool when learning commands, you will also want to look at other factors that will contribute to your dogs success. Are you addressing your dog directly and speaking clearly when asking something of him? Part of your dogs overall confidence will depend on you, as a trainer and as a pet-parent so it is always a good idea to reflect on your training methods and see if there are any areas in which you can improve in as well.
Have you ever started a new job and were thrown a million and one tasks at once? Try and remember how that made you feel. Working on one command at a time, and allowing your dog to graduate to more complex lessons later on is very important so that your dog does not feel flustered. Teaching your pooch commands like “sit” and “heel” for example, are typically first on the list of priorities as opposed to a trick like “down” or “off” which may have negative connotations in the eyes of your dog. You must first build their confidence with simple tricks, before you can master something that may make him feel submissive, and lose confidence.
And if your dog doesn’t graduate at the end of your lesson? We have three words for you; no big deal. There is a reason why sayings like “practice makes perfect” exist. The main thing to remember at this point, is to always end on a high note. Whether you are attempting to train your dog, or you are out in public and he displays a moment of insecurity with a stranger, you will always want to keep this in mind.
Though you may not have accomplished what you thought you would, in order for your dog to remain a confident member of your family, you will need to reward him for every success, big or small. Leaving a training session, adventure, or meeting with another dog with the two of you frustrated is not going to help anyone. So take your little man out for some ice-cream, or a nice walk in the park. Cuddle on the couch, or give him tons of kisses, it’s up to you.
Either way, ending on a high note is a sure-fire way to keep you both happy and collected and confident that you are headed in the right direction. Keep up the good work!