How To Make Your Dog More Confident

Having a timid dog that behaves insecure, shy, fearful and scary of things is going to be a depressing experience for you.

You may be comparing your dog with your neighbor puppy who is not only lovely, energetic and extremely sociable (who always comes to you to “greet” you whenever he sees you) and was wondering what can be done to make your dog more confident?

Why Your Dog Is Lacking Of Confidence?

There are various reasons as to why your dog exhibits this behavior. You need to determine the exact causes before working on this issue.

ASK yourself these questions….

  1. Did your dog behave in this manner when you first adopted him?
  2. He is only behaving this way recently?

Based on your finding, you can then correctly address his behavior issue.

Your Dog Is Behaving Timid When You Adopt Him?

If your dog is already showing signs of fear and timidness when you first adopt him, this could be related to his previous bad experience or his hereditary tendency. Some breeds of dog tend to be timid by their nature personality and would need MORE help for them to gain confidence.

If your dog belongs to the “timid” breed, you would need to put in some extra effort to build up his confidence level. His personality can certainly be influenced by his surroundings and experience.

Timid Dog Breeds

Mastiff – With a weight over 200 pounds (ca. 91 kg), this breed is having an intimidating look and looks fearless. But the truth is that he is shy by nature. So never judge a dog by his look.

Vizsla – This breed is popular for his hunting instincts and it’s a surprise for his shy personality. But with proper training and socialization,  he can easily do away with his timidness.

Maltese – They are generally outgoing in general, however, when facing new environments and people, they can get pretty sky and nervous.

Papillon – They are naturally shy with people and tend to be very timid. Their behavior can get worse if socialization is not done early.

Great DaneOften known as “Gentle Giant”, they look big, but they are a calm and peaceful dog and with a shy personality.They need a high level of affection and cuddles.

Of course, above are just some examples and the list goes on…

Regardless of the type of breed, any dog will have that “little” or “more” timid personality. It’s a matter of their adaptation to the new environment and How Well and Fast they settle down.

As mentioned in the starting, apart from their personality, external factors such as

  • Being traumatized when he was a puppy
  • Not having adequate socialization when he was a puppy

Do play a role in causing his shyness, timid and fearful behaviors.

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What Can Be Done to Gain Back His Confidence?

There are certainly WAYS that you can do to make your dog “kick” off his Insecure dog symptoms.

Repeat Exposure To His Scary Things

Just like when you begin learning swimming, you may have that phobia to get into the water, but with repeated training (of course, with the presence of that awesome swimming coach), you will ultimately be able to swim like a fish.

This principle applies to your dog training in gaining back his confidence as well. Routine exposure to things that he feels scary will make him less novice along the way.

Of course, you have to take it slowly and not to make it overwhelming for him. Go slow and observe his behavior and make gradual changes.This approach is usually known as desensitization.

For Illustration:

Assuming if you find that your dog is getting nervous the moment you bring him out from home and you would want to build his confidence so that he is able to walk comfortably and socialize with other pets and people in your neighborhood, what can you do?

1. Start in a controlled environment. Your backyard will be a perfect area. Invite your neighbor along with his pet to your home and have your dog confinement in a small area in your yard. Allow him to observe from far away and have your family member observe his behavior.

2. Pay special attention to his body language to see if he is showing any sign of nervousness or fear.

Signs to look out for include:

  • Barking
  • Panting
  • Shivering
  • Excessive Licking 
  • Change in Body Posture – shifting his weight to his rear leg or tuck his tail

3. If he is showing any of these signs, determine what’s causing his reaction? Is it due to animals or people or other external factors such as loud noises (eg, thunder, fireworks)

4. Once you have identified the cause, look for ways to minimize these stimuli to make him feel comfortable.

If it is caused by animals (maybe your dog is fearful of those breeds bigger in size than them), for example, German Shepherd (maybe he had a bad experience with them), get a friend with a well socialized German Shepherd to help. 

Have both of the dogs on leash and take them for a walk (parallel) together, making sure that they are far apart without touching each other. As your dog gets more comfortable over the course of many sessions, you can bring them closer together. This will make your dog get rid of his fear on German Shepherds.

Remember to proceed only at a pace that your dog feels comfortable with. Do not apply pressure on your dog as this would only aggravate his timid behavior.

Redirect His Attention From What’s Causing His Fear

Have you ever had the fear of getting an injection? How do you overcome it? The helpful nurse upon seeing your nervousness will start to chit-chat with you and before you know it, your injection has completed.

This is what we often call “redirect” attention, that is, the nurse is diverting your attention to him through conversation so that you wouldn’t feel so fearful of the  injection as you are basically  not seeing that needle going to your skin.

This principle can also work on your dog. Get his attention away from something that incurs his fear. Making use of his favorite toys or a delicious treat certainly works well. 

Over time, your dog will feel that nothing really “Bad” happens to him when he faces those scary things that he is always fearful of, and he will become more confident.

Games That Help To Regain His Confidence

Timid and shy dogs typically don’t feel comfortable when people start to “call” them.  Work on this route to build up his initial confidence level.

“Name” Game

This works by saying your dog’s name and when he responds to you, you will reward him with a treat. The word (name) that keeps tossing out to him will eventually be familiar to him. 

He will react to it as he would see only “GOOD” things (reward) comes out to him when he responds. This will slowly build up his confidence level.

This is how it works. Wait till your dog is not looking at you, say his name in a happy and bright tone and the moment he turns his attention to you, say “Good” and immediately hand out a treat to him. He will then associate reacting to his name with reward and will not shy away from you when you call him.

You should make your dog love the sound of his name and associate it with only positive outcomes. Never call him to Yell at him.

“Hand Targeting” Game

Socialization plays an important role in ensuring that your dog is able to settle down in his world without any fear or anxiety. This is where you need to expose him to as much different experience as possible.

“Hand Targeting” game would be one of the options that you can play with your dog so that he will have physical contact with YOU.

This works by introducing your dog to a new experience in a rewarding way.

First, show your dog that you have a treat in your hand. He will naturally come over to get his treat, give him the treat.

Next, with the treat in your hand, close your hand and make your dog come over to touch your fist. Open your hand and give him the treat.

Following this, close your hand again, this time round without the treat in your hand. When your dog comes over to touch your fist again, give him the treat from your other hand.

He will start to make his advance to socialize with you as he knows “good” thing will happen  whenever he comes close to you. This helps to open up his world and accept you as his pack.

Gradually, you can move on to advanced training using commands.Use commands such as “touch” and hold on to some objects such as a toy to make him touch on it.This will give him another round of different experience with objects..

You can even get someone to practice this with your dog so that he will have a different experience with a “stranger”.

As he starts to explore new things and gain new experience, he will be more sociable and learn that the world is a safe place to live in and if things turn out to be  unusual, they are not threatening.

Always attempt to make all his experience a positive one, and he will be on his way to be a confident and lovely dog.

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Changes In Behavior (Loss Of Confidence) Only Recently?

If your dog starts to behave timid and insecure out of a sudden, this can because of:

Health Issue?

Is your dog getting older? He could be suffering from what is known as Canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD). This is a behavior syndrome that typically happens to older dogs. Dogs suffering from CCD will show behavior alteration such as disorientation, restlessness, separation anxiety and decreased desire to interact with anyone.

Stressful or Anxiety?

There are numerous signs of stress that can alter your dog’s regular habits and make him timid.

  • Do any of your family members start yelling at him a lot recently?
  • Did you spend some time interacting with him recently or you are keeping him alone in his crate for the whole day?
  • Do you have lots of visitors coming to your home recently? 
  • Have you just moved to a new home recently? ( This will be a new environment for him)
  • Did you have a new pet recently?

Looks for what is causing your dog to be stressful and work on it.

Now that you have a better understanding on how to address your dog’s behavior issue, it’s time to put them into action and make your dog gain back his confident.