4 ways to build your fearful dog’s confidence

by | Interesting |

Does your dog get scared of new people or environments? Today we’re sharing four helpful ways to build your fearful dog’s confidence. 

Dogs who lack confidence can demonstrate it in many ways. Although behaviours vary, they’re typically reactive in new circumstances or ones perceived as frightening. This lack of confidence may come from past experiences, negative associations, or lack of socialization.  

Start young 

Up to 12-14 weeks old, puppies are more receptive to new things. After this point, they may be more cautious of new experiences, or even fearful. Socialization can help prevent low confidence levels or fear as an adult dog. So start early! 

Socialization should include short and frequent interactions with a wide range of events, environments and situations. 

Visit our blog for tips on puppy socialization. 

Old dogs CAN learn new tricks 

It’s also possible to curb fearful behaviours and build confidence in an adult dog. Relationship-based activities are your friend! These methods take time, so be patient as you work with your dog. 

  1. Enrichment games: Increase play within a safe environment and redirect your dog’s attention with positive fun! This includes fetch, hide and seek, or nose work games, all promoting positive experiences. Games also build your relationship with your dog. 
  1. Multiple walks a day: Frequent walks promote a positive relationship with you, while also exposing your dog to new things and environments. As your dog becomes more comfortable, slowly increase their exposure to new things – always alongside positive reinforcement! This can help change your dog’s association with new things as being positive, rather than scary. 

Pro tip: Always carry treats and/or your dog’s favourite toy with you on walks. If you notice your dog becoming nervous, redirect their attention and give them a reward.  

  1. Training: Training your dog using positive reinforcement is a great way to build their confidence and your relationship. Training teaches your dog to expect good things when they engage with you. Verbal cues like ‘sit,’ and ‘stay’ once established, can also redirect your dog when they’re feeling unsure. 
  1. Body language: It’s important to read and understand your dog’s body language so you know when a situation is becoming too much for them. 

Remember: It’s important to go at your dog’s pace when meeting new people or being in new environments.  

Read our blog for more enrichment ideas for dogs. 

Still lacking confidence? Reach out to a positive reinforcement based trainer. Trainers can implement desensitization and counterconditioning techniques with your dog, to further reduce fear and increase their confidence. 

Dog Rehabilitation Centre 

The Ontario SPCA and Humane Society is excited to be partnering with the Peterborough Humane Society to build a new complex that will advance animal well-being both locally and across Canada. This facility will help dogs to build their confidence with more support and individualized care than an animal centre can provide.  

Please consider making a donation today to help get the Provincial Dog Rehabilitation Centre to the finish line. Visit ontariospca.ca/dogrehab to learn more.