Do you ever wonder How to Boost a Dog’s Confidence to improve their experience of day to day life? You may notice that just like human beings some dogs also lack confidence. A fearful or timid dog may feel severe stress and anxiety when they experience unusual situations. Whereas a confident dog  can adapt quickly in challenging situations. In this article we will understand why confidence building is necessary and How to Boost a Dog’s Confidence with Positive Reinforcement.

 

Why is the  Confidence Building in a Dog Important?

A confident dog is a happy dog. There can be many factors behind low confidence levels in a dog. It can be something that they inherit genetically. Some experiences from the past may also be the reason behind it. Therefore it is very important for you as a parent to identify the issue and work upon those  to boost a dog’s confidence. When we bring home a puppy, in most cases we are unaware about their initial experiences, lifestyle and level of socialization. For us, their life starts from that day and we take all the responsibility of their wellbeing.
Boosting Confidence of a fearful dog
However, as they grow up we may notice some issues in their behaviour. If a dog barks excessively whenever something new happens in their daily routine, it may be a reaction to their past experiences that we are not aware of. Before we get into the details of How to Boost a Dog’s Confidence it is important that you can identify their trigger points first. Is your dog confident while interacting with other dogs? How do they react when a stranger approaches them while on a walk?  If you ever feel that your dog doesn’t like it when you pick them up, then also there can be a story behind it. Spend a significant amount of time to analyse your dog’s behaviour to help them with their stress or anxiety in such situations. Identification is the first step to  confidence building measures in a dog.

What is Positive Reinforcement?

Positive Reinforcement is a every common phrase that you may come across while learning some basic obedience training exercises for your dog. It is a mechanism that associates good behaviour with a positive outcome. It is a very useful technique that dog behaviourists and trainers use. Physical punishments do not work with pets and it may actually make a dog fearful and break their trust. Whereas rewards and praises can do wonders to your dog’s training and overall behaviour.
Boost a Dog's Confidence with Positive Reinforcement
Let me explain it with an example. Toilet training is probably one of the first things that you want your puppy to learn. When they start following your instructions and go to the designated place for the toilet, you reward them with a treat or praise them. It encourages a dog to repeat the good behaviour. Dogs are very intelligent and they can quickly understand when you appreciate their behaviour and when you don’t. As dogs are always eager to please their hoomans, they would want to repeat the behaviour that you nurture. This is the logic behind positive reinforcement techniques.

How to Boost Confidence in a Dog?

Now let’s delve into some useful techniques to learn How to Boost a Dog’s Confidence.
There are some good practices when it comes to confidence building measures. These are as follows-
1) Early Socialization- It is the most important thing that you need to work on for boosting your dog’s confidence. When we bring home a puppy, the home environment becomes their world. They gradually learn to adjust in their new home and we as pet parents become their friend, philosopher, guide. So it is our responsibility to help them be happy and confident in any situation. If you let your dog out daily when they are young, they gradually learn more about the new environment, new smell, noises and much more. Interaction with other dogs of their age, helps them understand that good experiences of their life are not limited to their home environment. Therefore, start working to fulfill your dog’s socialization requirements at an early age. It will immensely help them to boost their confidence at a later stage.
Early Socialization to Boost Confidence of a Dog
2) Mental Stimulation- Mental stimulation and engagement is another important aspect of a dog’s confidence building efforts. If your dog spends adequate time to play around and interact with their family members, it boosts their mood as well as confidence. They can feel that their hoomans enjoy their companionship as much as they do. They feel loved and also can learn as they play. You can teach them new commands or introduce a puzzle game to nurture their energy.
3) Exposure to Outer World to Boost a Dog’s Confidence- Just like socialization helps a dog to boost their confidence, more exposure to the outer world also brings in new experiences for a dog. You can consider visiting pet cafes and pet trips to enhance your dog’s exposure to the outer world. As they meet with new people and other pets, they add more features to their experience of life. Even if they initially struggle in a new situation, it will help them to cope up well in similar situations later on. However, please make sure to set the boundaries at the right time. If you already know that your dog is fearful or timid, make sure to let others know when they can approach your dog. While exposure is good for dogs, it is very important to ensure that they have good experiences to cherish.

Some Specific Situations to Monitor:

1) While Taking Them Out for a Walk- 
When you are making a sincere and consistent effort to learn How to Boost a Dog’s Confidence, regular walk times are the best times to check the progress. If you take your dog to walk in the park, you are most likely to come across other dogs with their hoomans. Carefully watch your dog’s body language when they meet other dogs. Do they let other dogs and humans approach them? Or they feel anxious and like to maintain a distance. This observation will help you a lot to understand the focus areas. You can then focus more on those particular areas to boost your dog’s confidence. If you come across an issue, do not panic or be upset about it. Start again with a new enthusiasm to fix the issue.
2) While They Interact with Other Dogs- 
Small dogs may often feel insecure in the presence of a larger dog. They may bark, feel anxious and even show aggression in such a situation. But they are certainly not to be blamed for this. Small dogs are well aware of their size and they use their own way to scare those who they consider as a threat. In such a situation, please make sure that your dog does not feel cornered. A strictly supervised introduction works best here. Keep both the dogs on leash initially till the time they are comfortable. Once both the dogs are sitting in a relaxed position, you can gradually loosen the grip and let them sniff each other. Please make sure to inquire about the other dog’s behaviour and level of socialization before letting them come near your dog. If you notice carefully, you can sense if a dog is still aggressive or fearful. It is better to limit interactions till this level if one of them is uncomfortable.
3) Visiting a Vet’s Clinic- 
A visit to a vet’s clinic is a not so good experience for almost all dogs. They know what is waiting for them there. Maybe a bitter tasting medicine or a long sharp needle! Dogs absolutely hate it and may feel very anxious. They may refuse to be inside the clinic, pull on their leash or even become aggressive if you force them. To help your dog in such situations, always carry a few treats with you while visiting a vet. Offer them tiny pieces of treats after a regular interval throughout the journey. Praise them and assure them that you are there by their side. When and if the vet needs to administer an injection on your dog, try to speak to them in a soft voice and distract them with their favourite toy. This may not cause them any less pain but it will certainly boost their confidence and help them to ease up.
Comforting a scared dog to boost their confidence at a vet's clinic
4) In a Noisy Environment-
Dogs are in general sensitive to loud noise. So while you learn How to Boost a Dog’s Confidence, make sure to be watchful about how they react in noisy environments. Sometimes during a certain time of the year, there can be a noise of firecrackers that can easily intimidate a dog. Help your dog to ease up by being by their side. Comfort them by holding them close to you and make sure to close all doors and windows to minimize the noise of firecrackers. A dog may struggle initially in such a situation but you have to make sure that you do not panic. Your dog can sense your body language and the way you handle a situation will teach them a lot. Remain calm, patient and approachable in such situations.
A lady comforting her dog in noisy environment
5) While introducing Your Dog to a Stranger/Guest- 
A timid and under confident dog may feel insecure when there is a sudden visitor at our door. They may bark excessively or show aggressive behaviour in such situations. But please do not feel embarrassed and think from their point of view once. Your dog is probably the centre of attention in your house all the time.  So they may feel insecure when some stranger gets their share of attention. It is very normal and it is your duty to help them. Whenever there is a visitor at your house, keep your dog in your lap initially. Let them get used to their presence. Then gradually let them sniff the stranger and if they are dog friendly, ask them to offer a treat. Dogs love treats and such an introduction is an excellent way to use positive reinforcement techniques. Your dog will gradually feel comfortable around the guest as a treat means a positive outcome for them. If you  repeat this technique consistently for a few more times, then the next time a visitor comes you will see a significant change in your dog’s behaviour and body language.
Image of a dog barking at a stranger
Lastly, please remember that rescue dogs are more likely to have some behavioural issues. But it is not their fault. The experiences they  come across can make them react in a certain way. But the good news is, even that can be fixed with our consistent and sincere efforts to boost their confidence. Be a responsible pet parent and work with an animal behaviourist if you need to.
It is a wonderful experience when you successfully boost the confidence of an under confident dog. You can see their eyes twinkle a little brighter. You can see the change in their happy faces and you can feel their love even more…
Happy Pawrenting!