This post was provided to Pet Guardian Angels of America by Aimee Laurence
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5 Suggestions to Boost Your Fearful Dog’s Confidence
If you’re the owner of a dog that’s easily scared or suffers from anxiety, it can be heartbreaking to see your dog struggle in their surroundings, from fright at visitors to open hostility towards other dogs. Signs of anxiety include tucking their tail between their legs, flattening their ears, yawning or scratching their body, raised hair on the backs of their necks, cowering, and more. If you recognize these signs in your dog, with patience and following these 5 techniques, you can eventually boost your dog’s confidence and get rid of his anxiety. Before you start you should figure out the cause of the anxiety because it will lead to different approaches.
Control the Environment
One tip for helping your dog manage their anxiety is by controlling their environment. Remove things that trigger their nervousness or fear, like leaving them in a room or play area when you have strangers at the house, or stay away from something that causes anxiety, whether it’s your fluffy slippers or a broom, etc. This is not going to completely fix their confidence issues but it helps them on a temporary basis while you figure out the best way to address their fear completely. This is a measure you should do with others, and not stop here because you can’t isolate your dog from everything that causes fear.
Train Agility and Sports
Your dog’s confidence will be increased when you put them through agility training and different dog sports like jumping over poles and dog walks. This is a great solution because you learn to communicate with your dog, and completing these tasks and challenges will develop your dog’s self-confidence. The most important benefit is that your pet will trust you implicitly after this. The important thing is introducing these activities slowly and carefully so your dog can follow your instructions. Once they’ve done it, praise and rewards will let them know they’re doing good and boost their confidence. Start with easier tasks then make your way through to more difficult ones.
Many dog owners have found success with obedience training, because anxious dogs will gain confidence in a routine and regulated life. As Hillary Freele, a vet writer at Paper Fellows suggests, “it’s good to start with easy commands like sit, stay, or lie down. Make sure you have a lot of treats with you, or a toy if they prefer. When you learn this mode of communication with your dog, you can distract them when they’re feeling fear by going back to this communication.”
Desensitizing is a careful process whereby you expose your dog to the thing that causes anxiety, but then you feed them treats until your dog becomes used to the thing or the situation ends. This should start with only a low level of exposure because you need to be careful not to cause a break down in your dog. If your dog is fearful of strangers, get one of your friends to help. If they are at a certain distance, feed your dog treats, making sure the person is not too close. When the person moves away,stop giving treats, and then when they come closer, start giving treats again. Do this again and again with the person coming a bit closer each time. You want to connect good experiences with the thing that made them afraid so they learn that there is nothing to be fearful of.
Consult a Professional
In most cases, following these tips will boost your dog’s confidence and eliminate their anxiety. However, if you don’t see complete rehabilitation, you should consult a professional animal behaviorist or dog trainer so that you can retrain your dog successfully.
Aimee Laurence is a prolific lifestyle writer and animal lover. Owner of two beautiful dogs, she loves sharing her training and puppy school tips with her readers.