Activities For Dogs With Low Self-Esteem

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Introduction

Some dogs just naturally have lower self esteem and they need an owner willing to work with them to boost their confidence levels. Dogs suffering from low self esteem will look to their owner for support and encouragement. You can help boost your dog’s self esteem through a variety of activities that will also help you bond. Do not be afraid to try new things with your dog, they will sense your uncertainty or hesitation and will act with the same trepidation. When trying a new activity, keep things upbeat and happy so your dog will be more willing to dive in with you. 

Obedience

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Any Day
Moderate
Normal
45 min
Items needed
Leash
Treats
Collar
Activity description

A dog that knows what is expected of them is a happy, confident dog. Obedience training is a great way to teach your dog manners and lift their self esteem. Join a local basic obedience class and learn the simple commands that will help transform your slinking, shy pup into a confident side kick strutting by your side. Most obedience classes will last about an hour with only about 30 to 45 minutes of actual instruction and work. Most basic obedience classes are more laid back in their teaching styles. You can begin training for competitive obedience once you have mastered the basic commands. Obedience training can be done indoors or outdoors and only requires a collar, leash, treats and a little patience. 

Step
1
Join a class
When working with a dog with low self esteem, it will probably be best to find a dog club with a trainer that is experienced and able to teach you how to properly train your timid dog. Take the time to visit a few different obedience classes to watch the trainers in action and determine which one is the best fit for you and your dog.
Step
2
Start slow
With a dog that is unsure or has low self esteem, you do not want to dive straight into competitive obedience training. You want to start slow with a basic obedience class or even teaching a few of the basics at home. There are plenty of places that offer slower paced, low stress classes for novice trainers and their dogs. Make sure your dog’s first experiences with obedience are fun and give them a lot of praise while training. This will boost their self esteem and make them more confident.
Step
3
Keep going
Once you have the basics down and you are seeing positive results in your dog’s demeanor, you will want to keep going. After the beginner’s class, move up into the intermediate class. Expect your dog to be a little unsure when beginning the intermediate class because this is a more intense class. However, once your dog understands what is expected of them, they will begin to relax and enjoy the experience.
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Rally

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Any Day
Moderate
Normal
45 min
Items needed
Rally Course
Treats
Collar
Leash
Activity description

Rally, also known as rally obedience, is new twist on competitive obedience. You and your dog work together as a team to complete a course of generally 10 to 20 different tasks or stations. Rally is a much more relaxed activity and communication between handler and dog is greatly encouraged. The American Kennel Club has recognized rally as a sport and even awards titles to dogs ranging from novice to master. Find a rally event in your area and go check it out to see if this is an activity you would enjoy with your dog. Performing in rally is a great way to boost your dog’s self esteem.

Step
1
Join a class
An experienced handler can train their dog for rally without actually joining a class, however, a person new to the sport will need to find a club near them so they can join in and learn the basics. In the rally class, you will learn basic obedience commands such as sit, down, stay and heel. While in class, your dog will be able to learn how to tune out the distractions of other people and dogs and focus solely on you. Their self esteem will rise as they become more confident in knowing what is expected of them.
Step
2
Enter a trial
Do not be intimidated by competition. There are several levels of rally and you will start at the novice level, therefore, there will be other new handlers there sharing the same nervousness. The dogs are not judged against each other, but rather they are scored on how well they complete each task and how well they work with their handler.
Step
3
Earn titles
Once you have competed in your first rally trial, you will be at ease and hopefully find the experience fun and exciting. Your next step is to keep working together to earn titles. The American Kennel Club offers Rally Novice, Rally Intermediate, Rally Advanced, Rally Excellent and Rally Master titles. As you advance, the bond between you and your dog will strengthen and they will become more confident.
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Targeting

Popular
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Any Day
Cheap
Easy
30 min
Items needed
Designated Target
Treats
Collar & Leash (Optional)
Activity description

This is an easy activity for any dog and is offers instant gratification which is perfect for a dog with lower self esteem. Targeting simply is teaching your dog to touch a designated target for a treat, toy or praise. Your dog can use their foot or nose to touch the designated target. Many people use target training as a way to teach house training by placing a bell on the door handle and having their dog touch the bell to signal they need to go outside. Targeting can be trained during any weather and is a cheap activity to do with your dog; all you need are treats and a designated target, a collar and leash are optional.

Step
1
Teach command word
Targeting is easy to teach your dog and they will quickly pick up on the game. To begin, you will want to teach them a command word such as “touch” or “find” so they know the game has begun. Start by hiding a treat in your hand and giving the command touch. When your dog touches your hand with either their foot or nose, give them the treat. Keep repeating until they are regularly touching the right target.
Step
2
Instant gratification
The reason targeting is such an easy activity, even for dogs with low self esteem, is because they receive instant gratification when they touch the right target. When you are out with your dog, keep some treats handy and when they begin acting anxious focus their attention back on you by engaging them in targeting. They will soon forget why they were anxious and will be happy to have your full attention and a few treats.
Step
3
Keep them guessing
When using targeting as a way to house train, you definitely do not want to keep them guessing on the target. They must have a set target to signal their desire to go outside. However, when you are playing a game or trying to keep their attention focused on you, you have to keep changing out the target so they have to think and use their nose to find the treat. This is especially helpful when your dog is becoming increasingly anxious in a situation. They need to focus solely on you until they have calmed down and keeping the target the same would bore them.
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Agility

When you watch agility, you see happy, confident dogs. By teaching your dog agility, they will also build their self esteem because as they conquer each new obstacle it will make them feel good and they will work hard to earn your praise and a reward such as a treat or toy. The obstacles will seem scary and may overwhelm your timid dog, however, be patient and provide plenty of praise and treats. A seasoned agility dog can also help a timid dog learn how to perform each obstacle.

Trick Training

Dogs that have a specific job to perform will be a more confident dog. Teaching your dog a trick will help boost their self esteem. When teaching your dog a trick, consistency and praise are the way to build them up. Never scold or act angry with your dog during a training session. This will make them more anxious and will undo any confidence boosting activities you have already done.

Conclusion

Some dogs are born with a softer nature while others have had bad experiences that strip away their confidence and cause them to have low self esteem. It is their owner’s job to provide activities that will help them overcome their fears and build their confidence. There are numerous activities that will help give your dog’s self esteem a boost and do not be afraid to try a few to see which ones are the best fit for your dog. Just remember when working with a dog that has low self esteem to keep things lighthearted and give them plenty of praise and rewards.