Can a Dog Feel Self-Esteem?

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Introduction

Planet earth is home to humans with self-esteem who believe in the impossible and their ability to achieve it. Wild animals walk the wilderness with a cultivated sense of esteem, knowing their place in nature and how to sustain their lifestyle. 

Dogs are a little different, as they have been chosen by man to be a companion and efficient work-mate. Their wild, wolf ancestry has been tamed with consequences as to how they view the world. Many see it through our eyes and if they feel a certain sense of self it is because we encourage it. Some dogs don’t fare so well and evolve with owners who have no self-worth. 

As their guardians, we have the power in our hands to get it right. Do you think a dog can feel self-esteem?

Signs a Dog Can Feel Self-Confidence

If you’ve ever been to a dog show and looked behind the scenes, you’ll notice the diva dogs getting buzzed at the thought of entering the ring. Do they think they are winners or are the pre-show emotions being generated by their owners, making the dogs feel confident?

The petite Papillon being called for their class will lift up their little paws and step into the ring, exhibiting a classy pooch with perked ears, elevated head, and a graceful gait. If the judge awards them best dog in show, the joy from their owner will be felt by their pretty Papillon who will leave the ring knowing they were simply the best.

A happy dog is at peace with their world and exhibits a casual body language with chilled out looking ears, mouth open and tongue hanging loose. Their eyes will be soft and welcoming, while their body stance is super-relaxed. This dog wags their tail cheerfully and loves nothing more than to play-bow and initiate fun. They cruise through life with a positive approach, seeing the food bowl as half full rather than half empty. They are also approachable, friendly, and an all-around “good guy” kind of pup. Dogs with a degree of esteem are content with their owners.

Dogs that have been in the company of people with low self-esteem can reflect their owner’s personal mantra. These pups hang their heads low and avert your eyes, showing the whites of theirs. With a tucked-in tail and furrowed brow, these submissive souls depict a nervous pup that can bite if it feels threatened or backed into a corner.

Body Language

Signs a dog could have low self-esteem include:
  • Furrowed brow
  • Tail tucking
  • Averting eyes
  • Biting
  • Whimpering
  • Cowering
  • Back hair on edge
  • Whale eye
  • Exposed teeth

Other Signs

Signs a dog can feel high self-esteem are:
  • Wagging their tail
  • Happy behvaior
  • Relaxed body language
  • Play-bowing

History of Dogs Feeling Low Self-Esteem

Unless you’ve been living on Mars or been up in a space station for some time, you’d be familiar with wild wolves being related to dogs and sharing around 98% of the same DNA.

The fact that wolves are free and survive in the wild leads one to theorize their self-esteem would be in pretty good shape as long as their food supply was plentiful and man, their modern-day predator, was not a massive threat. Wolves were once kind enough to join up with humans so we got our beautiful Boxers, Griffins, Chihuahua, and Mastiffs.

A sanctuary dedicated to helping wolf/dogs who have been abandoned or mistreated by owners that misunderstood the wolf influence in their makeup, tells how these broken creatures are feeling the pain.

Bohi Tree shares the story of Wolf Connection, a place of healing begun by Teo Alfero, a family interventionist who already had a wolf/dog pup and became a foster parent to a pack of 16 wolf/dogs. These persecuted pups were traumatized by past owners and the only way they could survive was for him to create a special place where this mixed breed could live. Since he worked with foster children who had come from homes of neglect, the idea of setting up a program was born where kids could heal with the wolves.

He found this majestic creature to be a deep-spirited soul capable of feeling great hurt like humans. His sanctuary helps both kids and wolves to find their way through human disrespect and create a healthy self-esteem.

The separation of dogs from wolves is thousands of years in the making and although our pooches are considered to be man’s best friend, there is a need to protect them and their wolf/dog counterparts from humans with low self-esteem.

Science Suspects Dogs are Self-Aware

According to the The Daily Mail, a study performed at the Barnard College, US found dogs to be self-aware. Using a “sniff test of recognition”, they took urine samples of pooches and their owners to find our woofers were able to identify their own scent.

While humans use their eyes to navigate their environment, dogs have a master-class sense of smell that tells them all the ingredients in the pot of stew cooking on the stove to the scent of a person trapped under rubble after an earthquake has struck. Up until now, tests have been based on how humans see themselves, but they are now aware the animal kingdom uses their sensory powers differently.

Dog owners know their pooches can recognize their own scent when their Pointer marks a lamp-post, then the next day, checks it out. We see our face in the mirror while a dog recognizes themselves through their scent. We need to appreciate that different species have their own way of acknowledging who they are. This opens the door to doggy awareness and hopefully, a better deal for their safety on this planet.

Creating a Self-Confident Dog

In various stages of an ever-changing cycle of life, our self-esteem can be suitably healthy or in great need of repair. This is the age of self-awareness and the internet is packed to the ceiling with self-help ideas to get us feeling on top of the world. While we have all the support, our dogs may be struggling to feel any sense of self-worth.

It can start at an early age, with a junior dog getting their first glimpse of a chaotic life with breeders of ill-repute. The cute Bichon puppy you bring home may already have known trauma as you wonder why they hide behind the curtain and whimper when you approach.

This little guy has already met humans with a lowly sense of self and now your job is to show them life can be cool walks in the park with a loving owner who offers food, shelter, and tons of toys to play with.

The same goes for rescue dogs that have known the dark side of human nature and could do with a refresher course in human kindness. Building a pup's self-confidence takes positive encouragement as you work to gain trust in a dog whose early experiences with humans have been disenchanting.

The first rule of thumb is not to punish a mutt who’s fearful. This will only increase their belief that humans are heartless and they may respond with aggression. You need your anxious pooch to know you have their back and will take charge in any situation of danger. Like people who have phobias and cannot leave their home for fear of facing the unknown, your dog may not have been socialized, so everything they see or fear could send them into an emotional overdrive.

A pessimistic pooch is not a happy dog so turning their mood into an up-vibed woofer who loves life can take time. A negative person might think the plane they are about to get on is destined to crash while others may see the adventure and fun of traveling to a new land. Dogs share this ability to see the negative over the positive and top trainer, Victoria Stilwell, has a few tips to raise your dog's self-esteem.

Taking your dog to new places and sharing different experiences is a great way to build confidence in a gloomy Griffin. They’ll look forward to jumping in the car and not knowing where their guardian is taking them. Some anxious dogs may find this scary, but in time they'll learn to enjoy the ride. Playing games can be good for building optimism and getting that well-earned treat. A dreary Dachshund could find they are having fun and embrace the new feeling.

How to React When Your Dog Feels More Self-Confident:

  • Praise them for the action.
  • Give them a toy or treats.
  • Spend time playing games and going for walks.
  • Never punish them or use force training tactics.
  • Implement positive encouragement training strategies.
  • Contact a dog trainer for advice.
  • Share your journey and story.
  • Read articles about dogs with low-self esteem and how their owners helped them become confident.

We Want to Hear About Your Dog's Self-Esteem!