There are a lot of myths out there about dogs, and one of the most enduring is the idea that every canine is either dominant or submissive. In fact, this old story was developed from observing wolves, not domesticated dogs.
More modern theories of dog behavior help us understand that a canine can exhibit dominant or submissive behavior depending on the situation but, just like people, the emotional lives of dogs are far more complicated than this simple black and white picture.
Instead of using dominance or submission to judge a mentally fit dog, professional trainers focus on building a confident dog. Confident dogs are less likely to exhibit fear-based aggression, tend to get along better with other dogs, and approach new situations with a positive attitude.
Read on to find out more about how to help your dog become more confident!
Giving your dog confidence is one of the most important behavior traits that you can possibly give them! When canines are insecure, they can easily be pushed into “fight or flight” mode. This means they perceive threats that aren’t even there, and may bite or growl in self-defense or run into oncoming traffic in a panic.
A confident dog has a higher threshold before they will behave defensively. This means you have a safer and happier dog!
The length of time it takes to teach confidence depends on many factors, most notably, your individual companion’s history. If your dog tends to be fearful already, then the process will take a little longer. Be patient and look for opportunities to reward your pup for calm, curious and confident behavior and you will start to see results within a week to a month in most cases.
Confidence is important for all life stages. However, there are different aspects to focus on for puppies, adults and dogs that are already insecure from abuse, neglect or trauma. We will offer three different methods for building confidence so that all your bases are covered!
Training your dog to be confident is an ongoing and continuous process. It is a way of interacting with your dog that teaches them that the world is a safe place, as long as they follow basic manners.
Identify some things your dog loves, such as:
• A game of toss
• A small food reward
• Tug games
Once you know what they love, you are ready to look for opportunities to let them know they are a good dog. Good behavior does not need to always be commanded. Sometimes it is great to just notice that your canine is offering up a great 'sit' and make a big deal out of it. Who doesn’t love some unexpected praise?
Below are some more tips for how to train your dog to be confident, depending on their life stage and insecurity level.