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.
His siblings and parents are very social, and he lived in the same house for almost a year. But he is afraid of almost everyone, when I walk him, he tries to hide and starts shaking and curling up of someone is within a certain proximity. He is non aggressive, very beta. He was very relaxed and chill as a young puppy as well. He's been willing to go outside, and even meet new dogs when we moved. But I can't get him to open up to other people
Hello Caleb, First, I will say working with a training group that has several trainers so that people who are experienced with fear can practice being "strangers" during the session will help the training go a lot faster than doing this on your own, so that might be worth considering. I would start by desensitizing him to walking past strangers using the concepts of the passing approach method from the article linked below - this method is related to dogs, but the concepts of passing someone over and over again while working on obedience and rewarding good responses of calmness, tolerance, and focus on you, rather than fear responses. Gradually decreasing the distance between him and the people who are helping you as he improves - the important part is to look for not only a lack of fear aggressive response but specifically for times when pup is actually in a calmer mindset and reward that. Passing Approach method: https://wagwalking.com/training/greet-other-dogs As pup improves and can handle being close to people, then people can practice being in closer quarters (with safety measures as needed to avoid a fear bite), and tossing treats to pup when he is responding calmly around them. Have the people toss treats while acknowledging him very little when he does well. For example, instruct the person not to look at pup directly while tossing the treat, then they can look but not talk to, then they can talk but not touch. Letting pup ease into more interaction gradually as they build confidence with practice. When pup can handle being around people in general in a variety of situations, then have people give him commands and let him work for the treat rewards to further build trust. Finally, have them go on walks with you, where you can hand off the leash to the other person and pup will follow them also, so that pup is working with and following more people in a calm, respect and trust, based relationship. I can be hard to do all of this at the pace need, with the right body language and speed pup needs, so this is often much easier when working with a great training group who has a staff of trainers for pup to get used to lots of people in rotation, not just the one trainer. Always take safety measures like back-ties, going at a safe training pace, reading body language, and using a basket muzzle if needed, to keep everyone involved in training and interactions safe since a fear bite is always a risk with a fearful dog. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Very submissive. Other dogs dominate him very easily. He barks at strangers but wouldn't hurt a fly. I want him to be more confident, territorial and dominant.
Hello, First, know that territorial and dominant behavior often increases with mental maturity between one and two years of age. I wouldn't encourage anything related to aggression at this age. I would however work on confidence. Teaching pup things where pup can successfully overcome new things, like obstacles and mental challenges can help to build confidence. Calm consistent leadership can also help. Check out the video linked below. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elvtxiDW6g0 I would also work on desensitizing pup to things they are nervous around. Like when you are on a walk and pup first sees another dog or person walking by, before they act nervous, while they are still thinking about the other dog or person - give a treat and act up beat about the situation. If you wish to formally train pup to guard your property, a professional protection trainer can be hired for any bite work and formal training once pup is past one year, if pup has been well socialized and learned obedience during their first year of life with you, to have the confidence and attention to you needed. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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He’s over friendly nd over excited dog i want to make him a little protective and a calm dog
Hi there! This is a multi-fold process, and a lot of it has to do with maturity, which will come time goes on. Usually at about 9 months, dogs become a bit more secure in themselves. But in the mean time, you can practice the tipe below to speed the process along. 1. Work on obedience training. Daily obedience work, even when it is only for a short time, provides submissive dogs with a lot of confidence. Family members are proud of dogs that perform on command and dogs pick up on this feeling. If the obedience training is harsh, though, a submissive dog will just get worse. Find a positive reinforcement and reward-based training class in your area. If the trainer works with a discipline-based system, it is not appropriate for a submissive dog. 2. Socialize your dog as much as possible to make them adaptable. The sensitive socialization period for your dog ended when she was a puppy, about 15 weeks of age, but she can still be socialized as an older dog, it is just going to take a lot more work. To socialize your dog, take her out as much as possible, let her meet new people, let her meet your friends dogs (if they are friendly with other dogs), and let her run free at the dog park so that she will meet new dogs. (Some dogs will be too nervous to play at the dog park so this phase may only come later.) 3. Give your dog a job or get her involved in a canine sport. Most dogs are not able to "work", however, so in order to give them an activity to build their confidence, it is a good idea to get them involved in one of the canine sports. Flyball, agility, Frisbee, dock diving, and other activities may be available in your area. 4. Use counter-conditioning techniques to help her overcome fear. This is the best but also the hardest (for you!) of the methods available to treat a submissive dog. For each thing that your dog is afraid of, you have to train her to have a pleasant feeling. When a dog is no longer afraid of the situation, he is confident and no longer going to be submissive. If you decide to try to build her confidence through counter-conditioning, the first thing you have to identify is the trigger. What is stimulating your dog to be so submissive? If she is only afraid of one thing it is easier to train her; unfortunately, most submissive dogs are afraid of almost everything. Spend some time with your dog to become familiar with her fears. The next step is to teach him that the scary thing is actually a good thing. When she is exposed to the scary object, give her a tasty treat and let her relax around the object without any pressure. The final step in counter-conditioning your dog to face her fears is to expose her and not provide a treat or even notice that he is being exposed. If you need more help on using counter-conditioning, the animal behaviorist Patricia McConnell has a book that I have found to be useful. The techniques are great and will help your dog develop confidence but as with most behavior modification, takes patience and persistence. Please let me know if you have additional questions. Thanks for writing in!
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