How to make your dog more confident
If you are searching for how to make your dog more confident you’ve come to the right place. We have done thorough research on this topic and setup four easy to read sections below. We have real world hands on experience fostering rescue dogs and building up their confidence. These tips are best when applied to young puppies but work for dogs of all ages as well. The process will just take a little longer the older the dog is.
If your dog is super aggressive and disobedient we recommend hiring a professional trainer but if your looking to buy a puppy or already have then you can start this process right away!
Where do I start?
There are 4 steps for building your dog’s confidence and training capability. What I consider the four most important things that it takes to create a highly confident dog.
This is something that I could literally speak hours about however for the sake of this article we’re gonna get through these main key elements in just a few minutes. The first topic I will be discussing is socialization.
A puppy's development
Birth to 21 days
During this period, the puppy has an extremely limited mental capacity and reacts only to her needs for warmth, food, and sleep. At the end of this period, the pup’s eyes begin to open, and as a result she begins to respond to movement and sounds.
21st to 28th Days
During this period, the puppy has an extremely limited mental capacity and reacts only to her needs for warmth, food, and sleep. At the end of this period, the pup’s eyes begin to open, and as a result she begins to respond to movement and sounds.
5th to 7th week
At this stage, the puppy is likely to begin to explore her surroundings and develop a greater social awareness of both her litter mates and any people she is exposed to. A social order within the litter starts to establish itself; it is most obvious at feeding times, when some pups fight confidently for food (the pups begin biting), while others wait passively. The pups’ mother begins weaning them and teaching them basic manners, especially in regard to taking food gently from her. If they are too rough, she will get up to walk away.
8th to 12th week
The pup’s ability to learn is at full capacity by this point. It is crucial to take advantage of this period so that you can make the most of your pup’s ability to learn so much in such a short time. Your pup;s bladder and bowel muscles are starting to develop, and some pups at this age can sleep through the night.
13th to 16th week
During this period, the puppy is likely to begin asserting herself and displaying greater independence much like a toddler. It is especially important to control resources (food, toys, attentions, and the environment) so that they are useful as tools to teach your pup to behave politely, especially in regard to curbing nipping.
17th to 24th week
At this stage, the puppy is much like a 13-year old child. The pup is likely to demonstrate greater independence and may seem to be challenging you every step of the way. She is coping with the pain of teething as well as the hormonal changes that result from moving toward sexual maturity.
25th to 72nd week
During this period of young adulthood, the pup is likely to be full of energy and exuberance. It is crucial that you continue to help her focus that energy in positive ways and improve her understanding of how you want her to behave so that she can mature into the dog of your dreams!
Socialization is one of the most fundamentally important concepts that you should do with your dog at a very young age.
Socialization is what teaches your dog proper interaction among other dogs, people and even other animals.
Do your best to socialize your dog with a lot of people,dogs and animals as a puppy.
The most important time frame to socialize your dog is between three to twelve weeks of age. Generally, the average person does not get the dog until they’re eight weeks of age. So from eight to twelve weeks it’s very important that you’re socializing your dog as much as humanly possible.
You may be told that you don’t want to socialize your dog until he’s had all of his shots. To me, that’s ridiculous. As soon as you get a dog at eight weeks old socialization should begin right then and there. You just have been smart about it.
My vet said i should wait to socialize my dog
You may hear a lot of “my vet told me not to socialize them with the dogs until he has all of his shots”. From a dog training standpoint I think that’s absurd. You need to socialize them as much as humanly possible between eight to twelve weeks.
Just be very aware of where you’re taking them to socialize if he hasn’t had all his vaccinations.
Where are you taking your dog to get their vaccinations?
To the Vet right?
What are you doing before you go inside the vet clinic?
You’re letting your dog sniff around and use the restroom outside. Maybe walking around the parking lot and the grass area?
This is one of the worst areas to take your dog because there are hundreds of dogs going to the vet which are going to the restroom in that same spot.
So the vet that is telling you not to socialize your dog because he hasn’t had all of his vaccinations is contradicting themselves. You’re going to that vet clinic where hundreds and thousands of dogs a week and a month are using the restroom.
Why do i need to socialize my dog?
Some dogs are fine with small dogs but they’re not fond of big dogs. There are dogs that are fine with one race of people but they react aggressively at another race of people.
The reason things like this happen is because the dog wasn’t well socialized enough with a wide variety of people and a wide variety of dogs at a young age. So you have to make a very conscious effort to ensure you’re socializing your dog with a wide variety of people and dogs.
I would say 90% of people aggressive dogs or dog aggressive dogs lack socialization at a young age. In my opinion it’s pretty ridiculous for you not have done socialization with your dog. There’s really no excuse for it. I can understand not doing noise desensitization, object desensitization but there’s no excuse not to do socialization. Almost everyone knows that it’s something you should do. Not everyone knows about noise desensitization or object desensitization but everyone knows about socialization with people and dogs.
It's free and easy!
You can go to your neighbors house, your friends, your family. You can take them to Pet Smart on the weekends where there’s other dogs. There are other dog owners there that see your cute little puppy and will gladly come up and start petting him. They may even start giving him treats. This is something that’s completely free to do something and really doesn’t take any time at all. You’re going on a walk anyway, right? You have to go to the pet store anyway, right? So take your puppy with you. By the time your dog is 12 weeks old you should have introduced him to 50 – 60 people and 50-60 dogs. Or whatever amount you choose. You can even go up to 100 people and dogs!
Socializing your dog is something that’s completely free to do. One of the best things you can do to build your dog’s confidence and give you a stable and confident dog is completely free. It doesn’t cost any money whatsoever.
It is one of the biggest mistakes you can make if you do not socialize your dog
Not socializing your puppy at a young age is one of the worst mistakes that you can make. When they get older you increase the risk of them being aggressive towards other people and dogs. You may not be able to take your dog to public places if they act aggressive. Taking your dog on a hike or a walk will be a chore opposed to a fun experience. If your dog is barking at everything and scared of everything both you and your dog are having a bad experience.
Dogs are animals with animal instincts. They are born with the protective and territorial instincts. They are also very loving, fun and happy animals. It is our job as their owners to show them there is nothing to be afraid of and that the world is a safe place. Doing this at a young age between 8 – 12 weeks is a lot easier than when they are older.
Where and how to socialize?
When socializing your young dog stay away from dog parks. Focus on taking him to places like a friends house where it’s just one other dog. Socializing one on one, one on two or small groups of dogs is ideal. Don’t take them to a doggy daycare pre-vaccination. Focus on socializing your dog with friends, family, neighbors and one-on-one with friendly confident dogs. It is really important that your dog is socializing with other dogs that are well behaved dogs. A well behaved dog is going to give your dog a positive experience which is really important.
Much like toddlers and babies, puppies are very impressionable at a young age. So you want to ensure they have all positive experiences in that eight to twelve week period of socialization. So it is crucial that you do not socialize with any dogs that you do not know very well. Make sure you know the dog you’re socializing your puppy with.
Maybe your condo only allows small dogs, so naturally it’s only small dogs in your dog’s living area. If that’s the case you need to try to take your dog out to other places like pet stores, friends houses and other dog friendly places.
Socialize your dog with all sizes of dogs
Final notes on socializing
Socialize your dog as much as humanly possible from 8 to 12 weeks. That’s really the key window that you want to target for. After 12 weeks it starts to get a little more difficult and after 18 weeks it really starts to get harder. So 8 to 12 weeks is your target window for socialization and interaction with people, dogs and other animals.
Ensure that you’re really diversifying the types of dogs and the types of people that you’re socializing your dog with and around.
It should go without saying but try to make sure all these interactions are positive.
Look for well balanced, positive, happy dogs to interact your dog with. The same applies with people. All of these interactions should be positive. If they have a negative reaction with a certain type of person or dog then they could hold a grudge in the back of their head for the rest of their lives.
Make multiple mental notes on this. Ensure they’re all positive experiences.
Lastly, stay away from dog parks. You never know what types of dog you may encounter at the dog park. There are big dogs, aggressive dogs, intrusive dogs and a handful of other types that could leave a emotional scar on your pup. Wait until they’re older and more confident before releasing them into the big dog world.
#2. Object Desensitization
Object desensitization is pretty simple, it’s just the act of getting your dog used to different objects.
Walking on different terrain, surfaces and textures feels weird on a dogs feet. With object desensitization you see a lot of the place command.
The place command is essentially object desensitization as you will see in some training videos. Dogs who initially are afraid to walk on to a wooden platform will literally do everything in its power not step on the plank.
But, after they have been desensitized to it, you’ll see the dog jumping up on to all sorts of objects like fire hydrants. Literally jumping and sitting on fire hydrants and five foot tall platforms and three inch wide walls.
So all of this is because instead of letting the dog avoid what they’re afraid of we instead work them through and build their confidence up.
So we took a dog who is scared and skittish of getting on this new thing – now they’re just doing mind-blowing things and this is all happening and three or four days or even less sometimes an hour.
Exposing your dog to different objects
When it comes to different objects try to expose your dog to everything. As many objects, as many heights, as many textures and as many surfaces as humanly possible.
Dogs that are afraid of tile floors and going up and down stairs due to the lack of object desensitization. As a puppy, start putting your dog on a wide variety of surfaces, textures and elevations. Make it a very positive experience for him. It is recommended to start doing this at eight weeks of age.
Praise him with food, verbally and whatever motivates your dog. If you do this on an ongoing basis your dog will be highly confident.
Police and Military dogs do object desensitization
Training your dog to be comfortable with as many textures and objects will make him very confident. He’ll go anywhere and walk through anything.
This is how police and military dogs are seen jumping through car windows, jumping through tires, over walls and so forth is due to object desensitization.
Military working dogs are exposed to various surfaces and obstacle as puppies. Instead of letting them be afraid of it they work through it which in turn builds their confidence
#3. Obedience training
Obedience training is extremely important in the confidence-building process.
If you look at the most obedient dogs in the world such as Police or Military dogs they all have one thing in common, amazing confidence and amazing obedience. The reason is because it is so much easier to build a dog’s confidence when they are really great with obedience.
For example, if you are trying to do noise desensitization with a dog who doesn’t listen whatsoever it’s hard to get them to hold a position or to recall. If they hear a loud noise or if you have a highly obedient dog and maybe they jump up from a place when you fired off a gun. With highly obedient dogs you can quickly use a verbal command to put them back at rest.
Obedience allows you to do a lot of things that’s very important to create a confident dog. Things such as door manners and taking your dog new places to expose him to different noises objects and people.
No one wants to take a dog to a wide variety of places that’s dragging them down the street and doesn’t listen.
Obedience, just by doing it as a byproduct you’re creating a more confident dog. You’re getting them mentally stimulated and physically stimulated.
You’re taking them to more places because they’re a pleasure to be around.
Obedience is a really important part of the confidence-building process what I say all the time is if you show me a highly obedient, well socialized, really desensitized dog it’s almost very slim that you’ll ever have any major issues with a dog. If you’ve stuck to those main key elements of confidence-building
Obedience training tips
Before you start training
Before you attempt training your dog it is crucial that you get them centered. It is very important to make sure before you start to train your dog that they have had their exercise. Give them plenty of exercise and then let them cool down. Then you can start their training session.
Dogs need their walk every day. They need their run and that’s one thing that will distract them especially if they’re younger in the puppy ages. So if your dog isn’t listening to you or wanting to obey any commands it’s probably due to his high energy. Go run him around the block a few times before expecting him to listen.
Who the pack leader is
The first thing you must teach your dog is who the pack leader is. Which by now I hope you are aware of whom that is. If you don’t well, we’re in trouble.
You want to make sure that your dog understands that they are not in charge of you. Dogs work different than humans. As humans we don’t need necessarily be dominant with each other. Humans generally don’t walk around asking who the boss is and who not the boss is. With a dog, it is very important to make sure he understands that he has to listen to even the youngest one in the family. Additionally, your dog needs to listen to the most passive one in the family also.
Becoming the Pack Leader
By doing this you will be the pack leader and the dog will listen to you because they are not in charge of the household. Now one way to do this is to just firmly tell the dog that you’re in charge. Using a loud stern voice should get your dogs attention and make them submissive towards you. If this does not work for you put the dog on its back and then put your hand next to his neck and apply some pressure.
This will show your dog that you have dominance over him. It is very important that you are in charge and every single one in the family can go through this process.
Teaching your dog to sit is very important in having an obedient dog. A good tip for teaching your dog to sit is by gently pulling up on the head. You can push down on the butt a little bit and then lift up on the head a little bit.
You should see immediate results when you do this. Once they sit praise them real loud and enthusiastically saying “good sit, good sit”. You have to show your dog that you’re very happy with him and he’s being a good boy. When they’re just sitting around the house you can just say right to them “Good sit! Good sit!” Go up to him, pet him and get those silly high voice pitches praising him.
Be sure to show excitement and praise!
Now, when you ask them to sit if they do it then go crazy again. If they don’t, make your voice deeper, and then go over and tell them by manually pulling their head up and pushing their butt down. After they sit praise them again and say good sit and go crazy.
Love is the best way to train a dog. You don’t ever want to hit a dog or scream at them. It really gets you nowhere. Your dog will become afraid of you and when this happens they can become more stubborn. You can ruin a dog by scolding them or hitting them. Especially sensitive dogs like a Golden Retriever. You have to be careful with your tone of your voice and even your hand movements.
The second most important command to teach your dog is stay. Stay is very important because if you have a dog that takes of running out the front door or gets loose from the leash you don’t want them to run into danger. Traffic, aggressive dogs and even mean people can be a threat to a loose dog.
By teaching them stay you can prevent your dog from going to another dog that might be more dominant and potentially get in a fight. So this is very important. By having your dog just lying down and staying you say “good stay, good stay”. Stay is very important because you want your dog to stay if there’s a car coming or if there’s a kid that’s afraid of the dog. You to take your dog in all kinds of environments and practice stay.
Work your dog through the process of different temptations like other dogs, wildlife, and people.
Once they stay you must go crazy with praise. To the point where your dog knows you’re happy and he is being good. Pet them really frantically and just get all excited with a high voice. Giving them treats is also a great way to reward your dog.
If they don’t listen to you use a deep voice. If you’re women you should try and use a very deep voice when training a dog. Switch to a high voice when your dog is doing well and listening.
Third on the list is the come command. Come is very important because this is how you get your dog come to you when he is running. Some dogs like the Australian Shepherds and Healers will stick right by your side. These are herding dogs that naturally stick next to you. Some dogs like to bolt and run which is very common. So it’s very important to teach your dog to listen to you with come.
One trick with using come is when they walk to you naturally just say “good come, good come”. Just like the other commands, use that high pitch voice and be really excited about it when they do. They will begin to start understanding this command when they’re naturally doing something.
Different Enviroments for advanced training
#4. Lay down
Lay down is a very important command because when you bring a friend over and your dog loves this friend they will try spending time with them. Having appetizers and food you don’t want your dog sitting there begging. Also just giving your friend too much attention can be annoying to some people. By saying “go lay down” and having your dog do so is very important.
Pick a praise and stick with it
It’s very important to be able to have your dog lay down on command. What dog doesn’t like to lie down? This is an easier trick to teach your dog. When your dog is lying on the ground simply say “good lay, good lay”.
Go up to your dog and pet him which they’ll love. You can use a hand command by taking your hand and lowering it to the ground and saying “lay down”. This will tell let them know that that hand motion will mean to lay down. This way you can say it without even using a word.
Heel is very important when walking on a leash. You probably see dogs pulling their owners in public quite often which is the result of a heel “fail”. When I see people with dogs pulling their owners I ask myself who is walking who?
Teaching your dog heel is probably one of the hardest things to teach your dog. It is not unachievable it just takes a little bit more time to teach. Some dogs don’t need a tough leash, most dogs need a choker. A choker basically just pulls on the neck and you’re able to get a little tension on the neck and that gets them to actually start healing with you.
A proper heal entails the dog to be at a loose distance next to you.
The leash shouldn’t be pulling away from you or tight at all. When you stop the dog should stop. Having a dog that knows heel makes walking so much better. Some dogs naturally heel and follow their owners every step. While other dogs just pull and tug, making it an unpleasant experience for everyone.
When you’re teaching your dog how to heel and the dog starts getting in front of you just stop in your tracks. Make the dog walk backwards back to you. Your dog should not be walking in front at anytime. You are the pack leader and you control the walks.
Stay dominant and maintain full control of your dog
The most important time to start training your dog commands is anywhere from six to nine months. In that range you should make sure the dogs go out and get with kids. They should hear loud noises, take car rides, walk on different terrain etc.
There’s a crucial two week window in that six to nine months window. Whatever your dog has experienced or it experiencing in that window it will be okay with it with the rest of your life. I did everything with my dog. But I didn’t realize I was not running on trails that have cars. I didn’t take him on sidewalks, I just did trail runs and then all of a sudden I was at that year mark. I realized he’s afraid of walking next to cars and he cowers a little bit.
Introduce them to as many environments as possible when young
It is very important to make sure you get your dog in every environment as you can when they’re young. It took me roughly six months to train him out of the fear of cars and it took probably a solid year just to get it a hundred percent.
#4. Noise Desensitization
It is vital to expose very young pups to a variety of noises. Especially during the first few weeks of life, as their ears are opening. This exposure enables developing pups to become accustomed to loud and potentially scary noises in a gradual fashion. Getting accustomed to many different sounds is a key ingredient in creating a dog that gets to experience and enjoy lots of social situations throughout his life.
When familiarizing a puppy with various sounds, perhaps the most important precaution you can take is it ensures that the puppy has been raised indoors. Not in a barn, not in a kennel but inside a home, this is where you will want her to be her whole life. Ideally she will be situated in an area where she has exposure to the comings and goings of the household.
This precaution is especially important with south-sensitive breeds, such as guarding breeds. If you have done your homework and chosen a pup that has been raised inside a home or in a shelter that provides an enriching environment, then you know she is already off to a great start.
Getting started with noise desensitization
Noise desensitization is very simple. Desensitizing your dog to noise allows your dog to overcome fear of loud noises such as fireworks, cars backfiring, lightning, and thunder and so on. Anytime you see a dog jump up and take off running after hearing a loud bang is simply because the dog doesn’t have noise desensitization incorporated into his training program.
When you do this you never have issues with your dog being afraid of lightning, fireworks, gunshots or other loud noises. These are all things that you can start doing as a puppy and they very quickly become very confident and learn to just simply ignore these things.
When to start desensitizing your dog to noise?
Noise desensitization is something that you can start doing with your dog as early as a puppy at eight weeks. When they’re eight weeks old play tug of war with them and always let them win. As they’re playing tug of war make loud noises by banging spoons together or hitting a plastic container.
What this does, without the dog realizing it, is desensitizes them to loud noises. You can also do this anytime the puppy is sitting down or minding his own business. Just run around bang on stuff, get really crazy with it. Jump up and down rattle cans open and slam the door, run the vacuum etc. Doing all of this is considered noise desensitization. This will help build up your dog’s confidence significantly when done as a puppy.
The problem is that a lot of people instead of getting their dog used to loud noises they let their dog avoid it.
Maybe your dog hears a loud noise and he runs and hides. I never let that be the case with any of our dogs. If I find something they’re afraid of I work them through it. This allows them to become desensitized to it. Which in turn makes your dog more confident.
A lot of owners unknowingly reinforce the behavior of fear to their dog at a very young age. For example, you have a new three four month old lab that hears his first lightning storm and comes running to you. Of course, what do you do? You scoop him up you comfort him and pet him. You tell him “it’s okay Fido, it’s just a little storm”.
Comfort is just another word for praise
Essentially, what you’re doing is you’re praising your dog for being fearful of that loud noise.
What’s the difference between comfort and praise?
When you’re comforting your dog when he’s afraid you’re going to use cute puppy voice saying “its okay, it’s okay”.
Chances are when your dog does well you use that same voice saying “Good boy! Good boy!” which to them is the same exact thing. So essentially you’re praising your dog for the behavior of fear which is really bad for a lot of reasons. Imagine if every time your kid was scared you gave them ice cream. That’s pretty much what you’re doing to the dog as you’re reinforcing to them with the behavior of fear equals praise and reward.
Instead of comforting your dog when he’s afraid what you need to do is not pay any attention to them. Do not show that his fearful behavior gets positive attention. What you should being doing instead is acting like it’s no big deal. If you stick to this technique, generally the dogs quickly figure out it’s not a big deal as well.
The solution is never letting the dog avoid it or run from it because eventually you’re going to run into a real world situation where you can’t just simply tuck the dog away.
Dog’s are smart, they’re gonna get out of your backyard. Maybe they hear that firework on the 4th of July and jump the fence. They could potentially take off running and you’ll never see them again.
Flooding Your Dog with subtle noise To Help Desensitize
Another thing you can do and I highly recommend is called flooding. Flooding is very simple, it entails finding something your dog is afraid of and flood them with it. If your dog is afraid of the vacuum then attach a leash to your dog and vacuum next to him every single day.
When your dog is afraid of fireworks or thunder put him in sit position and replicate that noise on the TV or even your phone. If he breaks the sit out of fear, which generally they will, immediately put them back in the sit position and replicate that noise again.
Repeat that process until the dog no longer reacts negatively and as soon as he gives a good reaction praise and then release from the sit position. This is why obedience is important to help incorporate confidence-building. It’s really hard to do loud noises with a dog that doesn’t listen. Training your dog to be obedient is a crucial part of confidence-building.
Your dog is not allowed to be afraid
Have you ever known of a person getting over a fear of heights without going to a high place?How many kids have ever gotten over the fear of the dark by never sitting in the dark? A dog is the same exact way. I’ve never seen a dog get over his fear of a vacuum without ever being around a vacuum. I’ve never seen a dog get over his fear of getting on a new object without getting on a new object. So the only way to get them over those fears is by making them do them repeatedly and making it a positive experience. Once they do and are filled with a lot of praise you’ll be amazed how awesome your dog’s confidence becomes.
Or you should definitely incorporate it yourself. Confidence building is one of the most underrated and least talked about things in dog training. Building a dog’s confidence means everything to a dog. Look at the best dogs in the world like the military and police dogs. They’re some of the most confident dogs in the world. Confidence breeds success with people and with dogs so make it your goal to start incorporating noise desensitization into your training habits every single day. If you do this you’ll be amazed at how much your dog’s confidence and obedience and stability will all increase in a very short amount of time.
If you are working with the trainer who has not incorporated confidence building into your dog’s training, you should probably find a new trainer.
What do they all have in common?
So the key is is to build their confidence and work them through it verse letting them avoid it or letting them hide from it.
There are a lot of videos where you can see this done on YouTube channels. The bulk of accomplishing this is slowly building your dog up to that noise. Maybe have your dog on a place or a sit command and shoot a gun 75 yards away, get them used to that then 50 yards followed by 30 then 25 then 10 then 5 and over a very quick period of time you can literally be shooting a gun or a firework a foot from your dog and they literally will completely ignore it.