For one reason or another, a dog may be scared. It could be that it is a rescue dog and there were incidents in the dogs past that has made it so, or it could just be that the dog has a naturally nervous disposition. Whatever the reason, these five highly effective tips will help build your dog’s confidence so walks in the park can be a more enjoyable experience for all.
Exposure to Their Fear
It could be that your dog’s fear manifests strongly in a particular situation. For example, the approach of a stranger when you are out for a walk could cause severe nervousness on your dog, who growls or puts his or her tail between the hind legs. Whatever the situation is, this technique involves gentle exposure to the fear, and then employ a rewards system by which you feed your dog treats for the duration of the exposure, and until it goes away. This works on two levels: first, your dog starts to become used to the situation, and secondly because your feeding of the treats reassures that your dog is doing a good job, and can distract them from their fear too. Just remember to start slowly with this particular technique as going in too fast could have a detrimental effect.
Dog Obedience classes help to instill strong behavioral patterns in your dog, and the experience itself will help to build the confidence that your dog is lacking. The overall effect is that your dog becomes more confident in general and will hopefully even learn to face their particular fears over the course of the training.
Participate in Group Activities
It may be that your dog is nervous around other dogs and suffers from some sort of social anxiety. Again, you need to desensitize slowly, as early over-exposure could have a detrimental effect, but participating in group activities, such as group dog walks or activity days is a great way for your dog to learn to be around other dogs.
Get a Buddy
Again, if your dog has a fear of other dogs, start small by getting a buddy who you regularly walk with, thus increasing your dog’s social circle. The ultimate aim may be group activities, but starting small is always recommended and in this way, your dog makes a new friend which always serves to increase confidence. It’s sociable for you as the owner too.
Go to a Professional
You may employ any of the tips previously mentioned and they may work a dream (but remember they will all take time to see a difference). However, in more extreme cases you will see little improvement in your dog’s behavior, and you may feel that a more extreme intervention is required.
Fortunately, there are professional dog trainersand even behavioral experts who you can engage to spend time with your dog and help him or her to break free from the fears that are holding your dog back. In most cases there will be a breakthrough, so professional help does indeed work, it is obviously just a slightly more expensive form of intervention.
If your dog does suffer from some form of severe nervousness or anxiety, or you simply find that he or she becomes overly scared in certain situations, there are important points to remember. First of all, start slowly with any exposure that you plan to give. Throwing your dog in at the deep end, as it would with a person suffering from the same complaint, would be highly detrimental. Go at this gently, and step by step.
Secondly, never get frustrated with your dog, and punishing them or shouting them will only make the situation worse. Understanding is required and will help your dog overcome their fears in the long run.