Tips For Training Low
A common problem in dogs is low confidence. This can be caused by many things, such as being the lowest pup in the litter, being mistreated, not being socialized as a pup, having a traumatic experience, etc. Or it can just be a personality trait. More and more dogs are exhibiting signs of having low confidence levels, probably because of the increasing amount of stress in the owners lives. These signs include:
- shyness and cowering around strangers, men, adults, etc.
In order to help a low confidence dog, you must build up his or her confidence. The best way to do this is through obedience training. As the dog succeeds, he will gain confidence in his abilities. Here are some guidelines.
Consistency is one of the keys to raising a dogs confidence. Always use your dogs name before giving a command. Always use the same command for the same action. "Down" means "lie down now", not "dont jump" or "get off the couch". Never use your dogs name if you must correct. Say "no", and only as forcefully as needed to get a response. Dont display anger or emotion. Dogs pick up on your emotions and low confidence dogs are often very sensitive and easily affected by your emotions.
Praise your dog for every single thing she does right. If she makes a mistake, consider it your fault and try to find a way to get her to succeed. For example, if she breaks a sit because of excitement over your praise, gently put her back and this time release her before praising. Do not correct her unless you are sure that she is purposely testing you. This is uncommon in low confidence dogs. Correcting for misunderstanding or fear will only make matters worse.
Rather than forcing your dog to do something, try to induce him through encouragement, praise, and even food rewards to begin with. However, dont baby or coddle him because this will encourage his fearful behavior. Act happy and confident and your dog will pick up on it.
Part of ensuring that your dog succeeds is working in a very quiet, non-distracting environment, such as alone in your home. Once your dog is performing well, take your dog outside where there are mild distractions. Move on to a fairly quiet playground, then a noisy playground, until you can heel your dog through a crowd. Of course this will take LOTS of time. If your dog appears upset or fearful in a given situation, then you are proceeding too fast.
In order for your dog to gain confidence, she must succeed. If you are going to give a command, say the dogs name clearly and give the command in a calm purposeful voice. Dont give a command if you think your dog may not respond (for example if she is excited or distracted). Remember that with a low confidence dog, your primary goal is not flawless obedience, but rather to build her confidence.
If you begin with commands such as "Sit" and "Heel", your dog will probably not feel threatened. However, the "Down" is a very submissive posture. Forcing a low confidence dog into a Down at the beginning of training may only cause him to act more submissive. When you do teach the "Down", use encouragement and rewards dont force him down.
In order to minimize confusion on the part of your dog, work on only one command at a time. Make sure your dog has mastered the exercise before moving on.
Finally, get involved in agility, flyball, group obedience, herding clubs, etc. Basically, you should take part in any group activity you can find that your dog enjoys. In doing this, your dog will be building confidence by learning new skills, as well as socializing with other dogs and people. These are ideal environments for socializing because the other dogs (and people) will generally be friendly, well behaved, and under control.