Three games to play at home to boost your dog’s confidence!
Do you think your dog is not very confident? It is possible! But don’t worry. Most dogs are somewhere in the middle between a super confident and one that would be labeled as timid. Read this article, try these excercises and boost your dog’s confidence!
1. One favorite game to play is the “anything goes” game
It´s not a shaping game per se – because there is no end goal and no criterion – but it looks a little like shaping, and it´s actually a booster not only for confidence but also for shaping games later on. You need a clicker or another marker and tasty, easy to swallow treats. Let´s play! Start with tossing a treat on the floor a little bit away from your dog. Let the dog go to the treat and eat it. As soon as he swallows he is likely to do something – raise his head, move a pay or take a step: click (or mark verbally) and toss another treat in the other direction. Repeat! Pretty soon you´ll notice how the dog is doing more and more deliberate movements – mark and treat for everything. This is a great way to show your dog that he is in control – he can actually make you give him treats by his actions alone.
There are some behaviors you want to avoid: sitting still, looking at you and verbalizing. You have probably rewarded both focus on you and sitting in front of you before, so these are strong behaviors likely to appear. But now you want your dog to experiment with new behaviors, so avoid reinforcing what is already strong. If your dog starts to bark or whine, look for smaller movements. Frustration can occur if the dog finds it too difficult. Instead make it so easy and fun that your dog is succeeding.
2. Problem solving
Use a barrier such as a fence or a row of furniture if indoors to boost dog’s confidence. Stand at the same side as your dog and toss a toy or a treat over the fence. Release your dog and see if he can solve the puzzle – running away from the toy, to the (open) gate and to the toy. Make it super easy at first, standing just a little bit from the gate. You want your dog to feel confident. Also: safety first, only play this game where it´s safe for the dog to be off leash.
Body awareness and the ability to control every muscle is a confident booster, and training your dog to balance on sofa cushions, fallen tree trunks, boulders is a great way to ensure this. Use things you encounter on your walk or things you have at home. Work in your dogs pace, rewarding every step on the way. Use a harness to make sure you can safely steady your dog if needed. Help you dog down by lifting him if the obstacle is tall (it does not have to be tall to be effective).
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