Pawscessories is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you.
If your pup often feels overly anxious in many different situation, it can be hard to take them anywhere.
Some dogs will embarrass their owner by behaving overprotective due to their anxious feelings.
While others will cling to their owner and even shake in fear.
Depending on if your dog has been through a traumatic event, has recently gone through a big environment change, or is just naturally this way, there are simple techniques you can use to help develop their confidence.
Which will make them feel safe and secure in any situation, making both your life and relationship with them that much better.
This article will help dogs who:
- Came through rescue or were adopted
- Are anxious, shy and stressed out a lot
- Experienced trauma in their lives at some point
- Shut down easily during training
Let’s dive right in so we can help your pup.
7 Steps To Build Your Dog’s Confidence & Remove Anxiety
1) Identify Your Dog’s Triggers
The first step in improving your dog’s confidence is to first figure out why they’re anxious, stressed, or shy in the first place.
Dogs have patterns and predictability around the things that push them into a state of fear or anxiety.
When you can identify their trigger(s) you can then take steps to reduce how often they’re exposed to them or help them overcome their negative feelings about their trigger.
Triggers are often dependent on a dog’s life experiences but they can also be genetic in some cases.
So, as best as you can, think back to what seems to always set off your dog’s anxiety and them down. Your list might include:
- Certain sounds (thunder, sirens, etc.)
- Being alone
- Unfamiliar dogs
- The vet
- Large groups of people
2) Subtle Socialization
Most shy and anxious dogs are uncomfortable in situations with other people and animals.
This can often stem from a lack of socialization throughout the dogs’ upbringing.
In order to build your dog’s confidence, developing a dog’s social skills can be one of the best ways to do this.
A dog that is properly socialized loses all fear and stress around social settings.
The key here is making sure that when you are socializing your pup that you make sure the experience is positive.
Any negative event will set your progress back.
So in order to increase the chances of a happy experience you’ll want to make sure to do this in small increments.
For example, if your dog is triggered by other people, you want to bring a friend over that is aware of the plan and only have 1 friend over.
That way your dog is not overwhelmed and your friend understands it’s a training exercise.
On the flip side, when socializing dogs you want to only invite 1 other dog over and you want to make sure that dog is well trained.
You do not want to bring another dog over to socialize when they are ill mannered and might have a history of negative social experiences.
If you don’t have a friend with a dog you may want to consider some training classes or reach out to some local pet groups to find someone willing to help.
3) Train Your Dog!
Believe it or not, a shy, fearful dog that understands your commands and what they need to do is less likely to panic.
This will build your dog’s confidence over time.
Stick to simple commands like, “come”, “sit”, and “stay”. Never use overbearing training styles, or loud / intimidating voices.
Also make sure to stay calm and supportive, you don’t want to be over-the-top with your praise either.
Try adding in fun games like fetch or hide-and-seek. Worried dogs often have a hard time enjoying things so simple games can bring them out of their worry cycle.
Another thing to mention is to make sure you are training in a quiet room with no distractions. After a while of success you can then start to introduce more distractions.
Lastly, If you know your pup gets triggered by loud noises or certain objects, begin the process of desensitization.
If you’re someone who has been struggling to build your dog’s confidence, you may want to consider this in depth 10-minute/day training program that may help you.
5) Desensitize Your Dogs Triggers
Desensitization is the process by which you gradually introduce your dog to the trigger causing their anxiety and stress.
This needs to be done slowly over time and in small incidents depending on the severity of your dog’s response to the trigger.
For example, if the sound of a car triggers your dog’s anxiety, you can start to quietly play the noise, and anytime the sound is made, give your dog a reward.
Make sure the reward is highly valued by your dog. You want your dog to feel amazing anytime the trigger occurs.
The better the reward the better they will feel and the easier it will be for them to become desensitized to the trigger.
4) Know What Things To Avoid
When your dog is scared, or anxious about certain things you’ll want to avoid putting them in situations that make things worse.
The more often their anxiety and fear is triggered the more it reinforces the behavior.
Here are a list of things you should avoid:
- Tethering your dog in public while you leave.
- Forcing your dog into fearful situations for them, thinking “this is how they overcome their fear”.
- Don’t encourage other people to reach out or pet your dog. Let your dog go to them.
- Avoid overbearing dog training styles. This will cause them to shut down.
- Forcing your shy dog out from hiding. If they are hiding under the table from the thunder, forcing them out only makes things worse.
- Taking your dog into chaotic, busy environments such as dog parks, firework displays, malls, skateboard parks etc.
These are just a few things you should stay away from, however, all dogs have different triggers and levels of worry.
You know your dog best so if you think a situation may cause your dog to become anxious, avoid it.
6) Protect Them From Their Triggers
No dog can build confidence if they are constantly scared.
If you follow step 1 you will know exactly what your dog’s triggers are, it’s your job now to protect them from those triggers – for now.
While trying to develop your dog’s confidence you want to reduce their exposure to the triggers that are bothering them.
That way you can slowly desensitize them without any events happening that may set your back.
Some methods for keeping the scary things away include:
- Door signs to prevent people from knocking or ringing the doorbell.
- Get a white noise generator to drown out small noises that could potentially startle your dog.
- Change your walking schedule
- Window film covers to block your dog’s views
7) Get Expert Help
Depending on the severity of your dog’s response to certain triggers, one of the fastest ways to get this problem solved is to go to the experts.
Although it can be quite expensive to have trainers take your dog it can be one of the best choices for some.
Another option is to get specialized training online. Now, I’ll be the first to admit a lot of online programs are not very good. We’ve reviewed a ton of really bad dog training programs.
However, I’ve recently found one that’s actually worth recommending.
If you’re in need of some extra help that is much more in depth and specific to your dog, you may want to consider enrolling in SpiritDogs Confidence Booster Training.
Steffi (the creator) has over 32,226 students across her training with 100% satisfaction.
For just $35, you get lifetime access to professional dog trainers, on demand step by step video training, instructional PDFs, progress tracking, all from the comfort of your home.
SpiritDogs Confidence Booster Training also comes with a 60-day money back guarantee.