Is your dog shy of strangers, worried in new situations? If possible, the animal can benefit from confidence-building exercises, and one way is through play. Learning new things in a fun and positive way will help boost your dog’s confidence, and using play is an easy way to work towards a goal.
How play can help improve your dog’s confidence
Some dogs are more frightened than others, and trying to get an overly anxious dog to play in certain situations won’t happen right away – you need to prepare for this. Building trust takes time, but the good thing about using games is that they are versatile. They can be applied in different situations and are easy to get started. And since they are so much fun, they can help strengthen the bond between you and your dog as they are all about working together.
Free shaping games
The game gives you the opportunity to watch your dog learn and experience something new without any negative consequences.
Start with the box on the ground and, without any prompts, let the dog figure it out and decide what to do with it. When she decides, for example, to look or smell the box, pamper her and compliment her. Then wait for her to suggest a different behavior and repeat. Shaping can be used with any item, not just boxes.
The best thing about free shaping is that the dog cannot lose; any behavior she chooses will be rewarded. It can encourage shy or fearful animals to try new things without worrying that something is wrong, and can help them get out of their shell. If your dog is worried in new situations, practice starting at home.
Teach your dog to play a fun nose job, such as finding a treat. It will help boost their confidence, teach them new skills, and is a great way to keep them busy and mentally stimulated.
And because you can train your dog to find treats in your own home, you won’t have to deal with a bunch of distractions that could make your pet anxious. This ability to focus on finding treats will increase your dog’s confidence by helping him learn to focus his energies on a specific job rather than on the environment. The task of the game is quite simple – to teach the dog to look for treats that are hidden around the house.
How to play:
- Take a treat and have the dog sit down.
- While she is in the waiting position, place some treats around her.
- Tell her – “find the treats” or “find the treat”, etc.
- Encourage her when she starts collecting treats.
- Practice several times until the dog understands what it means to “find a treat.”
- Start placing the treats even further; repeat steps 3 and 4.
- Once the dog has a good idea of what it means to “find a treat”, you can start hiding them in more difficult places that are out of sight, such as under a rug or on a chair; repeat steps 3 and 4.
After some practice, the animal will begin to hone its natural sniffing abilities and rely on its nose to find hidden treats rather than using visual cues.
Another simple pet trust building game is targeting. Targeting is teaching a dog to touch an object, most often with the nose. Traditionally, it is not considered a game, but rather an action that can be performed with the dog in various situations in order to increase its self-confidence.
Teaching your dog to touch your hand is especially useful when you need to train your dog to be more confident in dealing with strangers. This focuses their attention and allows them to understand that an approaching hand is not something they need to fear.
Delicious treats are all you need to start. Extend your open hand towards the dog. When she sniffs, touches or licks her, praise and treat. Switch to the other hand and repeat. Once your pet is familiar with the exercise, add the word “touch / hand / target” right at the moment it touches the hand.
Most dogs are curious enough to check the hand, but if the animal is not showing interest, treats in the hand can be used. Also praise and give the dog a reward as soon as it touches your hand.
Once your dog is comfortable with touching, you can start working outdoors, where there are more distractions. And for shy dogs, start working on it with friends or neighbors by teaching the animal to touch their hands. Once the dog is confident enough to touch the neighbors hand without hesitation, you can try it with new people.
Teaching your dog how to aim gives you the tools to deal with the scary episodes. But for this to work, targeting behavior must be well honed.
Interactive (feedback) play is hard to go wrong. It keeps dogs mentally and physically healthy and can help alleviate some behavioral problems such as anxiety and aggression. Some of the interesting interactive games:
1. “Tug-of-war” or “Take in tow”
This does not require a lot of space, you can play it indoors. Take your favorite soft toy or dog’s rope as a rope (tug) – this helps to focus her attention.
Allowing your pet to win makes the game more fun for the dog, which encourages him to play even more. And research has shown that dogs who play tug-of-war with their owners tend to be more obedient and confident.
Safety tip: If there are no toys for the “tug”, you can make one yourself from a soft fleece or just an old T-shirt.
2. “Frisbee” (flying plastic disc)
Another interactive game to boost your dog’s confidence and help him focus on the moment – fun. When playing indoors, it is better to use a light ball so as not to break anything. And if the dog is very energetic, you can teach him to play frisbee on the street.
If your dog doesn’t know how to catch a Frisbee, start by using a soft disk. Traditional plastic ones are heavy enough that if they end up hitting the dog in the face, it could discourage him from trying to catch them in the future. Start by throwing your frisbee over short distances or rolling on the ground. Encourage your dog to follow and chase the disc around. When the dog understands the meaning of the game, you can increase the throw distance.
When it comes to boosting a dog’s confidence, one of the great methods is trick training. One of them is to teach the animal to put their toys in the container where they are stored. If the dog already knows the command to drop, ask him to pick up the toy and toss it while standing over the container. Praise and repeat. It sounds a bit odd to teach your pet to clean up after itself, but it’s actually a lot of fun.
Another fun learning trick is the names of her toys. Start by picking one and throw it to the dog using its name. After some practice and praise, she will begin to assign that verbal name to the toy of her choice. As soon as it becomes clear that the pet already knows the name, you can check if he can find it among the rest. Repeat the process with the other toys, and pretty soon your dog will be picking a specific toy from the pile.
On average, dogs can learn about 165 different words, so your four-legged friend can remember the names of many toys.
Confidence games are an easy and fun way to deal with your dog’s fear and increase his confidence in a variety of situations. If the dog is showing extreme fear or shyness, it is best to see a trainer or dog behaviorist who uses positive reinforcement techniques.