Helping Maizie Build Up Her Confidence and Remember How to be a Dog Again

By: David Codr

Published Date: March 28, 2014

MaizieThis is the Amazing Maizie Mae, a one-year-old Border Collie Mix. Her owner called me to help with Maizie’s lack of confidence and pulling on the leash.

When I arrived, Maizie met me at the door with a nice medium energy. Usually dogs that lack confidence keep their distance from people they don’t know, so it was a good sign that Maizie interacted with me so quickly.

I have found the best way to build up a dog’s confidence and self esteem is to teach it skills and tricks. Just like human’s, dogs get a sense of pride when they master a new skill.

I started the session out with a basic “recall” exercise and that’s when I first suspected Maizie may have been abused prior to her current owners. She would come to me when called, but then veered off to the side when i extended the treat. I was careful to avoid big movements and even held the treat to my side, but none of these things seemed to help. I was able to get her to take the treats, but I literally had to push them to her lips to do so.

In addition to not taking the reward for obeying the command, she showed a few other signs of insecurity; the most concerning was laying on her back when i went to pet her. This is one of the most submissive positions a dog can engage in and is not appropriate for basic interaction.

To discourage this behavior, I stopped the praise and interaction as soon as she assumed this submissive position. Instead I helped the treat over her so she had to get up into a sitting or standing position to get it. This helped, but the hesitancy and avoidance Maizie was showing kept me concerned so I switched gears and decided to tackle her pulling on the leash.

I fitted her up with a Martingale collar and added my special twist to the leash. Before we headed outside, I walked her around the living room and she fell into a heel position with little corrections. After going over the rules I suggest for a structured walk with her owners, I took Maizie outside by myself.

I prefer to walk a client’s dog alone as it lets me see how the dog interacts without the influence or impact of their owners. Often times the owners create issues by how they interact with the dogs.

Miazie did outstanding on the walk. I had to offer a few gentle corrections, but for the most part she did it on her own. After returning to her home, I coached her owners through the proper position, corrections and encouragement as they took turns walking her.

Regular walks will go a long way to helping Maizie learn to enjoy being a dog again. I suggested her owners start taking her out for walks daily and to look into agility training. Border Collies are a remarkably intelligent breed and do better when they are offered challenges and regular exercise.

By the end of the session, she wasn’t showing avoidance, offering her belly when i went to pet her and was taking the offered treats much better. Maizie is not a balanced dog at this point, but her improvements in the session prove that she can grow and regain her confidence. Regular exercise, exposure to other dogs and humans in a positive controlled way along with mastery of new commands and tricks will help Maizie remember how to be a happy dog again.

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