Building Confidence for a Fearful Puppy

By: Sam Kanouse

Published Date: November 13, 2017

For this Omaha puppy training session we worked with 10 month-old American Eskimo, Marlow, on building confidence and reduce his fear of strangers.

When I arrived Marlow was barking at me out of fear. When dogs are people reactive and nervous, it is best to give them some space. It would only make Marlow more nervous if I tried to approach him at this point. When I sat down to chat with the guardians about their main puppy behavior concerns, I started tossing treats over to Marlow. By doing this, I was making a positive association between Marlow having a guest in the house (me) and getting yummy treats.

After tossing several treats to Marlow he started to warm up to me. I continued to give him treats to reward him for approaching me. I allowed Marlow to determine how close he got and I didn’t try to approach him or pet him until he showed signs that he was very comfortable around me. When puppies act nervous around new guests it can come from low confidence. To help Marlow build confidence I taught the guardians our Focus Exercise, which you can watch below.

As Marlow practices this exercise more and more he will be able to sustain longer and longer eye contact durations. The longer Marlow can look at you in the eyes, the more confident he will become. Additionally, when guests do come over to the house you can use the exact same methods that I used when I came into the home. Leave him alone and then toss treats towards him and if he starts to approach the guest give him more treats to reward his brave behavior.

By the end of the session Marlow was getting very comfortable around me and even allowed me to teach him a couple of new tricks. To keep up with this good behavior the guardians will want to use our Petting with a Purpose technique to reward him for good behavior and our Escalating Consequences to disagree with him. We wrapped up this puppy behavior session with Marlow’s Roadmap to Success video, which you can watch below.

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