How To Build Confidence for a Shy, Rescue German Shepherd

By: Sam Kanouse

Published Date: September 13, 2017

MiaGrogan - How To Build Confidence for a Shy, Rescue German Shepherd

Mia (left) is a three-year-old German Shepherd who lives in Omaha with six-month-old German Shepherd puppy, Grogan (right).  Their guardians set up a dog behavior training session to help Mia overcome her fear of people and gain leadership in the house.

As you can see in the video, Mia was not acting like her usual self when I arrived. Since Mia is a bigger dog, when she barks at people, they may typically shy away from her. Over time dogs learn that their behavior effects people’s behavior and her baring causes people to leave her alone. Since she is a shy dog, barking at people helps her achieve her goal: to be left alone by new people.

To fix fear of strangers, I talked to the guardians about getting to the root cause of her behavior: a lack of confidence. I taught them a Focus exercise to help Mia build her confidence. We also talked about Petting with a Purpose to reward her for good behavior and to pet Mia under the chin to facilitate her nose upwards. When dogs naturally have their nose up they feel good about themselves.

I taught Mia and Grogan’s guardians the Leadership Exercise, to help the dogs look to their guardians for leadership and adopt a follower’s mindset. You can see how I accomplished this in the video below.

I demonstrated this exercise with Grogan because he was the more confident of the two dogs, but after starting to shift the leadership role in the house, Mia started to spend more time around the family in the living room. It’s common to see shy dogs gain confidence as their guardians take on the leadership position, because it decreases the amount of responsibility that the dog perceives that it has around the house. We also added some new rules to add structure to the dog’s life, which will help them have a predictable environment, allowing them to feel confident in what is expected of them.

By the end of the session Mia was building her confidence and Grogan was adopting a follower’s mindset, looking to his guardians for direction. To keep up with this good behavior the guardians will want to incorporate our structured feeding ritual, enforce the rules and boundaries we covered during the session and use the Escalating Consequences to disagree with the dogs and our Petting with a Purpose technique to reward them for good behavior. We wrapped up this session with Mia and Grogan’s Roadmap to Success video, which you can watch below.

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This post was written by: Sam Kanouse