Helping an Insecure Dog Regain its Confidence

By: David Codr

Published Date: June 5, 2015

Ziggy and Oliver

For this session I worked with a few more dogs in Santa Monica. Ziggy (left) and Oliver’s guardian called me for help with Oliver’s barking, not listening or responding to commands at times and shy or reactive behavior to people he doesn’t know.

When I first met Oliver, I noticed that he shied away from the other dogs and humans at times, preferring to isolate himself to a position under the daybed in the sunroom. While its natural for dogs to seek some peace and quiet at times, choosing to be alone when the members of the family are calm in quiet in the next room is an antisocial behavior.

After working with him for a few moments, I noticed that anytime Oliver didn’t know what to do or didn’t want to participate, he would walk into the sun room and go under the bed to lay down. After the second time he did this, I rearranged the items under the bed to prevent him from hiding in that spot. By blocking access to this refuge, I wanted to help change the environment in able to help Oliver learn to deal with things rather than running away from them.

When a dog consistently positions itself under furniture or other low covered areas, its usually indicative of a dog who lacks confidence and it was pretty easy to see that was the case with Oliver. A great way to help a dog who has low self esteem like this is to teach the dog new tricks and commands. Just like humans, dogs feel a sense of pride when they master a new skill.

I decided to go over a simple recall exercise since Oliver sometimes didm’t respond when called. I wanted to put him into a position to succeed and a simple recall exercise with positive reinforcement was exactly what the doctor ordered. At first Oliver was slow to react, hardly raising his head when he heard the command. But after I showed his guardian how to use a hand movement to capture his attention and put him into a sitting position, you could almost see a light go on. Oliver started snapping his head around to find whomever gave him the recall command. He had a bounce in his step, was carrying his body lightly and holding his head high. He was enjoying the exercise and quite proud of himself at the same time.

By the end of the session, Oliver was responding right away when called, was easily corrected and continued to carry his body with a nice relaxed posture.  It will take practice at the exercises and consistent correction and follow through, but with time and patience Oliver’s self esteem will rise. As it does, his desire to self isolate will dissipate as he learns new ways to make his guardians happy.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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