Any ideas for building a dogs confidence?
I was just wondering if anyone has any suggestions as to how I can work on building my dogs confidence. She often acts out with fear-aggression with new people (who come in her territory) and in new, unfamiliar environments. She has been to obedience and that helped some, but I was hoping to work with her at home and so I am looking for tips to help her feel more secure and relaxed.
Can you tell us more detail? For example, if you have guests entering your home.
What does your dog do, what do your guests do and what do you do?
Sure, I can give you plenty of examples.
When someone new comes in, she growls, barks, snaps, her ears go back, the hair on her neck stands up and her tail goes down. Her body posture tells me she is afraid. She backs away while snapping and growling.
I make her sit, give her a treat and get her to focus on me. Then I take another treat, hand it to the other person while she is watching and tell them to give it to her. She quickly takes it and runs away. She may calm down and let them near her after some time, she may not. It depends on the person.
Also, If someone comes anywhere near the driveway or the yard, she has the same behaviour. If we pass someone on a walk, she does the same thing. These people are not looking to pet her or pay any attention to her, they will be just crossing the street or walking past the house.
She is a smaller sized dog and so while I know it is fear that is causing her to behave like that, people become uncomfortable after she snaps and growls at them and lunges.
I have done a lot to socialize her with people and will continue to do so but I thought that if I could also improve her confidence in other ways and help her to feel more secure she would not be so afraid and then perhaps not act as aggressively. Since she is a pup, I want to do everything I can to help her behaviour while she is young.
I guess there is no way of knowing if her fear is due to lack of socialization or to a genetic glitch, but you can probably make it manageable with a lot of work.
You must make sure you never put her in a position that causes her to feel fear. For now, I would suggest to put her in her crate, or gated in another room when people come over. After they are seated, you could give them some treats, then let her out. These treats should be something FABULOUS, that she gets ONLY when people are in the house.
Let her come to them in her own time. Ask your guests to completely ignore her - to not even look at her. When she does come close, have them toss the treats to her, still without looking at her. Never lead her up to anyone, or have them offer her anything from their hands. She MUST feel that YOU will keep her safe, and that she does not have to defend herself.
On the street, when she starts to show signs of fear, do some obedience drills with her, and give her really great treats if she stops acting fearful and obeys you. These treats should be the same as above. Teach her the "Look at me" command and use it when you see people approaching. Have her heel or sit. As she succeeds from a distance, you can start getting a little closer.
Is she a food hog? If you get too close to people and she shows fear, toss treats into the air and let them fall around her. The aim is to make her think - "When I see people, hot dogs rain out of the sky".
The most important thing of all is that you must IGNORE her fear - never ever soothe or comfort her, as she will take that as praise for showing fear.
I had foster dog who was hysterically terrified of everything - parked cars, shadows, garbage bags and people. This method did work for her!
I completely agree with LRs suggestions.
Whenever she reacts like she's fearful you should give her commands, obedience work to do.
Have you been to obedience class? If not GO! Your dog will learn that you #1 are in control and that he #2 can step down from control.
First thing your dogs gonna have to learn is sit down and the down stay command.
Practice is over and over daily...several times a day. Fuss her up good boy style with a treat whenever she does well. Don't use harsh punishment it will work in the reverse for you and make things go down hill.
I'd get someone that you know that is comfortable around dogs to come to your home to visit ...hopefully a neighbour who lives nearby that can pop over a couple times a week.
When she goes nuts at the door, you immediately put her in a sit and down command. When you open the door insure she stays down, have the visitor give a treat and pat.
Reinforce this a few times with someone comfortable with dogs.
You have to show her there is no need to be afraid and no need to try and protect you/herself.
When things are in chaos and you're yelling at her pulling from lunging and telling people to leave as she's out of control for example...it shows she was right, something was wrong.
Obedience drills are going to be your #1 friend and hers.
Simple commands of sit, down, stay, come
repeated several times through the day with rewards.
When you're out and someone walks by and she goes bonkers...as soon as you see the person coming or when she starts to strain on the lead you're going to put in a sit heel position at your side and tell good girl, give a pat and a treat. Then keep going, making no big fuss about the other person.
It's going to take time and work but hopefully it will all come around.
NEVER use her name in punishment. This will only make situations worse. If I were you, I'd go somewhere where you can watch people from a distance. This might make her more comfortable.
Also, what size of dog do you have, and what breed? I think you told us that she is "smaller" but even smaller dogs can pull, snap, and bite. I know that from experience.
If she's bigger than twenty pounds, I'd suggest that you use a gentle leader on her when you're around people. Use it to get her to focus on you. When she focuses on you, give her a treat.
Teach her the "kennel" command. When visitors come over and she starts acting up like she's scared, tell her "kennel" so she knows that she always has a safe place to retreat to.
Good luck! I'm sure it'll all come together! :)
my previous dog was scared of absolutly everything,she would hide under the bed all day and we'd have to cox her out with small pieces of cheese. the only way we could do any thing with her would be to give her awalk and reward her every step of the way,she still gets scared around humans and will growl at them ocasionaly but she has stoped hiding under the bed.she had a reason though we had bought her from a shelter and her previous owners had seveirly beat her, unfortunatly she will never be able to fully trust humans .at the moment she lives at a friends house . but be patient with dogs and that helps regain trust wich helps them be less agressive around things that scares them... :)
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