Building confidence

Just like every single person is different; dogs are just as different. Although I have had standard poodles for 25 years; no two have been the same and the two I have now could not have more contrasting personalities. And then my little Jack Russell who has a personality all her own is one dog that I have never had to use any confidence boosting modification for. Being that dogs are all different; building confidence can be tricky, often confusing. Some dogs may seem to be very confident; even overly confident in some ways yet very uncertain in some situations.

I took the dogs to the beach a couple of weeks back; it was a new beach and the access to the beach was through an underground tunnel with a walkway. When we walked down into the tunnel I could immediately feel the pull on Tilley's leash, she was very uncomfortable. Tilley has never been comfortable walking across wooden pathways or especially bridges. To her this was a bridge with water running down the side; it was dark and scary and she hated it. She managed to get through but on the way back I had to do a lot of pushing. Next time I will be more prepared; I will bring some food to keep her mind off of the environment and on the grub.

Dogs are very complicated; Tilley is not a nervous type at all, she is rock solid but yet walking through that tunnel put her into a state of fear. Luke on the other hand who is a very nervous type, jumpy and skittish walked through the tunnel like nothing. So each dog has their own issues that need confidence building and it most always means lots and lots of calm repetition. Fear can be the catalyst to many different behavior issues. Once a behavior is dissected fear or lack of experience can often be the culprit and a little confidence building can be the answer to the problem.

Pushing a dog to overcome a fear of a confidence issue never the answer. Many people use flooding as a solution and depending on the fear; flooding (a form of psychotherapy in which the patient receives abrupt and intense, rather than gradual, exposure to a fear-producing situation) can backfire big time. CM uses flooding on a regular basis; I'm thinking it is for the purpose of the show and he feels like he hasn't got the time to take the necessary steps to get to the goal. I don't use flooding unless the fear is very low level and the act of flooding will not induce high degrees of fear.

Building confidence has a great deal to do with you; how do you react to a situation. As I have said many, many times before our dogs are watching us so if you startle or react to a situation so to will your dog. Once you see that your dog needs confidence building in certain areas then you must set to work; breaking each issue down into baby steps which can be successfully overcome before moving onto the next step. Never respond to a fear or insecure display and reserve your words for the tiniest of achievements and they will grow.

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