Hey doodle lovers! If you're looking to help your furry friend become more self-assured and confident, you've come to the right place.
Just like humans, dogs can benefit from confidence-building exercises that not only bring out their inner courage but also strengthen the bond between you and your four-legged companion.
I want to spend a few minutes going over some of our favorite games and activities to bring something new to playtime and maybe get your dog out of its proverbial shell.
Confidence Building Activities for Dogs: Introducing Free Shaping Games
Let's talk about an incredibly fun and interactive activity called "free-shaping games" that you can play with your furry pal. Free-shaping games involve teaching your dog to perform behaviors by allowing them to figure things out on their own, encouraging their problem-solving skills and creativity.
It's like a game of "guess what I want" where your pup gets to showcase their intelligence and earn rewards for their efforts. The key to free-shaping games is to break down the desired behavior into small steps and reward your dog for any behavior that moves closer to the final goal.
This method allows your pup to actively participate in the learning process, boosting their confidence and building a stronger bond between you. An example of these kinds of games involves any old regular box you have lying around.
Start by placing the cardboard box on the floor and wait for your dog to interact with it in any way. As soon as they do something interesting, such as touching or sniffing the box, click your clicker or use a verbal marker to signal the desired behavior. Reward your pup with a treat or praise, reinforcing the notion that their action was correct.
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Over time, gradually shape the behavior you desire, like sitting in the box or even pushing it around. This game not only engages your dog's problem-solving skills but also empowers them to think independently and build confidence in their ability to learn and explore new possibilities.
Another excellent game for helping your dog get more confidence and feel more comfortable at home is a variation of “Hide and Seek”. If you brought a new puppy home, getting them fully acclimated to a larger house can be a big task.
Some puppies are not going to be immediately comfortable going and exploring every room. A game to play to get your dog to leave their literal comfort zone and explore is “Clean Up the Treats”.
In essence, the game is really simple. Find which treat is your dog's favorite, start by placing a couple in an area they are comfortable exploring, and lead them into the area you want your dog to explore or feel more comfortable, getting more frequent as they go.
Set your dog loose in the space they are used to and cue them to start “cleaning up” the treats. Then watch as they enter and explore a space that was previously too daunting for the pup. This is an excellent way to introduce new space and get your dog more confident exploring.
Increasing a Dog's Comfort Level: Targeting, a Training Tool
A popular training tool that can be used to get your dog to be more comfortable in new and different situations is "Targeting". Targeting is a training technique where you teach your dog to touch or interact with a specific object, usually with a particular body part like their nose or paw.
The object, known as the target, can be anything from a small cone to your hand or a designated target stick. By teaching your dog to target, you establish a clear communication method and create a foundation for teaching more complex behaviors.
Targeting is a versatile skill that can be applied in various contexts, such as agility training, shaping tricks, and even behavior modification. It helps your dog understand what you want them to do and encourages them to actively participate in the training process.
To begin targeting training with your dog, I'd recommend holding a treat in your hand and letting your dog be curious and sniff out the treat. When they start investigating the treat, you open your hand and reward the dog.
After the dog starts to make a connection between you holding the treat in a way and sniffing it out, you can graduate to the next step.
For this, you'll need a target object and some tasty treats. Choose an object that is easy for your dog to see and interact with, like a small plastic lid or a target stick. Start the training in a quiet and distraction-free environment to help your dog focus.
Hold the target object near your dog's nose, and when they show interest by sniffing or touching it, use a clicker or a verbal marker (such as saying "yes" or "good") to mark the behavior. Immediately follow the marker with a reward, such as a treat.
Repeat this process several times, allowing your dog to associate the click or marker with the reward. Once your dog understands the concept, gradually introduce a verbal cue like "touch" or "target" right before presenting the target object.
With consistent practice and positive reinforcement, your dog will learn to touch the target object on command. As your dog becomes proficient, you can expand the training by placing the target object in different locations or at varying heights. Targeting opens the door to a wide range of training possibilities and strengthens the bond between you and your furry friend.
Why Do These Confidence Building Exercises Work?
Dogs thrive on new experiences, and exposing them to novel situations can help build their confidence in unfamiliar environments. Taking your pooch on regular outings to different places like parks, beaches, or even pet-friendly stores encourages them to explore and interact with their surroundings at their own pace.
Exposing them to various sounds, sights, and smells will help desensitize them to new stimuli and teach them that the world is an exciting and safe place. These games are a way to introduce these new things to your dog in a way that maintains some familiarity and keeps them confident.
Remember to provide positive reinforcement, rewards, and plenty of encouragement throughout these adventures. Your pup will become more self-assured as they realize that they can handle new situations with ease.
Building your dog's confidence is an ongoing journey filled with exciting adventures and rewarding milestones. By incorporating these confidence-building exercises into your dog's routine, you'll not only help them become more self-assured but also deepen the bond you share.
Remember to be patient, supportive, and always celebrate their progress. Together, you and your furry friend can conquer any obstacle that comes your way.
Jenna and the JLDD Team