Does your dog become passive-aggressive around strangers? Do they seem fearful in new environments or situations? If so, your dog might benefit from learning some confidence-building tricks. You can use game play and interactive exercises to give your dog something else to focus on and something new to learn. Here are some good confidence tricks and games to start with:
Teach Basic Commands
Teaching your dog basic commands and how to respond appropriately goes a long way in helping your dog become more self-confident. Dogs thrive on structure and routine just like we do. Teaching your dog to sit before letting them eat their food or play fetch allows them to learn better impulse control. Basic commands also help your pup understand the household hierarchy. Learning that you’re the alpha dog will help them settle and relax and learn to trust and become confident in you.
You can use clicker training in many ways, starting with free shaping exercises. These exercises allow you to teach a dog new behavior without using corrections. For example, if you’re trying to crate train a dog, you’d click and praise each step--if he stopped outside the crate, if he sniffed the crate, and if he grabbed the treat you threw inside.
After you’ve mastered basic commands and clicker training, consider teaching your dog a few fun tricks to boost his confidence. An easy trick to teach your dog is to put his toys away. If your dog has mastered the “drop it,” command, have him drop a toy in his toy box. Use the clicker and praise him for each step—when he picks up a toy, carries it over to the toy box, and drops it in.
Play Interactive Games
Playing interactive games with your dog stimulates them both mentally and physically. While playing tug of war sometimes gets a bad rap for making dogs more aggressive, it actually makes them more confident and obedient. This is because it allows them to focus their attention and improve their strength. Just make sure you always initiate the game, and use the game to teach obedience commands by telling them when to let go.
Playing fetch is another fun easy interactive game. Practice the basic commands like “sit,” before throwing a rubber ball in the house or a Frisbee in your yard. Remember to use other commands like, “come” and “drop it” so your dog returns and drops the toy before the next throw. These are natural rewards and will help your dog have fun.
If your dog has a lot of nervous energy, try introducing an agility obstacle course. You can make one in your backyard, in which your dog runs through various tunnels, jumps over bars, and weaves through different poles. These agility exercises teach dogs about facing obstacles and adjusting their speed and balance to conquer each one.