I have done a lot of different things with Chips over the years. Inside he’s a big scared lump with the lowest self- confidence I have ever seen in any dog. Yet, today he went trotting into the vets without looking back and even we were surprised. Problem solving, clicker training, targeting, sniff games and even a canine flow retreat has worked wonders to relax him and make him a much more confident optimist dog.
Every little helps and by raising confidence in one area a worried dog will naturally cope in others, here’s why.
Resilience in dogs is achieved in three ways.
- Genetic inheritance - coming from a strong line of resilient dogs.
- Protection - spending the first few weeks on earth as a protected puppy.
- Learned – becoming optimistic through learning new things and succeeding.
As every dog is an individual, each of these three ways will be unique to them. So a dog might be genetically very resilient yet had a very hard start in life therefore received no protection as a puppy.
Or a dog who is genetically timid might have grown up in a knowledgeable home who not only protected them but added to their resilience with learning.
The good news is that all dogs (and all people) can become more resilient by learning. Not just learning to cope in worrying situations though, learning that they can succeed in many ways, as often as possible.
So if you live with a dog who lunges and barks in the street, teaching them to succeed through problem solving will have a subtle effect on that behaviour too. Dogs don’t lunge and bark because they are naughty, they do it because they believe that if the thing they are barking at comes any closer they won’t be able to cope. Or if you clicker train your dog to touch and press his nose onto your hand through targeting, you can offer your hand to get him past something scary in the street (it’s not that simple but I’ll cover the steps in anther blog – choices have to be built and generalised)
Learned resilience can occur through succeeding, it will occur through distance control and the more things you do with your dog that help them to succeed, the more confident they will become. That confidence then ripples into all areas of their life.
And before you know it, your dog will be more confident, because every little opportunity to succeed helps.