Exercises for Building Confidence in Insecure Dogs

Updated on July 12, 2019
alexadry profile image

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, former veterinary assistant, and the author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

How to Help Dogs Gain Confidence

If you own a dog that cowers, pees submissively, and hides between your legs when concerned about things, you likely own an insecure dog that would do well with some confidence boosting. To help him, it does no good to scold him for peeing, push him away if he cowers between your legs, or force him in situations where he does not feel comfortable. These dogs need to be helped inwards-out. In other words, you need to build their confidence so that they no longer need to manifest outward manifestations of fear. With these tips, your dog will feel better, and the world will seem less intimidating than before.

I take this "holistic" approach with dogs I foster and train. There is no point in suppressing a behavior with harsh methods if the underlying emotions are not taken care of. If you are are fearful of spiders and tend to scream when you see one, and are slapped in the face for screaming, this will not change the underlying emotion; actually, now you may have two fears: the fear of spiders and the fear of being slapped on top of that!

Confidence building exercises for dogs
Confidence building exercises for dogs | Source

5 Dog Confidence Boosting Exercises and Techniques

To help your poor dog learn to trust the world more and get a bit more confident, there are some specific exercises and training techniques that can help make your dog become more confident and secure. For certain, you do not want to use harsh training methods or aversion based training tools such as prongs, choke collars or shock, to suppress unwanted behavior. Even a loud tone of voice may intimidate the softer specimens. Please also remember that if your dog is acting aggressive, in many cases, there is an underlying element of fear at play. The following are some exercises and techniques that are good confidence boosters.


When introduced properly, agility obstacles can help your dog gain confidence. Inspired by a dog's obstacle course, agility is a sport that encompasses jumping over obstacles, running through tunnels, climbing A-frames, and walking on structures with unusual footing and wobbly surfaces. Why does agility help insecure dogs? Because the dog feels good about confronting obstacles and because he must continuously concentrate on adjusting his speed and balance.

Clicker Training

Clicker training can help build confidence in your dog. Free shaping and general shaping teaches your dog to become a creative thinker that will literally "open up" your dog. Your dog will soon learn how to try to offer behaviors. He will learn how to interact in his environment in new ways. Free-shaping is also helpful because the dog cannot make mistakes. The game "101 things to do with a box" may be helpful. Best of all, if your dog is scared of strangers, through targeting you can train your dog to target the hands of strangers and learn how to interact with them in a positive way.

Learn to Earn

Also, known as "say please", this program can help insecure dogs gain a routine. Some dogs enjoy knowing what to expect in their day. By having your dog sit before his meal, sit before opening the door or sit before putting on the leash, he learns better impulse control and it gives him the structure and routine he may crave, especially if he's a working dog breed.

Trick Training

Go get the beer from the fridge! Go get the mail! Open that door! Go play the piano! Trick training is not only fun, but it can also be a bog confidence booster as your dog gets to interact with the environment and accomplish tasks. If you add an audience where people praise your dog and give treats for the exhibition, he may also enjoy performing in front of them!

Basic Obedience

Believe it or not, basic obedience can help your dog gain confidence? How? By training your dog to sit, you are giving your dog something else to think about and also it shows your dog that he does not have to decide on his own how to act. Also, the praise and rewards will make your dog feel extra happy as he acknowledges he did something right.

A Ladder Can Help Boost Confidence

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Adrienne Farricelli


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    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Farricelli 

      7 years ago

      Thanks geetbhim for stopping by, I am happy you found my hub on confidence building exercises for dogs helpful, kind regards!

    • geetbhim profile image

      sangeeta verma 

      7 years ago from Ludhiana India

      Your hub is useful in many ways for the pet owner. Thanks for sharing it. voted up.

    • Eiddwen profile image


      7 years ago from Wales

      Great words and tips which I am sure will benefit so many .


    • GiblinGirl profile image


      7 years ago from New Jersey

      Thanks alexa, I'll check out that hub.

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Farricelli 

      7 years ago

      I am sure it would help kids too!

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Farricelli 

      7 years ago

      Giblingirl, this hub may be helpful for the guests issue, it addressed men, but can be used with any guests: https://pethelpful.com/dogs/Dog-Behavior-How-to-St...

    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 

      7 years ago from Northern California

      Hi alexadry. Maybe some age-and-species-appropriate agility work could help build confidence in children as well. Voted up and interesting.

    • GiblinGirl profile image


      7 years ago from New Jersey

      I actually have a dog that gets pretty terrified any time people come over our house. We tried the thundershirt but it didn't help at all. I'll have to try out some of your suggestions to see if they help.

    • rfmoran profile image

      Russ Moran - The Write Stuff 

      7 years ago from Long Island, New York

      My Shih-Tzu is a retiring wimp. Thanks for these ideas that I shall now introduce to little Sammy. Voted up and useful. A friendly reco - some more photos and maybe a video would be great.

    • wetnosedogs profile image


      7 years ago from Alabama

      I love that ladder video. Great job.


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