In training classes that I’ve helped with in the past, we saw dogs with a variety of behaviors. Some dogs come in the door extremely reactive and ready to take anything on. Some dogs are terrified as they’ve never been out of their yard.
Other dogs are happy go lucky and are thrilled to be in the midst of other dogs and people. Then we have a few dogs who are submissive.Â
These dogs roll over and show their bellies. They may pee a little when greeting people or other dogs. The way to help this type of dog is to build their confidence.
It’s fun to watch them grow that confidence in a few short weeks and see them bounce happily into class as they build the skills needed to be happy dogs.
If you have a dog that needs confidence, one of the best things you can do is socialize, socialize and socialize more. Find friends who have well adjusted dogs and let the dogs play on a regular basis.
Positive interaction with other dogs is a big key. Stay away from friends who have dogs that are snarky or aggressive. This will just set your dog back. Dogs are one event learners so a bad experience can put you several steps back.
When you are out and about with your dog, be aware of what other dogs you may encounter. Don’t tighten up on the leash as that just teaches your dog that there may be something to be worried about. Keep a loose leash and if you encounter a dog that appears to be friendly, ask if the dogs can meet.
Don’t just let your dog wander up and vice versa. Some people don’t understand that their dogs have bad greeting manners. You want to make sure your dog is set up to be successful.
If you take your submissive dog to the dog park, go when there are just a few dogs there and your dog can be comfortable and can find a comfort level. Don’t go at peak times when dogs may crowd yours or there’s lots of people that’ll make your dog nervous.
Dog parks can be a playground for pushy dogs with bad manners. Again, you want your dog to have positive experiences. A bad encounter with a ill-mannered dog will set your dog back several weeks in your confidence building strategy.
Enroll in a basic manners or obedience training class or obtain the help of a behaviorist if your dog has severe submissiveness and you need more advanced help. A group training class will help your dog build great manners and the positive reward they obtain from learning and doing well boosts their confidence immensely.
If your dog has extreme submissive tendencies, please talk to the instructor and explain your situation. You might need to work off to the side or at a distance before actually joining the group completely.
Watch your dog and see where his comfort level is. Learn to read your dog’s body language as that will tell you so much. Enrolling into a canine agility class can also do wonders for a submissive type of dog.
Watching a dog go from being timid and insecure over a jump or shaking so hard deciding whether or not a tunnel may eat them and then watching them wag happily after they’ve jumped or survived that scary tunnel is always fun.
Attending an agility class can quickly bring a dog from insecure to a wild creature who runs like a maniac around the course.
Regardless of what you route you take with your dog, the key is to not rush. Take baby steps and build your dog’s confidence slowly and surely. Any setback or negative experience is critical but as your dog grows in confidence and trust in you, the change will be definitely noticeable.
Pet columnist Katrena Mitchell can be reached at email@example.com