Boost your nervous dog’s confidence with this one simple tip from an expert trainer

Nervous dog stood up looking into camera
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Just like us humans, dogs come in all shapes, sizes and personalities, so while some may be highly social and outgoing, others can be quieter and more reserved. A smaller group of our fur friends may also struggle with feeling nervous and uncertain in new situations, so knowing how to build their confidence is key.

While helping your dog to avoid scenarios that make them feel anxious or distracting them with the longest lasting dog chews are certainly two ways of dealing with this situation, expert dog trainer Adam Spivey, founder of Southend Dog Training, advocates for a different approach.

In a video shared to Instagram, Spivey shares his top tip for helping nervous dogs slowly increase their level of confidence. You can check out the clip below or keep reading as we breakdown what you can do to build your dog's confidence. 

Spivey uses a real-life example of a training session he conducted with a nervous Cockapoo named Riley to highlight how we can best boost our dogs confidence. In the clip the pup can be seen hesitating when being instructed to jump up and over a very low wall.

"When you encounter something that your dog struggles with, this is a make or break opportunity," Spivey explains. "If you coddle them, pick them up or avoid, then the dog never gains confidence and it can actually reinforce avoidance in other areas."

Going on to say that it's simply a nervous moment for Riley because he's being asked to do something new, Spivey advises that the best thing you can do in these moments is to let your dog figure it out for themselves. 

"Helping them to figure things out and work through the unsure mindset builds confidence and trust in you. Next time the dog becomes unsure of something, they will recover much quicker because they remember the last time they were unsure and how you helped them."

Spivey advocates for using lots of positive encouragement and as we see in the video, this works beautifully with Riley who eventually takes a leap of faith and jumps up and over the wall. Excited that he's overcome this particular challenge, Riley completes the maneuver with only a moment of hesitation the second time around.

If you want to help your dog to grow their confidence, remember Spivey's tip: help them to face their uncertainty and overcome it, offering tons of praise when they do - the more you do this, the more they'll believe themselves capable of doing things they might otherwise have shied away from. 

And if you feel your pup would benefit from some specialized 1:1 support, we recommend reaching out to a professional dog trainer who will be able to assist you on your training journey. 

Looking for more great training tips? Then be sure to check out our guides to how to crate train a dog and how to stop a dog from jumping up

Kathryn Williams
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.