​​Trainer reveals how to gradually build your dog’s confidence with new things, and it's very straightforward

Dog hiding under couch
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Just like humans, some dogs are more confident than others. Some dogs are more comfortable when it comes to trying new things, while others might be a little more uneasy. 

But, again like humans, it’s possible to boost your dog’s confidence over time. Whether your dog hides or freezes when they’re uncomfortable, or they’re more likely to bark or lunge, you can gradually build your pup’s confidence by introducing new things to them at a pace they’re comfortable with. Don’t forget to bring some of the best dog treats along, too!

If you’d like to learn how to do this, you’re in luck. Certified dog trainer Melissa Goodman of Mission Pawsitive has shared some advice in a new Instagram video, and it’s really useful.

Anxiety in dogs can really affect their confidence, and in Goodman’s video she’s working with one dog, Bruno, on building his confidence. A big part of this, she explains, is getting him to interact with new things. 

Because sounds, things that move, and also some stationary objects all cause Bruno anxiety, Goodman decides to introduce him to a basketball hoop that has an arch, which Bruno would be able to fit under. “The first step is to get him to eat a treat off the base,” says Goodman.

Bruno leans forward to take the treat, stretching his back legs, which is something dogs often do if they need to get away quickly. So, Goodman begins to place treats further away, encouraging Bruno to put his paws up. When he does so, he does a small shake to relieve stress, before trying again. 

He tries to go around to get the treat, rather than through. Goodman lets him do this, giving the dog agency and choice, but he realizes that the only way for him to get the treat is to go under the arch. On his next try, he does it, and Goodman gives him plenty of praise. 

“While this may seem like a random, silly thing to do that’s not relevant to training,” says Goodman about the exercise, “This was a big thing for Bruno to do. If Bruno interacts with something by choice, it moves or makes a sound, he can see that he is okay, and something good happens too, he’s going to be much more willing to keep trying new things and soon look forward to these things!”

If you’d like to know more about helping your pup to overcome fears and anxieties by introducing them to new things, you might find this article useful: What is desensitization for dogs?

Purina Beggin' Real Meat Fun Size Original with Bacon Flavored Dog Treats 
$12.49 at Chewy

Purina Beggin' Real Meat Fun Size Original with Bacon Flavored Dog Treats
$12.49 at Chewy
These fun-size treats are ideal for dogs of all ages and stages, and because they're made with real meat, every bite comes with a serious bacon flavor hit. With a tender texture that's easy to chew, each strip contains just seven calories. 

Adam England
Freelance Writer

Adam is a freelance journalist covering pets, lifestyle, health and culture, and he has six years' experience in journalism. He was senior editor at DogTime.com, and has written for The Independent, GoodToKnow and Healthline

He's also spent the last few years studying towards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in journalism. While a cat person at heart, he's often visiting his parents' golden retriever, and when he's not writing about everything pets he's probably drinking coffee, visiting a cat cafe, or listening to live music.