Trainer reveals three things to focus on with your dog to build confidence and reduce anxiety

Mature man embracing his bulldog outdoors
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We all want a well behaved dog, but what if we've been going about things all wrong? From trying to avoid the most common loose leash walking mistakes to figuring out how to stop a dog from jumping up, many of us focus on teaching our dogs obedience. 

And while your dog needs to know how to sit and stay, certified trainer Carolyn, who is also the founder of Good Dog Training, says it's important we don't get so fixated on obedience that we miss what's actually important. 

"I’ve noticed that dog owners often focus on the wrong thing," says Carolyn in a post shared to Instagram. "They’ll do obedience class after obedience class, never realizing that obedience isn’t the answer. It doesn’t matter if a dog can heel if they’re attacking the other dog in the home. Obedience won’t fix that."

Instead, Carolyn stresses the importance of ensuring your dog trusts you, that they value being close to you, that they can cope well with new things, and are able to make good decisions on their own. 

"Raising and training a dog is about so much more than sitting, staying, and heeling," she explains. "Let's build resilient, confident, optimistic dogs instead of obedient ones." 

To help you do just that, Carolyn recommends paying attention to three key areas. You can check these out in her post below or read on for a summary....

1. Pay attention to your dog's emotions: "Emotions are what drive serious behavior problems, like aggression and reactivity," Carolyn says. "It doesn't matter if she can stay if she's constantly stressed and anxious." Check out our guides to how to calm a reactive dog and anxiety in dogs for expert advice on these issues. 

2. Don't miss socialization and preventing problems: "Preventing aggression and reactivity is far more important than teaching a puppy to lie down," Carolyn explains.

3. Don't miss out on the relationship, the connection, the joy: "Are you and your dog having fun together? That's more important than obedience. Always."

Carolyn says that it's important to focus on what matters. "I see people so fixated on teaching their puppy to sit that they end up with a dog that can kind of sit but bites strangers, resource guards, and attacks other dogs."

As a pet parent, the prize is an emotionally balanced dog who trusts you and feels close to you — not one who is always obedient. 

For extra support when it comes to helping your dog feel happy, confident, and emotionally regulated, we recommend reaching out to a professional trainer.

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.