If your German Shepherd Dog (GSD) suffers from low confidence, you need to provide a dose of confidence to promote a better social relationship with your lovely pooch. Just like humans, our furry friends can suffer from low self-esteem for many reasons. Fortunately, you can help your GSD overcome such shortcomings with confidence-building training techniques. This guide highlights some proven tips on how to make your German Shepherd more confident.
Symptoms of Low Confidence in German Shepherds
In general, your GSD may suffer from low confidence as a result of:
- Lack of socialization
- Personality traits
- Lack of exposure to outdoor environments
- Sudden changes in the owner’s life
- Illness or pain
- Stress or upheaval
You can notice that your dog is suffering from low confidence by monitoring his behavior when you introduce him to new people, take him to new places, change their routine, or ask him to learn something new.
- Stress and wariness over new things
- Shyness toward new people and places
- Submissive passing of urine when confronted with new situations
- Fear biting (not aggression)
- Fearful of new things, people, and places
- Tucking of tail between the legs for no apparent reason
Additionally, dogs that suffer from a lack of confidence may develop anxieties, behavior problems, or even illness or injury. If your GSD is exhibiting such signs, we recommend that you take the dog to an experienced vet for expert examination to rule out a medical condition. Once everything is clear, begin confidence-building training as soon as possible.
How to Build Confidence in German Shepherds
1 – Socialize Your German Shepherd Dog
The first step to building confidence in your German Shepherd is socializing with your pet. Begin the socialization at an early age when your pup is still confident, productive, and outgoing to improve your chances of success. Besides, it’s easy to introduce a young puppy to new people and places.
Socialization teaches your dog how to be a part of society, and frequent interaction with people and other pets will help reduce his shyness and fear. Without proper socialization, German Shepherd Dogs can develop a myriad of behavior problems, including fear and lack of confidence.
You can join a dog training class to create a friendly atmosphere for introducing your GSD to new people and pets.
Here are some precautions to take before introducing your GSD to other pets:
- Introduce them in a neutral area
- If you notice any aggressive signs from other dogs, take your pup away.
- Make sure the other dogs are friendly and fully vaccinated
- Monitor your dog’s socialization experience and ensure it’s positive.
2. Avoid Corrections
If your dog exhibits any signs of low self-esteem, avoid corrections whenever possible and instead focus on praising the dog.
Fearful dogs are highly sensitive and might pick up on your impatience and annoyance. Train your pooch while in the right frame of mind, and don’t allow your frustrations to show. Always set your dog up to succeed and equip her with the tools to do it. Over time, you will be able to build confidence gradually. Don’t move on to more complex or distraction training until your GSD is ready. More importantly, always end training on a perfect note even if the day was bad.
Be sure to give your dog something positive to remember, such as providing a delicious treat or taking him for a ride around the neighborhood. This will ensure that future sessions won’t cause anxiety and stress. Once your GSD is confident enough, you can move on to other obedience training regimes that will be more enjoyable for both of you. As your GSD develops more confidence, consider visiting more places, joining playgroups, taking a training class, or engaging in a sport you both can enjoy.
3. Train Your German Shepherd Dog
When training your shy German Shepherd dog, start with simple commands and stick with the same cue words to avoid confusing your dog and triggering more insecurity. Lavish your pup with praise and treats, and make a big deal over any accomplishments. Clickers often work excellently for this.
Training your German Shepherd should be fun and enjoyable, and you’ll require some planning and patience. Always remember these four steps to make the training successful:
- Reward – Always reward your pup when he follows your commands. By embracing a reward system, you will encourage your pooch to follow your commands all the time to get a reward.
- Attention – Pay close attention while teaching new commands to your GSD. If you teach anything wrongly, it can mess up things and negate the progress made.
- Patience – Don’t expect your shy German Shepherd to fully build confidence in a week. You’ll need to be consistent for days, weeks, or even months to fully build confidence in your pup.
- Schedule – Having a regular schedule is a perfect way to train a dog.
Be sure to place your dog on regular eating, training, and exercise routines to help you train your dog correctly.
4. Present Your GSD to Challenging Situations
The life of dogs and humans are full of challenges. To help your dog overcome fear and lack of confidence, take him through some challenging situations. For example, if your GSD is afraid of other dogs, regularly take him to a dog park to meet several dogs. By doing that gradually and frequently, your dog will begin to feel safer around other dogs, boosting his confidence.
5. Teach Your GSD to Attack
German Shepherds can be naturally aggressive, and on many occasions, you don’t need to teach them to attack. However, a shy Dog can hesitate to attack due to a lack of confidence. To teach your German Shepherd Dog to attack or bite, you have to prepare yourself with “Bite Sleeves” to protect your arm from the attacks.
Wear the bite sleeves on your arm and command your dog to attack and grab the sleeve. Every time he attacks, reward him to encourage him that he is doing right. If you want to teach your GSD to attack a person, ensure they wear a “full protection Bite Suit” to prevent any damage or injury. Attacking is a perfect way to build your dog’s confidence.
German Shepherd Dogs need at least 45 minutes of exercise every day. Adequate exercise will help your pup build strength and muscles. Besides, a healthy dog is typically more confident. Fortunately, there are multiple sports and exercise you can do with your German Shepherd Dog.
Be sure to take your dog for regular jogging to ensure you and your dog exercise together. Exercising together will also help you to bond more with your dog. You may also consider swimming exercises to build confidence and strength. So, if your dog is afraid of water, swimming together can be a great way to build their confidence.
Other exercises and sports you can engage in with your SD include:
- Rally Obedience
- Dog Diving
- Dog Dancing
7. Let Your Dog Know You’re the Leader
Let your GSD see you as a leader in his park. You need to love him as you baby but don’t allow him to have his way all the time. If your German Shepherd does something wrong, you have to stop him immediately, and he should listen to you. Some dogs may lack confidence because they don’t see a leader in their owners.
Moreover, if your dog doesn’t see you as his leader, he won’t probably listen and obey your commands. Once your dog understands you’re number 1 and can protect him wherever you go, he will feel more confident whenever he faces anything challenging.
8. Let Your GSD Win Battles With You
During training, let your German Shepherd win battles. For instance, when training your pup to bite with a bite sleeve protector, you should act like you’re hurting and exhausted. That way, your dog will know that his bite is potent, which helps boost his confidence.
Overall, training your German Shepherd to be more confident takes a lot of effort and patience. Sometimes, many dog owners push their German shepherds to learn something new or act as they want, which is not a good idea. Allow your Shepherd ample time to learn new things, and if it’s taking more time than you anticipated, have patience. If you punish your GSD and push too much, you can further hurt his confidence. Instead, focus on reward-based training to help build confidence in your German Shepherd Dog. If the situation doesn’t seem to improve after weeks of training, consider seeking professional help from a dog trainer or vet.
Dr. Belinda Hawks earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Colorado State University in 2006 and has been practicing veterinary medicine since then. Dr. Belinda currently works as a passionate rancher and mixed animal veterinarian in a rural town in South Carolina. When not practicing veterinary medicine or writing, she spends her free time with her lovely husband and three kids (2 boys and a lovely girl) in South Carolina.