Teaching Your Dog to be Independent

Contributor: Wayne Booth

There’s nothing happier than a happy dog. Most people would agree that in order to be happy a dog needs to feel confident and independent. Yet it’s also true that there are many dogs that, for one reason or another, cling to their owners. They may be anxious or fearful at times. You can teach your dog to be independent but it does take some effort on your part. Here are some suggestions.

First of all, some dogs are naturally more confident and independent that others from birth. In every litter there are puppies that are more outgoing and independent. Someone is always going to be the leader. But even if you have a puppy or dog that is not the leader of the pack you can still do a lot to help your dog feel confident and independent.

Once you bring home a puppy most people know that they should work on their puppy’s socialization. This means that they should begin taking their puppy out so he or she can see new things and meet friendly people. Seeing new things and meeting friendly people help build your puppy’s confidence. They show your puppy that he has nothing to fear from new things. They teach him that he should enjoy meeting people.

However, even if you work on this aspect of socialization with your puppy there’s another part of your puppy’s life that you need to consider. If you want your puppy to be independent then you need to encourage him to be independent at home, too. This is often harder than people realize. For instance, your puppy may be scared when something new and unexpected happens. Does your puppy hide when someone comes to the door or when people visit? Is he scared of loud noises or other things in the house? If so, then your own reaction to your puppy can determine whether he overcomes these fears and becomes independent and confident or whether he becomes anxious and clingy for the rest of his life.

If your puppy is frightened of things then you should take a calm and relaxed attitude toward them yourself. Show your puppy that there’s nothing to be afraid of. When strangers visit, show your puppy that they are welcome and encourage him to meet them. When there are loud noises that scare your puppy, try laughing and joking about them. If your puppy is scared of something in your yard, encourage him to investigate. Lead the way and show him that there’s nothing to worry about. Give him a pat and make a fuss about him when he overcomes his fears.

If you are bringing home an older dog then it’s possible that your dog may also need to become more independent, especially if he’s had any bad experiences in the past. Don’t force him to do things that really scare him, but do encourage him to look at new things and to meet people. If he’s clingy then give him lots of praise and encouragement when he shows signs of investigating things on his own. Do things that help him build his confidence. Try to make these things fun for your dog. As you work on building your dog’s confidence and helping him become more independent, things will become easier for your dog. He’ll start to enjoy things that used to give him trouble.

One of the best ways of teaching your puppy or dog to be independent is to start training him. Obedience training is a great way to build your dog’s confidence and help him become more independent. It encourages him to think and act and your dog will get lots of positive reinforcement in the process. You can also take part in training for agility and other dog sports that encourage your dog to be independent.

Depending on your puppy or dog, teaching your dog to be more independent can be easy or difficult, but it can be done. Take your cues from your dog. Don’t push too hard but don’t give up either. Remember that if your puppy or dog is scared and you offer too much comfort, you are simply reinforcing your dog’s belief that there is a reason to be scared. If you do this, then your dog will never become independent. Encourage your dog to be confident and independent and he will be a much happier dog in the long run.

Wayne Booth is owner of Canine Behavior Specialists in Nashville, TN where he helps people train and solve problems of all types with their dogs. Wayne has also been teaching people how to become Professional Dog Trainers since 1990 and he is the Training Director of Canine Behavior Specialists Network. Please visit the websites at http://www.CanineBehaviorSpecialists.com or the trainer school at http://www.K9-university.com

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