When a dog experiences fear, trauma or separation from her pack or people, she can quickly change from being a confident, happy soul to an insecure and anxious pooch. Consistent work with your dog can build confidence and put the skids on serious problematic behaviors, such as destruction and aggression.
Recognize the signs of an insecure dog so you know what you are dealing with. Observe your dog for behavior such as keeping her head low with her tail tucked between her legs. She may cower or urinate submissively, or chew or bark needlessly.
Act as a strong, clearly-defined pack leader to your pup, and one she can trust. Train her with basic obedience skills to sit, stay, come, heel and lie down, which helps her to build confidence. Be consistent with your signals, moods and words so she knows what you want from her. Your dog can sense when you are not a strong leader and will try to tackle the role herself.
Change your dog’s body language to a more confident stance if she is acting insecure in your training sessions. For example, lift her tail up to a confident or normal position if it is tucked beneath her, or gently lift her chin if she is hanging her head down and unsure of what you are asking her to do.
Ignore your dog when she is insecure, and praise her when she displays assurance or confidence, especially in instances in which she was previously fearful or insecure. Avoid coddling her; she will think the coddling is a reward, which reinforces her fearful behavior.
Provide positive reinforcement, rewarding good behavior with treats or praise. Avoid the use of force, punishment, shouting or pulling your dog. This method does more damage than good, according to dog expert Victoria Stillwell.
Crate-train your dog, especially if she displays destructive behavior. Ensure that it is just big enough for your dog to turn around. A crate provides your dog with a den-like, closed-in atmosphere of her own.
Project a calm yet assertive energy when dealing with your dog. Your dog picks up on your emotions, so if you're anxious or insecure in what you're doing, your dog can sense it and will mirror you.
Elle Smith has been an advertising professional for more than 25 years. Her work for ABC, CBS and Sony Pictures Television has appeared on radio, on air, in print and outdoors. In addition, Smith has more than 20 years experience in marketing, graphic arts, commercial photography and print production, and is a licensed real estate agent with property management certification in California.