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How can I build up my dog's confidence?

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(Q) How can I build up my dog’s confidence? He is a collie X Jack Russell (I think) aged three years. I got him as his previous owner didn’t have enough time for him. When he first arrived he was anxious about everything. He is still aggressive on the lead, although this is getting better. A quiet but firm telling off is the only thing that seems to work, followed by lots of praise and treats on the occasions when he is good. Is there any long-term homeopathic medication that might help to take the edge off his anxiety?

Homeopathic vet Holly Mash says:

You mention that a quiet, firm telling off seems to work — however, try ignoring the behaviour that you are trying to discourage instead. This, alongside the excellent positive reinforcement and the treats when your dog is good, should work well. It may also be helpful to arrange for him to meet dogs he knows in a relaxed environment with which he is familiar. By doing this, you will be helping him get used to socialising and communicating.

Giving Bach Rescue Remedy would be a great idea. The dose is just four drops up to four times a day in your dog’s food, or four drops in his water (changed daily), for three to four weeks at first. Tellington TTouch therapy might help too. This is a massage technique aimed at changing body posture and relieving negative emotional states, such as fear and anxiety. It is easy to learn a few basic TTouches, which you can then use on your dog when he seems anxious or appears ready to bark and pull on the lead.

Trainer Elizabeth Kershaw says:

In addition to what you are already doing I would add the following: the use of an Adaptil dog-appeasing pheromone collar when you are out, plus an Adaptil diffuser close to where your dog rests in the house when you are not present. The Adaptil products reproduce synthetic pheromones similar to those produced by a lactating bitch and can have a calming effect. These products are available from your vet.

The natural product Zylkene can be obtained from your vet as well. This is used to help anxious animals overcome their fears. Play games with your dog that use his own abilities, particularly scent-related activities. Success is always a confidence booster, and the best way to ensure success is to encourage your dog to indulge in things that he enjoys and does well naturally. Fill a small crate or cardboard box with screwed-up newspaper or light plastic balls and hide a favourite toy or a handful of food treats in there. Let your dog rummage in the box to find the hidden goodies and praise him when he does.

Lastly, visit Sheila Harper’s website at www.sheilaharper.co.uk and join one of her weekend life skills courses, which offer various activities to assist your dog.

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