How to make your Cocker more confident

If your Cocker is fearful, submissive or prone to urinating when nervous, it’s a sign he probably isn’t as confident as he should be. A happy, well-socialized Cocker should feel he is an important member of your family and should be calm in most situations. If he isn’t then something needs to change. Here are some ways you can help.

Know the causes of submissive behaviour

A Cocker that is too submissive probably has a low self-esteem. Some things that can cause this include:

  • Being around overly-dominant dogs and having a “low ranking” in the doggy pack
  • Too much scolding and punishment for bad behaviour
  • A lack of praise and recognition for good behaviour
  • Injuries and mobility problems, making him feel less able to escape when threatened
  • Confinement in a crate for long periods of time (another form of punishment)
  • Neglect and lack of contact with humans or other dogs

Familiarise yourself with the pack hierarchy

Today’s domesticated dog is descended from the wolf. Wolves live in packs in the wild and they have a pack hierarchy where there is a dominant “alpha” male and lower ranking males. The alpha male gets to eat and mate first, and generally makes the pack decisions such as when to hunt and when to approach outsiders. If your Cocker is overly submissive it means he believes himself to be ranking too low within your family pack. To a certain extent it is healthy for dogs to believe they rank lower than you do – it means they won’t jump on the furniture or try to eat food from your plate. However, a balance needs to be struck or you will end up with a dog that is either over confident and dominant, or under confident and submissive.

Look for the signs of an overly submissive Cocker

You’ll know your Cocker is too submissive if he:

  • Urinates when stressed
  • Can’t be left alone without whining or crying
  • Isn’t confident with strangers and won’t approach people to be petted
  • Gets fearful with other dogs when out on walks

Take action to boost your Cocker’s self worth

If you want a happy, confident and calm Cocker you will need to take action and make him feel loved and important. Here are some rules you should stick to:

  • Lots of praise and affection is essential
  • Treats help to show him he’s loved (not too many though!)
  • Instead of reacting to bad behaviour such as urination, just ignore it (this tells your dog: “this behaviour serves no use whatsoever”)
  • Play lots of games to improve confidence – tug of war is a good one to let him win at!
  • Lots of exercise should keep your Cocker calm and happy
  • Keep your home as calm and happy as possible – Cockers are sensitive and are affected by their home environments

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