Do dogs really have self-esteem?
I might not have been able to answer this question a few years ago. Since I've had Pilot, though, I can confidently say YES. Dogs do have self-esteem.
Most of the dogs I have owned in my life have had no lack of self-esteem. They were confident in themselves and their abilities, and they were assured that their owner felt the same way. They were not afraid to try new things, and if they failed at something, they got right back up and tried it again and again until they succeeded.
Because of this, I never questioned whether dogs had self-esteem.
And then I met Pilot.
Pilot was easy to worry. He was clingy. He was hard to teach and train. If someone spoke one loud word he would drop to the ground like he was being punished. If he did something wrong and I said "no", he would do the same thing. Sometimes he would shut down completely and not do anything at all.
He wasn't as troubled as some dogs I've met. He was still a happy, playful pooch, ready to please me, but he just wasn't... well... I couldn't put my finger on it at the time, but he was missing something.
Then, the day came when he learned to "Roll Over" on command. The first time he did it, I threw a party and he acted surprised. The second time he did it, I threw another party and I saw a light come on in his head.
After that, Pilot became a whole new dog. He became more receptive and started learning more tricks. He would try new things, instead of shutting down. He started wandering short distances away from me on hikes, rather than sticking to me like glue. He grew more calm and confident in public. His self-esteem tripled just from learning that one trick, then it continued to grow with each new trick he learned, with every public place we visited, and with every new thing we tried.
Pilot showed me that dogs DO have self-esteem, and it can be weak or strong, just like ours.
How do you build a dog's self-esteem? Have patience, try new things with them, and set them up for success. Every time they succeed, they become a little more confident in their abilities. It can be a very long process, especially for those dogs who need their self-esteem built from the ground up. But it is very rewarding to see them gain that confidence bit by bit, and having a proud, confident dog is the goal of every dog owner, isn't it?
Here are 10 of the best ways to build up your dog's confidence:
The beasts of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls. - Isaiah 43:20
Self-published author of the fantasy series, Tales of the Wovlen, Kathryn spends a great deal of time in the world of her imagination, having tea with fire breathing dragons, writing books on flying space ships, and practicing her mad scientist laugh with gusto. However, on occasion, she returns to this world just to play with her dog, blog about her fun, and coach people through writing self-doubt.
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