Building Confidence

Building Confidence

The Building Confidence program is available in three formats: as board and train, in-person, and virtually. We have limited program spots available each year and often a waitlist. Reserve your training spot as early as possible. Details below.

Does your dog feel insecure, look nervous or bark out of fear? Is your dog afraid of loud noises? Concerned when seeing strangers? Scared of everything? Does your dog lose it when you leave home? Or…? This program is about building confidence in your dog and resolving fear-based issues.

Fear and anxiety in dogs come in many forms. Fear can be related to people, things, sounds, sights, places, etc. Anxiety from separation is another form often found in rescued dogs. In response to fear, some dogs sniff the ground nervously, some run or hide, some shake or cower, some pee and poop, some roll over and shut down, and some dogs become very aggressive or even attack and bite—all out of fear. It all depends on the genetics, background, circumstances, severity, and triggers a dog has. You can read more on the biology of fear in our article: Fear and Anxiety in Dogs.

Whatever your dog’s particular fear triggers, living with a fearful dog can be stressful. You want to help your furry friend, but progress has been slow, and you’re unsure how to help better. By now, you may consider resigning to your dog just being that way. Please don’t. We can help you increase your dog’s confidence. You will love seeing your dog feel better. Your dog may never be a social butterfly, but we can certainly make it the best version of itself and increase your friend’s confidence and quality of life to the maximum extent possible.

The Approach to Building Confidence

Our methodical step-by-step approach goes straight to the root of the issue and helps your dog better deal with stress and all the things that cause fear. Our approach is based on scientific principles of affective neuroscience and evolutionary psychology. It helps your dog be more confident in life. We gradually reduce all levels of stress (see The Layered Stress Model) and help your furry family member enjoy life more. The following overview outlines the overall program structure for reducing fear. Phase two, Confidence Builder 2, is an optional add-on and uncommon. It is for the most insecure and fearful of dogs that can’t get past critical insecurities. Confidence Builder 2 deals with effectively managing what can’t be resolved.

Building Confidence

Confidence Building Training Levels

Our Confidence Builder 1 program is where all fearful dogs start. This program level lays a solid foundation to help build more confidence. It begins with the building blocks we need to put in place to be able to help your dog become the best version of itself. You could compare it to learning the alphabet before trying to read a book. We also build relevant skills and develop a biologically fulfilling rewards game to assist with learning and strengthening the relationship between you and your dog. For about 90% of dogs, this program level is sufficient to help them.

Our Confidence Builder 2 program builds upon the first level. It addresses the maintenance side of your dog’s challenges. What we can’t resolve in Confidence Builder 1, we will make as easily manageable as possible in Confidence Builder 2. We will teach your dog how to stay safe and get itself out of scary situations by trusting you instead of blowing up.

The Concept

One of the critical concepts of canine learning in building confidence is: “success breeds more success.” Why do police dogs not back down when they apprehend someone? What do they do if a suspect tries to kick them? They don’t back down; they take the person down and won’t stop until told. They built up hardness and resistance because, during training, they always won. It was consistently made harder for them to win, but in the end, they always did. They have learned through success that they can handle anything.

Your dog is likely not a police dog, but the principle is the same. By succeeding in overcoming a tiny element of their fear, they learn they can do it. It emboldens them to do it again faster next time and then take on larger and larger challenges as we progress. It takes experience to know how much to push your dog outside its comfort zone to make progress and not push too far to cause setbacks.

If you haven’t by now, please review The Layered Stress Model and read our article on the biology of fear: Understanding Fear and Anxiety in Dogs. to gain a deeper understanding of what is happening in your dog’s brain with fearful behavior.

Training Options

This training program is presently only available as a board and train program.

Board and Train (Confidence Builder 1): we do all the work for you and transition your dog into your home afterward. Your dog stays with us for eight weeks in the home of one of our trainers, not stowed away in a kennel. You also receive 1-2 training videos per week on our YouTube channel, so you can observe how your buddy is doing in training. Due to the nature of the training and the required transition, expect to come to visit your dog after a few weeks for hands-on participation; 2-3 visits are typical. Further, this program includes three virtual sessions after your dog returns home.

Board and Train (Confidence Builder 2): price varies by dog.

How to Get Started

Our availability is limited, and we usually have a waitlist. However, most dogs can start within one to two months of contacting us. To secure a training spot, you must make a 50% non-refundable down payment at the time of booking. That, together with signing the training contract, locks in your training spot. Both are done electronically, and we accept cash, check, credit card, or PayPal payments. Contact us today to get started by clicking below.

Schedule a free Consultation

Services and Area

We are located in Southern California and train dogs nationwide. Happy Dog Training currently offers local dog training services in the following counties. Riverside County, Orange County, San Bernardino County, Los Angeles County, and San Diego County. In addition, we offer our board-and-train program nationwide and all virtual training services worldwide.

Do you want your new puppy trained right from the start? Are you looking for help for your fearful dog? Do you need to resolve a severe aggression problem? You came to the right place! We are experienced, professional dog trainers. Ralf has trained over 1500 dogs in over 18 years, and Sarah has trained over 1200 dogs in over 11 years. Consequently, we can help you with any dog training goal.

What We Offer

For many of our clients, we train their dogs from puppyhood, getting them off to a great start. However, we also have extensive experience training rescue dogs from all imaginable backgrounds and circumstances. Our Board-and-Train program is our most popular.

We can help you, regardless of your dog's challenges or training goals. Being a professional dog trainer means having experience, knowledge, and skill. Further, we developed a highly effective training program to specifically help fearful dogs gain more confidence and become the best possible version of themselves. Building Confidence is our second most popular training program.

Last but not least, we are experts in dealing with all types of aggression in dogs and are often the trainers of last resort after many other programs have failed. Most of our aggressive dog clients previously spent significant money on half-baked solutions without much improvement. This is different from us. We will give you an honest assessment of what goals are realistic for your dog. We will tell you what can be resolved reliably and what likely needs to be managed before we start.

Our flagship product is our board and train program. But our virtual dog training and coaching services have become quite popular over the last couple of years. Our setup enables us to deliver online dog training services from our indoor and outdoor training areas. This allows us to help clients worldwide.

Other Resources

Also, check out our Free Dog Training tips on Separation Anxiety in Dogs, Potty Training aka Housebreaking, and Leash Handling for expert solutions to common challenges.

Additional Services: Presentations and Q&As on Dogs | Professional Service Dog Training

Contact Us and Start Training

Finally, once you're ready to move forward, please use our dog training contact form to schedule a free phone consultation or book a paid, in-person consultation.

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About Ralf and Sarah

Happy Dog Training is the pet dog training business of Ralf Weber and Sarah Gill. We are certified professional dog trainers in Southern California. We are specialized in advanced obedience training, all forms or behavioral challenges and service dog training. For behavioral training, we are known for our work with aggressive and fearful dogs. Our service dogs, through Total K9 Focus, have a nationwide reputation for their reliability, longevity and performance.


Certified Professional Dog Trainer Ralf Weber is lead pet dog trainer of Happy Dog Training. Ralf is a long-time dog owner of German Shepherds. During his career, Ralf has worked with over a 1500 dogs of many different breeds. Moreover, Ralf has a thorough understanding of all aspects of canine training. This includes evolutionary psychology, ethology, and, most importantly, learning science. Ralf is specialized in resolving dog behavior challenges—especially fear and aggression. Apart from this, Ralf trains dogs in basic and advanced obedience, service dog tasks, and GRC Dog Sports. Ralf is further certified in a broad range of other canine training areas. Last but not least, Ralf is the author of the behavioral book If Your Dog Could Talk: Understand Your Dog Like Never Before.

Ralf loves helping people have a better relationship with their dogs. He is a certified professional dog trainer in the Training without Conflict™ methodology by Ivan Balabanov (TWC CPDT). Ralf is also a member of the International Association of Canine Professionals and also holds their basic and advanced dog trainer certifications (IACP CDT, CDTA). In addition, Ralf is an AKC-approved evaluator for the AKC Puppy Star, CGC, and Advanced CGC programs and is also certified in canine first aid by the Red Cross.

Sarah Gill, Certified Professional Master Trainer

Sarah Gill, is a professional service dog trainer and handler. Sarah entered the world of professional service dog training after a car accident. As a result, she had to use a wheelchair for almost two years, trying to maneuver in a house not designed for it. No one expected Sarah would walk again. This opened her eyes and became a driving force behind pushing herself to defy the odds. When she regained some stability, Sarah attended a dog training school and learned how to train service dogs. Sarah completed her Master Trainer Certification and gained further experience by training new trainers. However, the school wasn’t accommodating to those with physical difficulties and PTSD. Hence, Sarah moved home to Dallas. In 2019, Sarah teamed up with Ralf and moved to California.

Sarah started this journey because she had a trained dog to mitigate her disabilities. But Sarah needed additional tasking for a new diagnosis. The only option she could find was getting a second dog for the new diagnosis. She knew there had to be a different way to address this. Sarah's passion is changing the ways of the service dog training industry.