Is Your Dog Shy Or Fearful of Being Touched? - Jim Burwell’s Petiquette

Most of us have seen dogs that pull back or shy away from being touched or petted by a person. Even if the dog is not aggressive, it just doesn’t want people to touch it. In a lot of stray dogs, this shyness is common behavior. But, it may be able to be changed, especially if the dog is still in the puppy stage. It begins with instilling structure in a dog’s life. This is very important for many reasons, especially in a fearful puppy or dog. When you begin training, your dog will start to display better behavior in every aspect from obeying your command to potty training. Dogs really do enjoy being obedient, because they get rewarded with praise and even food treats from their owners, plus it gives them a job to do – a purpose. Just as you do with children, teaching your dog how to behave is essential. What if you do have a puppy or young dog who seems to be afraid of your touch? While you can’t force him to let you touch him, there are some things you can do. Changing a dog’s behavior isn’t always easy, but adding structure and having patience can make a big difference. Talking kindly and trying to “lure” the dog to you, may work with some pets, with some it won’t. When a dog has been a stray or for some other reason has had very little human contact, it can be very difficult to establish trust. Give him patience, time and structure and he will grow to trust you. However, this doesn’t mean that he will allow you to touch him. So, are there any options? One option is to allow your dog to learn your scent. Sometimes putting an old shirt of yours atop his bedding can keep your scent present while he sleeps or rests. Once trust is gained, allow the dog to lie in your arms for an extended period, until he is fully awake. This way, he will start learning your scent and will feel more connected to you. While this isn’t guaranteed to work, it will help to begin lessening the fear in your dog. Truthfully, there are dogs who simply will never allow you to touch them. This doesn’t mean they don’t love you, but the fact is, that if they have gone for months or years before you had them without human contact, they may never allow it. One dog I worked with had been in a crate 23 hours a day for the entire 18 months of his life. He was terrified of everything. It took me 6 months of work on a daily basis to get him to where he actually enjoyed being touched and even became quite attached to a few people. Again, including structure which includes training and being a good leader to your dog, continuing to be patient and kind, will hopefully enable you to touch your dog so he will enjoy it. Not all dogs are lap dogs, but they still want to be part of your pack. Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are the teacher of your children, and remember “Opportunity Barks!”