Tips for dogs afraid of petting

One of the more frequent issues with shy dogs is to be afraid of getting petted by strangers. When dogs are getting petted the person is close to them, they are looking at them, they are looming over them and then they touch them. These are all potential triggers for anxiety or aggression. If your dog is shy, you should help her get comfortable with people to avoid escalation of anxiety, which could potentially lead to aggression.


handshynessHere are two exercises that you can use to help your dog love getting petted. There is no way to know how long it will take for your dog to gain confidence and overcome her fear. There is also a chance that she will never love petting. It depends on her background, socialization history and how often you do good training sessions. A good training session consists of keeping her comfortable and pairing the events with treats that she loves. If she is anxious or stops taking treats GO SLOWER.

Hand Shyness Exercise #1 - Move Closer Slowly
This should be practiced with you first and then with friends, both male and female.

  1. Put your dog in a location where you can work with her such as gently putting the leash over a doorknob. The key is that she is not running around, or distracted by toys.
  2. Start with your hand 5 feet away from her
  3. Hold your hand with your palm towards your dog
  4. As soon as she looks at your hand, Click and Treat
  5. Reset each time to the beginning distance, in this case 5 feet
  6. Now put your hand 4.5 feet away and Click and Treat
  7. Move slowly closer and Click and Treat each time
  8. If she flinches, or shows ANY hand shyness, move your hand away and go more slowly
  9. Move closer and eventually gently touch her and Click and Treat
  10. Then you can add different variations such as touching her for a longer period of time, touching and then gently holding her collar, etc.
  11. Bring treats or food with you on EVERY walk and do these exercises near people
  12. Eventually you can have other people do the exercise with you giving the treat
  13. If you can touch your dog, the new person might only be able to be 5 feet away from your dog. Pay attention to her anxiety and do allow the person to move their hand too close too quickly.
  14. Make sure for all the above steps you say, "Good girl" as you are moving your hand closer and then Click and Treat (or say "yes") at the new close point. As you do more practice the Click and Treat will come later in the process until you are able to pet your dog.


Â


Important note:
 Don't expect to end up petting your dog the first session. It could take weeks or months for a dog to get comfortable with petting. You also will probably have to start over each time you introduce her to a new person until her overall comfort level increases. Go slow and be patient.


Hand Shyness Exercise #2 - Touch Your Hand With Her Nose
This is a way to teach her that a hand coming over her head is a good thing.

  1. Hold your hand vertically with your palm directly towards your dog’s face.
  2. As soon as she sniffs or licks your hand, Click and Treat
  3. Move it to a different location and continue, Clicking and Treating each time she licks or sniffs
  4. Start with your hand farther away and slowly move it closer saying “Good girl” as you do it and then continue as above. The key is to now get her accustomed to movement before the hand gets closer.
  5. Move it all over including over her head (slowly), coming up from below, from above, etc.
  6. Make sure you say, “Good girl as you move your hand closer. This will teach her that when she sees a hand coming towards her, she should anticipate something good.

Latest Blog Posts

How to safely take your dog to a dog park

With summer weather finally here in Chicago, it is time to start thinking about more frequent trips to the dog park. You might feel uneasy when your dog plays with other dogs. Hopefully this...

  • Jeff Millman
  • 2011-05-20 15:42:00
  • Hits 16554

How long should dog training sessions last?

Did you know it is better to practice short training sessions and stop when your dog still wants more? This strategy will keep training interesting and you will avoid over training.
  • Jeff Millman
  • 2011-05-06 19:36:00
  • Hits 28630

Positive reinforcement dog training strategies

Did you know that there are different styles of training within the positive reinforcement "camp"? There are trainers that only use one style and others (like myself) use many different strategies...

  • Jeff Millman
  • 2011-05-09 12:48:00
  • Hits 26553

Your dog is acting weird? It might be a physical problem

I received two calls this week that that reminded me about the importance of making sure a dog is physically healthy before I recommend training strategies. One call was in regards to a 3-year old...

  • Jeff Millman
  • 2011-05-15 04:06:15
  • Hits 27390

The PETA Founder - I Am An Animal: The Story of Ingrid Newkirk and PETA

I just finished watching the documentary about Ingrid Newkirk, the co-founder of PETA. I really did not know much about her or her organization before this except for the various news stories that...

  • Jeff Millman
  • 2011-05-17 14:21:00
  • Hits 56850

Your dog is stubborn? Here are some tips.

Stubborn is used frequently to describe dogs that don't perform a task that is asked of them. Maybe the dog is pulling on his leash, maybe he doesn't lie down when cued, or maybe he lies down when...

  • Jeff Millman
  • 2011-05-28 12:57:00
  • Hits 27714

How old should a dog be before he can be out of the crate?

Wouldn't it be great if you could just sit a dog down and say, "Welcome to the house. Let's have an arrangement. I will walk you, play with you, feed you good food and give you medical care. The...

  • Jeff Millman
  • 2011-05-30 15:04:00
  • Hits 29067

Should you use alpha rolls? No.

When I am working with my clients, I focus on determining what strategies are most effective with each individual dog. I have found certain techniques to be extremely effective and I also see...

  • Jeff Millman
  • 2011-05-27 03:34:01
  • Hits 23489

Do you say, "No!" to your dog alot?

"No" (which means don't jump on the guests)."No" (which means don't chew on the couch)."No" (which means stop barking)Sound familiar?
  • Jeff Millman
  • 2011-05-03 19:10:49
  • Hits 17899

Common dog training questions

I frequently hear very similar questions from multiple clients. I also have random dog training thoughts that come to mind that might not lend themselves to a complete blog post. So, I thought I...

  • Jeff Millman
  • 2011-05-25 14:15:00
  • Hits 39771