Many dogs, more often than not puppies that have not been handled by the breeder, or animals that have been abused, or are rescued from shelters shy away from hands. This is especially true of a hand going toward their face or going over their head. Unfortunately, they cannot tell you what negative experience they had with human hands. Many perceive this action as a threat. Usually, some form of abuse, lack of socialization or neglect, is the cause of this heartrending behavior. Never grab at a dog with this behavior issue. It can cause them to become more apprehensive, and/or possibly aggressive! Fearful dogs can be dangerous dogs. Be patient. You can help them overcome this fear, and make a positive association to your hand.
What You Can Do To Help Your Dog Overcome Hand Shyness:
1. When approaching your dog, approach slowly, and at a slight angle. By approaching at an angle, you will not appear as big and threatening, than if you approached straight on. You may also squat or kneel, so as not to project a threat.
2. SLOWLY reach your hand out, and stroke your dog under the chin, keeping your hand in sight. Avoid “jerky” motions with your arms. Speak softly and calmly. Praise him/her for allowing you to touch them. If they will accept it, reward them with a treat.
3. Enroll your dog in obedience classes as soon as possible. Find a local trainer who practices positive reinforcement, punishment-free methods. Work on verbal corrections, a calm tone of voice and non-threatening body language, rather than physical corrections.
4. Work on recall, so you will not have to grab at him/her. Welcomingly, call your dog by name, and say, “COME!” Praise and reward him/her when they come to you. Rub him/her under the chin. For some dogs, it helps if you squat or kneel when you call them.
5. Practice positive reinforcement. Reward your dog with lots of praise and calmly stroke him/her under the chin. Reinforce your happiness by speaking in a soft, calm tone of voice, to show him/her you are pleased with him/her behavior.
6. Give your dog massages as often as you can. Work the entire body, but concentrate on the head and neck area. Speak softly to them during the massage. The more you do it, the more trusting and relaxed they will become. Through this positive experience, they will learn to associate your hand as something loving and good.
7. Inform family and friends of what you are attempting to do. Instruct them on the correct way to approach and pet your dog. Do not hesitate to correct them immediately, if they are doing it incorrectly.
Bottom Line: Your dog needs to make the association human hands are not threatening. The more loving hands that are associated with a positive experience your dog feels, the sooner they will welcome them. As your dog feels more relaxed with you, your family and friends, start taking him/her to places where there are new people to meet. Explain to them what the problem is you are working on, and ask them to approach your dog. They can begin by simply giving the dog a treat or toy. As your dog is more comfortable accepting treats or toys from strangers; ease into having them pet your dog under the chin , then reward the dog with a treat or toy. This way your dog will associate human hands bring a loving, gentle touch and other good things. Be patient, calm, and consistent. In time, you will see a more confident dog that welcomes human touch.