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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Damon

How To Help Your Fearful Dog Get Used To Being Touched: Part 2

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

A woman touching a fearful dog's paw
A vet tech wearing gloves examines a fearful dog's paw.

Congrats on completing your first step in learning how to help your fearful dog! Now that you've successfully helped him get used to approaching you for reward, the next step is to actually touch him.

When we left off, your dog was approaching and touching your empty hand while you were treating with the other. It's best to set up the same way for the next step. As always, I recommend you use a small high value treat for this such as tiny bits of turkey or ham deli meats. Whichever treat you choose, make it the same for all stages of this desensitization process.

1.) Go to the same part of the house where you practiced the first step. Moving to a different part of the house is too challenging right now. Lure him into the room, and reward him with a small treat for going there. Toss another small treat into the center of the room and as he retrieves it gently shut the door and make yourself comfortable on the floor.

2.) Take a couple deep breaths. Remember to keep these interactions as casual as possible.

3.) Hold out a treat in your right hand and allow him to take it.

4.) With a treat in your right hand, extend both hands toward him. Palms facing up.

5.) Extend both hands again with the treat again. After he takes the treat, gently touch his side or one of his front legs once with your left hand. Withdraw your hands.

6.) Extend both hands again with a treat in your right hand. After he takes the treat, gently touch his chest with your left hand once. Withdraw your hands.

7.) If at any moment he becomes nervous (backs up, moves away, becomes still with a close mouth or growls) stop touching, wait a few moments, and then go back to the last step that was non-threatening to him and reward. You'll want to end each session on a good note so be sure to tell him what a great boy he is too!

8.) Do this for a week focusing on the side of the body and the chest. Reaching to pet your dog on top of the head may be too intrusive for fearful dogs so keep your contact in the safer zones for now.

This process may seem slow but you are building trust and that is something that cannot be accomplished overnight. Next week, we'll cover the third step.

Happy Training!

Jen D


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