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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Damon

How To Help Your Fearful Dog Get Used To Being Touched: Part 1

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

Many people are adopting dogs right now and one of the problems they face is grooming and clipping their dog's nails. Some dogs haven't been touched that often and aren't used to it. Others are still adjusting to their new homes and are more fearful than usual. Some dogs are just a little wary of human hands too.

So, let's discuss how to help your fearful dog get used to being touched. Besides grooming, it will help relieve some of the stress of going to the vet and it will make your veterinarians job a lot easier and more effective too.

The first thing you want to do is get your dog to understand that human touch means reward. So grab your bag of treats and lets begin!

1. Find a comfortable and calm spot in your home without distractions. No tv, no phones, no kids busting through the door. The bedroom is usually a good spot. And if there is a lot of noise coming from outside (helicopters, gardeners, etc) then pick a different time. If you're family is with you at home, make sure they know that you are not to be disturbed for the next half hour. This won't take a half hour but my kid tends to think 15 minutes is only about 5 minutes long!

2. Show your dog the treats. Maybe even give him a taste and lure him into the bedroom. You don't want to pick him up or drag him into the room on leash. You want him to make the choice to follow you so that this is a wholly positive experience.

3. Once you are both inside the room, throw a treat into the room several feet away and slowly shut the door. You'll want to use a high value treat like tiny pieces of chicken or turkey for this. I wouldn't use your dog's kibble or dog biscuits in the beginning as they aren't as enticing.

4. Next sit on the floor and take two deep breaths to relax yourself.

5. Now, hold out your empty hand and keep an eye on your dog without making eye direct contact. (Sometimes eye contact while reaching toward your fearful dog can be too intimidating. You'll also want to refrain from speaking right now because that can be too much as well. ) If your dog touches his nose to your hand, toss or place a treat with your other hand where he can easily retrieve it. Take a breath and repeat. Do this five times.

6. If your dog doesn't touch your hand when you reach out, you'll want to gently toss him a treat for doing any of the following: taking a step toward you, not stepping backward, looking at you. Some dogs are more fearful than others and they need to take things a bit slower.

7. Do this exercise every day for five days. You'll want to keep the entire experience relaxed and upbeat. Keep in mind that you don't want to move too fast. If your dog becomes scared during this process, you risk losing the progress that you've made.

In our next post we'll address the next step. And if you have questions, please feel free drop me a message on my site or email me at

Happy Training!

Jennifer D.

A dog groomer gently bathes a Miniature Schnauzer.
A dog groomer gently bathes a Miniature Schnauzer.


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