Why Comforting Your Dog Isn't Working

Apr 16, 2024

Are you heaping love and reassurance on your fearful dog, but just can't seem to make them feel better? The reason could be a "comfort mismatch" between humans and dogs. 

We humans have ways of comforting each other that most dogs would find uncomfortable. Three common examples are:

  • Looking intently/focused attention/staring: While attention and eye contact are signs that we're really listening to another person, and lack of eye content is disconcerting, the opposite is often true for dogs. 
  • Leaning in: Leaning in or toward a loved one can be a big part of attentive listening and comforting them, for humans. For dogs, this same behavior can be intimidating- even if your dog loves you dearly. 
  • Touching/hugging: It's rare to see a dog truly enjoy being hugged and squeezed. Even less invasive touch, like petting, is not enjoyed by all dogs.  Even dogs who love petting when they're relaxed, don't want to be touched when they're anxious. 

So what to do instead? Learn your dog's body language, so you can tell what they like and don't like.  Video yourself interacting with your dog, so you can see more clearly what you are doing (possibly without realizing it!), and review how your dog reacts. And finally, teach your dog skills, using positive reinforcement, that they can use to navigate the scary human world. 

Interested in learning more about helping your fearful dog gain confidence? Get on the waitlist for our upcoming course, Confidence Building For Dogs.