Dog Doesn't Like Petting? 3 Tips

fearful dogs May 22, 2023

Do you have a dog who moves away if you try to pet them? Or maybe they growl or snap? Or maybe, you can't touch your dog at all. What can you do to change your dog's mind about petting?

For most dogs who don't like being touched, there's no quick fix. But, there are several things you can do to move the needle in the right direction. Here I give 3 tips based on common mistakes I've seen my clients making with their sensitive pups. 


Tip #1 For Dogs Who Hate Petting:  Don't Initiate Contact

This is a tough one. And I know sometimes you might not have much choice about touching your dog. But if your dog hates petting, the first step is to stop trying to pet them. Instead, back off, and let them initiate. This won't happen right away! It took a very long time for me to be able to touch our dog Pancake at all. But had I tried to force it, I probably still wouldn't be able to pet him. 


Tip #2 For Dogs Who Hate Petting: Make Hands Predict Good Things

How do you make hands predict good things for your dog?  Use your hands to toss, drop, or hand over treats (if your dog is completely comfortable taking treats from your hand.). Play training games like "hand touch" (again, only if your dog is comfortable approaching your hands). Work with your trainer to determine what type of training your dog is ready for when it comes to interacting with hands.  Please don't try to train on your own if your dog has already bitten or snapped at you or others. 


Tip #3 For Dogs Who Hate Petting: Make Your Hands Available (But Passive)

As your dog learns that hands predict good things, they might start seeking out contact with your hands. This is an important step toward being able to pet your dog! But in these early stages, avoid accidentally punishing your dog's curiosity by moving your hands toward them or trying to pet them. I've had success with having a hand resting next to me while I do something like scroll on my phone, not paying any attention to the dog.  The first time Pancake initiated contact with my hand, it was resting on my mouse on the floor next to me. I let him sniff and lick my hand, and just ignored him. Later, when he more frequently chose to interact with my hands, I finally added a little bit of finger movement to give scratches (without lifting my hand.) Luckily for me, he found he liked getting scratches. 

If you found these tips helpful, or if you have important pointers that have helped you, we'd like to hear from you! You can comment below this blog, shoot us an email ([email protected]), or message us on Facebook or Instagram.