Training Games For Dogs Wary of Objects Held in Hands

fearful dogs Feb 13, 2023

Do you have a dog who gets suspicious and moves away if you approach with a bush, nail clipper, collar, or other dog-related item in your hand?  In this video I show you 3 training steps you can use to change your dog's response to these types of items held in your hand. 

For this training to help, you shouldn't try to use the "problem item" in any way that your dog finds unpleasant. For example, if your dog runs away when you pick up their brush, you can play the training games shown in the video below to teach your dog to approach instead of flee- but only if you don't try to use the brush on them in the meantime. Once your dog will approach the brush, you can start training them to enjoy being brushed very gradually. If instead you go straight to trying to brush them once completing the training games here, you'll likely undo all of your hard work and be back where you started. 

Training Game #1: Approach And Touch A Loved Object Held In Your Hand

First, teach your dog the behavior, "approach and touch your nose to this thing I'm holding," using something your dog already loves. In the video, I use one of Juno's favorite toys. You could also use a large treat, or a chew.  In all the steps here, you'll reward your dog for touching the item you're holding by tossing a treat to them. 


Training Game #2: Touch A Neutral Object In Your Hand

Once your dog has learned the "touch the object" game with an item they love, move to something that your dog neither loves nor fears. It's helpful to choose an object that is roughly the size and shape of the item you're working toward your dog approaching. For example, in the video I was working toward Juno approaching and touching her toothbrush. The neutral object I chose was a rubber bone that is close to the size of her toothbrush, and sort of stick-like. 


Training Game #3: Approach And Touch The "Problem Object"

Finally, see if your dog will approach and touch the thing they previously avoided (the brush, toothbrush, collar, etc.). Play the game in the same way that you did with the previous objects. Give your dog a treat for approaching and touching the object, and resist the urge to try to do more than that with the object. In other words, don't try to put the collar on, brush your dog's teeth, use their brush on their coat, etc. That will require more gradual training. If you try to use the object on them after they've just learned to approach it, there's a good chance they'll go back to avoiding it in the future. 


Now What? 

Now that you have your dog approaching the item, how do you transition to using it?  If you're working toward brushing your dog's teeth, check out our self-paced toothbrushing course, Healthy Smiles. We also have some helpful blogs and videos on collar, harness, and leash training.  

I hope you're inspired to give this training a try! If you try any of the training games in this blog, we'd love to hear from you. You can comment below this blog, shoot us an email ([email protected]), or message us on Facebook or Instagram.