Just like humans, dogs have different kinds of emotions, too. It is a misconception that dogs only love to play and explore. But in reality, dogs can be more complex than we think they are.
Yes, there are free-spirited, playful, and energetic dogs but there are also fearful ones due to neglect, trauma, or poor socialization. In this article, we will tackle the ways on how to get a scared dog to trust you.
If you are so fond of dogs and you are planning to adopt them, then you might need to know how to approach a scared dog properly. This way, not only you can get their trust but you can also enhance your bond and turn them into a friendly canine!
Common Indications That a Dog Is Scared
Before approaching a dog, you must know some indications of a fearful dog. In this way, you can deal with them properly and you can avoid a dog bite or an aggressive attack from them. It is essential to familiarize yourself with dogs’ signs of fear so you can tell right away that they are stressed or anxious about their environment.
In fact, dogs communicate using their body language. Wagging their tail is one of their most common ways to communicate. But aside from that, there is more subtle body language that dogs are showing to us. Here are some:
- Licking their lips
- Raised hair on the back of their neck
- Averting their eye contact
- Frequently scratching their selves
- Tucking their tail between their legs
- Flattened ears
If ever you notice these signs, then that are clear indications that they are uncomfortable with their environment or they are anxious about your presence. Always bear in mind that you should give them some time to cope with the environment and to your presence.
How To Get Your Dog To Trust You
Since you have understood the clear signs of fear in dogs, you will need to make the dog trust you. Trust is important between the both of you. Dogs need to feel that you are to be trusted and you will not harm them. This is especially true for rescue dogs or canines that are experiencing trauma from their past owners.
If you have adopted a dog from an animal shelter, knowing how to get your dog to trust you is not that easy. It takes time and effort to build trust. To build trust with your dog, here are some things that you should NOT do:
- Do not force the dog to do anything.
- Do not hesitate to give love and attention, most especially if your dog needs it the most.
- Do not intimidate your dog and avoid yelling.
- Do not ever hurt your dog physically.
- When your dog is in its “safe place,” you should try not to approach, give your dog some space.
- Do not be impatient nor be frustrated about your dog, let your dog feel that you understand him.
After following these things, will not guarantee that your dog will not be scared of you. It takes time and you can do more things to make your dog trust you. If you feel like, these things is not that effective at all, then you might need to exert more effort and think of a way to gain your dog’s trust.
How To Approach A Scared Dog
Approaching a scared dog properly helps in reducing their stress or nervousness when you are around. Here are some more ways to build trust between you and your dog:
1. You need to slow down
Try to make a sigh before making any potentially alarming movements when you are with your dog. When you are moving aggressively, you can get your dog’s attention subtly and your dog may feel like you are going to do something to him.
If you will try to approach your dog slowly, it will help him sense your movement. You should not surprise your dog with your sudden movement; this will make him react aggressively, too. Therefore, try to show some signs that you are about to move.
2. Do not make eye contact.
While for humans, making eye contact with each other is not a big deal. For dogs, it is a threat. Do not try to make eye contact with them because it is somewhat scary for them. Instead, you can approach your dog in an arc, but not head-on.
3. Observe Your Dog Closely.
One of the most important things to remember when you are trying to gain your dog’s trust is to observe him closely and make sure to respond to what you will see. Observe your dog how will react to some of your movements.
If your movement makes your dog dilates his pupils, impose a backward step, or raised a hair on his neck, then you should stop doing it. It means that your dog is nervous or scared about it and he is uncomfortable.
4. Let your dog approach you.
A scared dog will take a lot of courage to approach you. When you have a scared dog, you can try to ignore him but make sure you are observing his gestures. Wait until your dog approaches you! But first, avoid praising or pet him. You can reward him in another way like by dropping a treat.
Praising or turning a great deal of attention to your scared dog is a little too much and too soon. If your dog starts to engage with you, then that’s great and you can give him a treat. However, if your dog is keeping his distance, then you should respect that. Give him space and do not force him to engage with you. That’s what you call building trust.
5. Playing games with your dog
Once your dog is starting to approach you, then you can slowly interact with him by playing games. You can try the Plate Game, Treat and Retreat, or the Pat-Pet-Pause. The Plate Game by using paper plate helps your dog to understand that your approaching means treats and he can approach you anytime to get some food.
Another is the Treat and Retreat game, which helps your dog learn how to approach you or any strangers to get some treats. It can reduce their tendency to have a show a defensive movement or fear-based aggression.
On the other hand, the Pat-Pet-Pause game will help your dog enjoy the idea of petting.
These 5 simple tips will help your scared dog to trust you more. All these things aim to show to your dog that you worthy of his trust and you are someone that he can rely on. Respecting your dog’s feelings, and space, seeking permission to pet your dog, and letting your dog choose when to approach are definitely effective ways to gain their trust.
Sure Signs That Your Dog Trusts You
After all your effort to get your scared dog to trust you, how can you tell that he is already bonded to you? Here are the sure signs that your dog trusts you:
1. Does not panic when you leave him home alone
If this is the case, your dog always knows that you will come back at the end of the day. Your dog does not panic because he does not feel stressed or nervous anymore when you leave the house either for work or for any important errand.
2. Your dog lets you rub his belly.
It is such a comfortable feeling for dogs when their owners scratch their bellies. Though this might be a not-so-good position for dogs to lie on the back, allowing you to touch and rub their bellies is a sure sign that your dog trusts you!
3. Your dog is leaning towards you.
When you try to bring your dog outdoors and he starts to lean on you, it’s a clear sign that your dog trusts you. It is their way to seek protection and your dog thinks that you can give him the protection he needs.
4. Your dog feels relaxed in your presence.
If your dog jumps and feels so excited to get near you when you come home, it means he is happy to see you. Also, when you start to notice that your dog feels relaxed and comfortable with you around, it only means you are a trusted friend of his.
5. You can make eye contact with your dog.
For dogs, eye contact means conflict. If your dog does not avoid eye contact then that’s a sign that he already trusts you that you will not harm him at all. Studies have proved that eye contact promotes raising the level of oxytocin in the body, which can improve the connection between a baby and a mother. Just like humans, that also applicable to dogs.
Just like humans, dogs need to be respected and loved. When you show love and respect towards your dog, you are just a step away from gaining his trust. Taking care of your dog pays up at the end of the day because once you gained his trust; you already have a best friend that you can treasure in your life!