How to Regain a Scared Dog’s Trust After Hitting Him
We won’t ask the reason why you hit your dog. It may have been accidental or out of pure frustration after your dog was misbehaving. Whatever the reason, hitting is hitting and you may need to take steps to rebuild your dog’s trust.
Dogs are generally forgiving and may still trust you after you hit them, especially if this was an isolated incident. That said, dogs also build up a strong association with pain and fear so you may need to take steps (and be patient throughout the process) to show your dog that you aren’t someone to be scared of. Here are some tips that may help you regain your dog’s trust.
Let the Dog Come to You
Don’t force anything on your dog. For example, don’t pick up the dog or corner him to an area of the house where he may feel threatened. Instead, we would suggest to let your dog be and give him time until he comes to you on his own. During this time, you can occasionally offer your dog his favorite treats and toys to show that you aren’t someone to be scared of.
One other important tip is to not pamper your dog immediately after he gets hit. It feels natural to immediately go to your hurt dog and shower him with affection but keep in mind that a dog’s psychology is very different to a human’s. Pampering him may send the wrong message and teach your dog that he will be rewarded for feeling scared.
The most important step immediately after your dog gets hit is to first make sure he isn’t suffering by checking for any injuries. Once you confirm this, you can pet the dog and apologize briefly before moving on. You don’t want the dog to dwell too much on the incident. You can also give the dog a treat once it looks like he has calmed down.
Don’t Ever Raise Your Voice
Dogs may not understand what you say but they are definitely sensitive to the loudness and tone of your voice. You should never shout or raise your voice when you are talking to your dog. Instead, use a soothing and delightful tone to indicate to your dog that there’s nothing to fear.
Not long ago, a study on dog training found that aversive-based training methods can have long-term negative effects on a dog’s mental health. This is just one reason why it’s never good to raise your voice when talking to a dog. Instead, you should resort to positive-reinforcement methods.
Don’t Act or Look Anxious
It’s not just the voice. Dogs may also be sensitive to a person’s demeanor. It’s important to not act or look anxious immediately after the incident as this may just cause even more anxiety for your dog. Aside from the hitting, he may think there is something even more wrong to the incident.
If things don’t seem to change over time then it may be worthwhile to consult with a professional dog trainer to see if there’s anything you can do to fix the trust between your dog and yourself. Whatever lead to this incident, please do not ever hit your dog again.