When a touch is a bad thing
You wanted a dog to be your companion and now you cannot even touch him. Does your dog growl at your touch? Many dogs are not okay with human touch; some came this way and some have learned how to keep you away. But no matter how your dog got here it is not a good place to be. You want to snuggle with, brush and cut their nails but each time you touch them they growl. How can you change this?
First; dogs are not humans and because of this they don't accept some human behaviors like we would. Take my girl Tilley; she is an amazing dog, she loves the entire family and loves to snuggle. She can be found daily with her head pressed on someones chest soaking in all the love she can. But if you try to hug her she pulls away; is this strange? No. Dogs don't hug; a hug in dog terms is a mount and very undesirable at that.
Even though Tilley loves to snuggle she is not comfortable with a direct hug. But she has never growled over it; she just is not comfortable receiving one. When a dog does growl; it is a clear signal of something. Whether they are not comfortable or they just don't want it a growl is a communication. Some dogs just growl and that is as far as they'll take it. Others will up the communication if their message doesn't work.
So how do you turn your untouchable into a touchable, loveable, snuggable? It must be done in very tiny baby steps, push too hard and your work will backfire. The method is simple; link a favorite thing with an undesirable action. Most dogs hate to have their nails cut; it's a normal dog thing and it starts with the feet. So let's start there because so many dogs have foot issues.
Get out the best treats you can, and if your dog doesn't like treats then get out whatever they do love. It may be peanut butter, a favorite type of chew or a toy. Sit beside your dog and bring out a treat, touch foot and give the treat. Only touch the foot for a second while treating. Over time make the touching last longer while giving many treats. What you are doing is creating a positive association to a negative situation; thus turning it around.
Once your dog is fine with you touching their feet you want to try to hold their foot, so lots of treats while this is going on. It also really helps to name body parts; especially when they have an issue with it. This gives them a heads up; on what you intend to be doing. My word for feet is......well.....Toadies; that's right. So when I'm going to cut nails or I need to see a foot I just ask them.
Once you can hold your dogs foot with ease you move to pulling on the nails; easily, lots of treats. Sort of massage the foot and give lots of treats. Then you want to introduce the trimmer; touch the foot with the trimmer and treat, treat, treat. Tap the trimmer on a nail and treat. You want to work up to cutting a nail, treat, next nail, treat. I'm not going to discuss the actual trimming as this is not what this blog is about. It is about touch and being cool with it and maybe even learning to love it.
Many dogs go through a stage of not wanting touch strictly because of their age and desire to do what they like; the teenage years. It is so important that you be able to touch your dogs whole body, clip their nails, scrape their teeth, brush them and anything else you'd like to do without being growled at or bitten. With a bit of work you can get there.
Be warned though it is extremely important to start at a place where your dog is not growling. A far distance or a simple one finger touch; you want to avoid the growl entirely. Each time your dog growls and you back off they learn that this is the way to keep you away. So you start before the growl.