No dog wants to be touched. Touching a dog is one of the prime reasons why dogs show aggression and might react. Think of this for a moment. Do you want someone to touch you on the nose? Or on your ears? Or grab you by the neck?
Well, your dog doesn’t want it either. The good news is that you can teach your puppy to tolerate touching. Before you do that, you need to understand the touching triggers.
Where are the touching triggers?
You see a dog and a dog owner. And the owner is touching his dog all over the body. But that is a dog that has been properly trained and socialized.
Yet, there are hot spots. How to find the hot spots? Well, you will see your pup goes still instantly or move its head round to look at where are you and what are you doing.
Basically, most dogs have the same touching triggers. Those are ears, collar, and eye contact. And you can progressively remove each trigger.
The principle is the same for each trigger. But remember, the accent is on progressive. You cannot remove all triggers all at once.
You have to start slow and below the threshold.
How to remove touching triggers?
When you want to teach your dog that touching is OK, you have to start slow and with a winner. What does that mean? Well, you do not go and touch his collar or neck at first. You start with petting your dog. While you pet your dog, give him treats. That will associate touching with positive things, like treats.
The goal here is to turn an aversive procedure into a pleasant one. Say, for example, your dog doesn’t like anyone touching its ears. Well, start with other places. Touch his tail, or pet him by the back, and give him treats.
You need lots of treats, kibble, and high-value treats. The closer you get to the problematic area, you increase the value of your treats.
So, in this example, you touch your dog’s butt and give treats. Move up the back, give more treats. Move on the head, and give high-value treats. And then go back for a second, and touch his head again. Give your puppy high-value treats again. And now, try to touch his ears. But just the tip of the ears.
See how your dog reacts. Do not keep working linearly towards the hot spot. Go back and forward all the time.
You should always work below the threshold. And try to approach it gradually. Try touching a spot a couple of times before you move toward the next spot for touching.
Now, this might sound silly for most dogs. Yes, there are loving dogs that enjoy being touched. You have your Golden Retriever and Labrador Retriever. But what happens when a kid tries to touch a dog like say, a Doberman? And it reacts? Now you have a problem. And you might say that dog is aggressive.
Well, that is not the issue. Your dog might not be aggressive. It just has its own boundaries and limits where you can touch.
How to touch the collar
Touching the collar is one of the most challenging things with dogs. Same as we said before, this is not an issue with dogs like Golden retriever, Maltese, Poodle, Bichon Frise, and similar breeds.
But it is an issue when you try to touch the collar of dogs that are known to react. It is even more tricky with an adult dog. Side note: you should also teach your puppy bite inhibition. This way, even if your dog reacts, there will not be a problem with biting.
Before you can teach a dog it is OK to touch its collar, you should establish a bond. Make sure your dog comes and sits in front of you. Give him a treat for a couple of successful come sit come sit.
Then, add a touch to come sit. But not the collar. Same as with other touching triggers, you have to get there gradually.
Before you can touch the dog, you have to get them used to moving and following you. Once you get that handled, you can move to touching. Start by touching spots your dog loves. For example, most dogs love belly rubs. Get your dog to roll over and give them a belly scratch. They will love it. Continue praising your puppy while you touch him.
Repeat a few funny stuff and establish a good bond with your dog. Even if this is your puppy, you cannot go directly for the collar.
Now, after you have done a few funny things, try to touch your dog’s collar. If you succeed, give him a treat. Then another treat. Then try to touch the collar again.
Do just quick touches at first. Remember, work below a threshold. Then try come sit come sit, touch collar treat. Repeat a couple of times.
The next threshold is to grab the collar and hold it. This will take time as well. Go slowly and repeat trial after trial after trial.
While you train your dog, remember one thing. Nothing happens overnight. It will take months and months of trials and repeats until your dog is comfortable with you touching the collar.
The same applies to eye contact.