We all can agree:
Accidentally kicking your dog can be one of the worst nightmares of every dog owners.
Our instinct causes us to start nurturing and apologizing when that’s exactly what we shouldn’t do.
So how do you gain back your dog’s trust if you mistakenly kick him? The quickest way to gain back their trust is to not apologize and act normally. This followed by conducting a check for injuries and then engaging in a fun activity is the quickest way to gain back their trust.
But that sounds exactly the opposite of what most dog owners would do. So why would you do so?
Read on below to find out the reason:
How To Regain Your Dog’s Trust
Accidents can happen. It might be that you’re in a hurry to leave for work or playing outside with your pooch and you accidentally kick them. Your dog lets out a small squeal and runs and hides somewhere.
At this point, most dog owners would immediately soften and try to apologize to their dog in every humanly possible way. However, we’re here to tell you that it’s exactly the opposite of what you’re doing. And here’s why:
Never apologize to your dog
See the thing is that humans and dogs are psychologically programmed quite differently. Although if you hurt another person, apologizing might make sense so you can help them understand the cause of the incident and make them realize that you did it unintentionally.
However, dogs don’t quite interpret apologizing the way humans do. Dogs associate apologizing, nurturing, rewarding, and all sorts of positive emotions with good behaviour. This is especially true in the case that you’re using positive reinforcement as your training method. We’ll discuss that in detail later.
And even though after hurting someone we love, our instinct is to apologize and nurture, that’s exactly the opposite of what you should be doing. If you apologize to your dog, they’ll think that maybe they did something good, or in this case, getting scared is a good thing.
Give your dog space and time
So if you shouldn’t apologize, what should you do? It’s probably best that you act completely normal and return to other activities while giving your dog space and some time to heal on their own.
Some people might have the urge to talk to their pets. Also, doing so might become necessary if your dog is taking too much time to become normal. In this case, use a very gentle and calm tone instead of an emotional, apologetic one.
Another important thing is to check your dog for injuries. If you think you kicked them quite a bit hard, they might have sustained an injury. Although your dog might squeal or maybe even limp immediately after getting kicked, check to see if this behaviour persists.
If they go into a corner and remain squealing or limping after 20 or 30 minutes, they might be hurt. In this case, you should check their body for injuries without saying anything. If they look hurt, it’s probably best to take them to a vet and get them checked.
Repair your bond
If you’ve already hurt your dog and accidentally apologized to them, there’s still hope and you can still repair your bond with your pooch.
You also need to understand an important thing. Dogs naturally have a high tolerance for pain and don’t tend to hold grudges. After you’ve kicked your dog, they will probably forget it and move on after a day or two or even after a few hours.
They only remember incidents that brought severe traumatic pain and will move on pretty quickly with minor events like these. Therefore, there’s no reason for you to go on a guilt trip as it was only an accident and your dog won’t probably remember it for long.
After you’ve given them their time and space and they have calmed down, you can treat them and give them affection. If they still seem scared, either of you can do your favourite activity like playing a particular game, going to your favourite park or giving them their favourite treats.
Why Should You Not Apologize
I’m sure that most of you would probably still be confused with why you shouldn’t be apologizing to your dog. Doesn’t that seem rude and mean?
The reason lies in your dog’s psychology.
Everyone wants their dog to behave well. The negative reinforcement method directs owners to use punishment to curb bad behaviour and to help their dogs distinguish good from the bad.
When your dog does something which they’re not allowed to, the owner punishes the dog. This causes the dog to associate that behaviour with pain, which prevents them from repeating it. And although we highly discourage this method, remember that we’re only explaining it for your understanding.
The way negative reinforcement connects with kicking your dog is that the kicking incident can be regarded as an example of negative reinforcement. Still, we do not encourage you to use kicking as a form of negative reinforcement training at any cost!
However, it explains why not apologizing to your dog will help things calm down quicker. Since dogs understand that bad behaviour results in punishment, and good behaviour results in encouragement and affection, apologizing to them can have the exact opposite effect of what you think.
If you just keep calm for a few hours till your dog become normal on their own, it will be easier for you to gain their trust back, even if you’ve never used the negative reinforcement method for training.
Dog Trust Do’s and Don’ts
When you’re trying to gain back your dog’s trust after you’ve accidentally hurt them, there are certain things that you should and should not do. These will help quicken up the process and your dog will become normal much faster. Also, it will prevent any misinterpretations and sending mixed signals to your dog which might otherwise confuse them. Here are some of the following:
1. Make them comfortable with your presence
If your dog has come from an abusive home or shelter, or you’ve broken their trust to the point where they’ve become aggressive towards you, start by making them comfortable with your presence. Come and quietly sit down in the same room as them, preferably on the ground at their eye level. This allows them to perceive you as an ally instead of a threat.
After then, keep sitting in the same place for 10-20 minutes and notice their behaviour. At first, they might be shy or even growl at you. But when they slowly see that you’re not a threat, they’ll start getting closer and closer to you. Whenever they move closer to you, you must give them the treat to reward and encourage them. If they’ve started sitting in your lap, you can use verbal praises as well.
2. Use positive reinforcement
The positive reinforcement method is essential in helping your dog gain or regain your trust without harming them mentally or physically. It involves rewarding your dog every time they perform a desirable act or behaviour and listens to your command.
The way you can reward them are either through treats or verbal praises. Dogs love treats and they associate them with pleasure in their brains. So whenever you give them a treat for good behaviour, they will associate good behaviour with pleasure and will repeat it again and again.
You could also choose to verbally praise them. Although dogs can’t understand human language, they can very well recognize your tone. They recognize high-pitched voices with positive emotions, so when you use a calm and high-pitched voice to remind them that they’re a “good boy”, your dog can very well understand that they’re on their best behaviour.
Thus, you can use positive reinforcement to help gain your dog’s trust. Try to give him commands and see when he’s doing something positive, and reward them through treats or praises. This will encourage them to associate you with positive and pleasurable emotions and help strengthen the bond and trust.
3. Feed them with your hand
Feeding is probably one of the best ways to gain a dog’s trust. See, dogs are quite simple creatures, and when they see that someone is feeding them, they associate that person as their caretaker as food is a basic survival commodity to them.
You can start by sitting near your dog when they’re eating if they are not comfortable enough with your presence. Try to make sure that they also see you placing food for them so they can associate you with food.
Slowly, you can move closer and closer till they’re comfortable enough with eating from your hand. If they’re comfortable with eating from your hand, you’ve developed a quite strong bond between you and your pooch.
4. Play with them
Most dogs are very playful by nature and love to go outdoors. If you’re trying to build trust between you and your dog, engaging in games and outdoor activities can quickly strengthen that bond between both of you.
If you’re not sure which game your dog loves, fetch is a pretty standard game that’s loved by all dogs. Get them a toy or ball and go to the park to play fetch with them. You could also play other games like a treasure hunt or hide and seek in your backyard.
However, if they haven’t become comfortable enough with playing outdoor games with you, you can always engage in indoor games with them. Get a couple of treats and hide in your house while they find you, and give them a few treats and praises when they successfully do. Or maybe you can play a tugging game with a tugging toy too
1. Never punish them or harm them
Although quite many people consider punishments and the negative reinforcement method as a very successful way of training, it’s far from the truth. Not only are both of these cruel and inhuman, but they can also backfire severely.
Constant punishment and physical pain can cause dogs to become extremely fearful. This is often called as ‘shutting down’, which is when a dog becomes completely still and stops reacting. And while owners perceive this as a result of good training, the dog has reached such a level of fear and sadness that they’ve stopped reacting completely in the fear that they’re going to get hurt again.
What’s more dangerous is that this training method can cause some dogs to become aggressive. Not only will they bark at and try to harm unfamiliar faces, but will also become aggressive towards you and might seriously harm you in case you repeat that behaviour.
2. Don’t give them a treat after accidentally hurting them
Most people might get tempted to give their dog a treat when they have accidentally kicked them. But just like we mentioned how praising or apologizing to them can be counter-intuitive, so can giving them treats.
Because your dog is still a vulnerable state after they’ve been hurt, if you give them a treat, this will again give them mixed signals that they’ve done something good. And if they start thinking distancing themselves from their owner and being scared, this can create distrust instead of trust in your dog.
Hurting their dog is probably every dog owner’s worst nightmare. That little squeal most dogs let out when you accidentally step on their paw or tail or even kick them can soften even the most stubborn people. However, you should be quite happy that dogs are extremely loving and gentle animals.
They usually don’t remember small incidents like these and even if they do, they forgive their owner’s quite easily too. This is one of the reasons why they’re such lovable pets and destroying their trust would require you to be the cruellest person in the world. So if you do want to regain your dog’s trust back, just follow our steps and both of you will be back to normal in absolutely no time!