Don't Touch The Dog!

You have probably seen the practice of offering a scared dog food from the hand, to associate that food with us as a pleasurable thing. It’s what we do, based on the idea of passing them some nice food to let them know we are friendly. It might even be another evolved habit from our ape ancestors. When a dog is really scared though, an outstretched hand – even with food in it, is enough to set their stress reaction off. The associated vocal encouragement and the fact we are watching to dog to see what she will do, is scary too. 

There is another risk factor to handing your worried dog tempting food, even if she comes towards you  take that food because it’s so tasty, she may suddenly realise that she’s closer to a human hand than is wise and panic then, backing off with fear and another new association about human hands being really scary things. 

Another thing we see -  often through Facebook videos – which can be well meaning but is misguided, is the glove on a stick ritual. I find this practice odd and watching it be carried out on a dog is quite distressing. The dog is usually squashed up a barrier like a solid kennel wall and someone has a glove on a broom handle stroking them gently. In this situation the dog is giving so many signals to increase distance and unless the dog needs medical treatment I can see no reason for touching a dog that’s this scared, this early in the process. 

Touch is for neccessary treatment or trust building later in the process, not the first thing we try and do when we meet a scared dog. 

Image by Mingyuk Cheng from Pixabay


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