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Just The Touch For ‘Handy Shy’ Dogs

(credit: Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

(credit: Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

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By Nan Talleno

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – As a behaviorist and trainer, it’s so sad to witness a dog who is considered to be “hand shy” or fearful of the human touch, more specifically, the human hand. Some dogs may be so fearful that they may nip, snap or even growl as a hand approaches.

They have been denied gentle contact with people. This may have been from a negative situation in the past or possibly abuse. But it’s not always the case. Many puppies can be hand shy as well as many older dogs who have never been socialized properly. Fortunately, this is not an irreparable situation.

Never punish a dog who is mistrustful. They need to learn that the human touch brings about good things such as food, affection and playtime. This transition requires patience, consistency and time for the dog to learn to fully trust and to ultimately feel comfort and safety with the human hand instead of fear and mistrust.

First, of course, rule out any possible medical issues with a visit to your vet for a thorough checkup. And although their tolerance is high, pain and discomfort can greatly affect an animal’s normal behavior.

After a clean bill of health, slowly and gradually start to teach your dog a positive association to hands with a favorite treat or eventually a gentle massage.

For severe cases, first seek the help of a professional trainer or a behaviorist to get started.