If your dog is fearful of people, then teaching it to calmly accept, and even enjoy touch, can be a challenge. It may even seem impossible at this point! But, with the right steps, building their confidence and understanding your dog’s body language, you can create a dog that seeks out touch – even from strangers!
To start, please read The dogma of Handling to learn about the importance of teaching this to your dog and the introduction steps for you to work on with handling your dog. If they are unsure or fussy about handling from you, then do not expect them to be comfortable with a stranger touching them.
When working on handling with a fearful dog, you always start where they are most comfortable and build from there. Be patient with this and understand that you cannot push your dog. If you push them, you may traumatize them and make their fears even worse. Follow the handling steps but keep the below considerations in mind.
As you go through these steps on your own, you will begin to work with familiar people and then strangers. Keep yourself calm and ensure everyone involved in calm. Reward all appropriate behaviour and if your dog does react or flee, simply step back and use the food to get them settled again. The world is a scary place for our fearful dogs, so it is our job to ensure we expose them to it and work them through these fears. Do not use their behaviour or past experiences as an excuse. Work with your trainer to set these training situations correctly and enjoy the rewards of watching your dog’s confidence build! Socialize them to the world as you would a new puppy! Get them out and teach them the world means good things – they will thank you for it and be forever grateful!