Earning your dog’s trust is the first step to a wonderful, lifelong relationship of love, learning and fun. Whether you’re trying to get your newly adopted dog to warm up to you, getting to know your friend’s dog, or just want to be a pal to every dog you meet, follow these steps to earn ANY dog’s trust. 

Give Your New Dog Some Time

It’s important to be patient with your dog. Do not take it personally if they do not want to sit next to you on the couch right away, or if they do not yet come when called. Do not worry if they favour one person, seem to dislike one of your family members, or if they take a while to bond with anyone at all. 

On average, it takes at least two weeks for your new dog to start to settle in. For some, it will take longer. It may take even longer for your dog’s true personality to blossom. 

Respect Your Dog’s Space

Imagine if you made a new friend on the bus or train during your commute, and they immediately bombarded you with a hug and a kiss. You’d be mortified, right?

Dogs feel similarly about physical affection. Do not invade a dog’s space to force affection on them, and definitely do not go in for a kiss or a hug if you do not know them. Hugs, kisses, picking up a dog, and other invasions of space are a sure way to lose trust, rather than earn it. You can also put yourself at risk for a bite. Instead, allow the dog to approach you, and let them decide how much touch is appropriate. 

Comfort Your Dog When They’re Scared

Once your dog has started to warm up to you, you can help them adjust to other new things that might scare them. Contrary to popular belief, it is okay to comfort a dog when they’re feeling scared. You won’t reinforce their fearful behaviours or make their anxiety worse. Instead, you’ll become their comfort when they’re unsure of a situation, and they’ll look to you rather than overreacting to their surroundings. 

Try Hand Feeding To Earn Your Dog’s Trust Around Food

You can feed all or part of your dog’s meals by hand, rather than serving them in a bowl. There is no need to do any training at this point, so your dog does not need to earn each bite. You can, however, wait for them to calm down and make eye contact with you before offering up pieces of food. 

If your dog is very fearful, do not force them to come to you for food if they’re not ready. It’s okay to just place some food on the floor close to you. Using food to lure your dog into situations for which they are not yet ready will actually make them more fearful and less trusting. 

Hand feeding can help prevent resource guarding. However, if your dog does growl or snap at you when you go near their food, it can quickly get worse if you try to work on this behaviour at home. Consult a positive trainer or behaviourist instead of trying to resolve resource guarding on your own. 

Always Find Ways To Reward Your Dog

Naturally, using force, fear, or intimidation to train your dog will destroy your dog’s trust. Even if some trainers use painful or startling methods to train does not mean that your dog will understand your intentions. What dogs DO understand is that they must avoid what’s scary or painful, which results in a dog that obeys because they’re scared, not because they’re having fun. 

Instead, look for the good. The more you reward your dog for good behaviour, the more they’ll do good things, and the more they’ll enjoy learning with you. Positive reinforcement rocks. 

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