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How To Regain Your Dog’s Trust?

Building trust is important for your dog’s well-being and your own. Dogs do not understand when their owner is yelling or acting in an abusive way, and this behavior is ineffective.

The good news is there are ways you can win back your dog’s trust!

If you have patience and regularly work through trust-building exercises, this will rebuild the relationship with your dog. 

In addition, offering your dog kindness, praise, treats, and a healthy respect for its space and boundaries will allow your dog time to forge a trusting connection with you. 

However, there are also some rare cases where no matter your efforts, your dog will not trust you again. 

This article will discuss some ways to help you regain your dog’s trust and helpful advice if all else fails.


Why doesn’t your dog trust you?

Most dogs are naturally trusting, meaning some action or behavior has most likely contributed to the dog having trust issues. 

You would notice your dog displaying behavior that indicates that your dog does not trust you, for example, cowering or hiding, refusing to make physical contact, or leaving the room when you arrive.

Many reasons may have caused your dog to lose your trust;

Abused by a previous owner

If you adopted your dog from a shelter or previous owner, you are most likely not privy to the dog’s trauma exposure, but this should be assumed. 

Unhappy incidents with you

While we hope these incidents were unintentional, your dog may have lost trust in you because of them. 

Perhaps you lost your temper on more than one occasion, causing your dog to be fearful of you. 

You may have also not cared for your dog leading to its weariness and avoidance of you.

Neglected by you

Perhaps you met all your dog’s functional needs but did not have the time to provide physical contact or an affectionate relationship. 

This could cause your dog to not bond with you, leading to trust issues.

An under-socialized or nervous dog 

Under-socialized dogs may behave nervously or even aggressively. 

A nervous dog may react to a well-meaning person invading its space with an aggressive action, such as biting. 

Often this is because they have not been socialized and are not used to being around other people or animals.


Ways to regain your dog’s trust?

There are several ways you can work towards regaining your dog’s trust. A friendly interaction does not lead to immediate trust in most dogs. 

Time invested and patience is needed to ensure a successful outcome.

Avoid fast or sudden movements. 

Abused dogs are rightly afraid of fast or sudden movements. For your dog to feel safe in your presence, you should always move in a way that does not intimidate your dog, 

For example, not raising your arms above the waist or reaching for something in a very controlled motion. 

When walking towards your dog, approach slowly and couple this with some soft baby talk.

Avert your eyes

To a dog, staring directly into its eyes is a threat and can cause it to feel afraid, anxious, or even threatened enough to want to protect itself.

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You should, therefore, avert your eyes when addressing your dog directly.

Speak in a calm and measured way

When trying to gain your dog’s trust, the way you speak is important. 

Use a soft, calm, and measured tone to let your dog know you mean no harm, even if it does not understand what you are saying. 

Using baby talk can be very effective with your dog and will go a long way toward it beginning to trust you.

Avoid loud noises

It is important to remember that yelling, banging on things, or using loud noise is ineffective in regaining your dog’s trust. 

Instead, constant praise and rewarding brave behavior with treats is a much better positive reinforcement.

Use treats and reward behavior

Consistently use treats to reward your dog whenever it behaves in a way that shows progress and even when the dog attempts to try. 

For dogs who cannot be touched or approached, you could praise and reward the dog by setting the treat down on the floor in a slow-motion way and then walking back to allow the dog a safe space to retrieve the treat.

Let your dog approach you in its own time.

Knowing your dog’s limits and your own is imperative to building trust. 

Never force your dog to engage in any way that makes your dog feel afraid or threatened. 

Allow your dog to feel safe in your presence. Ensure your dog understands that it can approach you in its own time. 

Work with your dog on trust-building exercises for 5–10-minute intervals, reward your dog’s efforts and then stop or take a break.

Never hit your dog, raise your voice or force your dog into an uncomfortable situation. 

This will cause regression in any progress you may have made with your dog, reinforcing its decision not to trust you.


Trust-building exercises to try out

Trust-building exercises to try out

Practice trust-building exercises with your dog for a few minutes each day. Always reward your dog with kind, positive talk and a treat.

Hand Feeding

Holding your dog’s food in your hand and allowing time for your dog to approach your hand and eat from it, is a great way to build trust. 

Your dog may not feel safe enough to do this the first few times. 

After attempting for a few minutes, with baby talk and encouraging words, you can return the food to its bowl and retreat, allowing your dog to eat alone. 

Repeat this behavior every mealtime until your dog eats from your hand. When your dog finally does, you should reward this behavior with a treat and praise.

Bonding games

Think of something your dog enjoys or may enjoy. Perhaps a favorite toy or a new toy that you could use to play a game of fetch. 

Be patient, and do not become frustrated if your dog will not engage or play. 

You should attempt the game daily for a few minutes, always encouraging your dog to participate.

If your dog allows you to be close, you could attempt a game of tug of war with a dog-friendly rope. 

Or, simply sit near your dog, as close as it will allow, and listen to music, a tv show or engage in friendly conversation. Remember to reward your dog with a treat.

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Gentle Massage 

If your dog allows you to touch it, use slow movements and gentle strokes and pet or massage your dog. Do not attempt to do this near its face or paws. 

Some dogs will enjoy you petting the area on the bottom of their back, close to their tail, while others may prefer a tummy rub. 

Do not make any sudden movements. Use baby talk during the massage and a treat at the end.


What to do if your dog still cannot trust you?

What to do if your dog still cannot trust you

Each dog is different. The reason for its trust issues and the time it needs to learn to trust you will differ. Try the following in an ongoing way:

1. Do not repeat behavior that caused your dog to lose its trust in you 

This is one of the most important things you can do!

2. Learn effective ways to communicate with your dog

You may find your dog responds to some activities more than others. In this case, narrow your efforts and focus on these activities consistently.

3. Be patient and continue to use steps to regain trust

Building trust takes time but regaining it takes longer. Be patient and continue working with your dog for at least 5-10 minutes daily.

4. Consistently demonstrate kindness and praise

Use treats, baby talk, and a kind and praising tone in every interaction with your dog. 

These actions will allow your dog to associate interactions with you as favorable experiences, ultimately leading to trust.

5. Acceptance of your dog’s trust issues

In some rare cases, it may be that your dog will not trust you again, no matter how hard you try. 

Accepting your dog’s limitations and allowing it to continue to feel safe and cared for means you can still do what is best for your dog, without needing to rehome it. 

Continue to interact with your dog and approach it in the recommended ways, giving praise and showing affection to make it feel comfortable and safe. 

Never repeat any negative behaviors that could cause regression.


Final Thoughts 

Consistent efforts to interact with your dog in the recommended ways, along with rewarding behavior using treats, gentle touch, and kind baby talk, can all go a long way toward your dog regaining your trust.

You must have patience and allow your dog to approach you in its own time. 

You should determine the most effective ways to communicate with your dog, and spend at least 5-10 minutes a day working on trust-building exercises such as hand-feeding, games, or gentle massage.

In most cases, your dog will trust you again in its own time once you establish an environment in which your dog feels loved, safe, and rewarded.

Suppose your situation is a rare case where after all your efforts, your dog still will not trust you. In that case, you should still continue to provide the best home possible for your dog and continue to interact in a way that your dog views as favorable and non-threatening.