Changing your dog’s mind about something can be challenging. Lots of people are convinced that their dogs are “stubborn,” or uncooperative, or obstinate.
“My dog hates the sound of Velcro.”
“She won’t tolerate anything going over her head.”
“He wiggles too much to step into a harness.”
We get it. Dogs have definite likes and dislikes. But you can change their mind. All it takes is a little patience and a lot of treats.
Why not let your dog choose?
Just last week we talked about how much fun it was to let our dogs be “in charge” of an outing. And it is, on occasion, a great idea. But just as you wouldn’t let a human toddler choose all aspects of life, the dog doesn’t get to decide, either.
If you want, or need, your dog to wear a certain type of harness, you may need to train them to accept it. If you’d really like your dog to wear the no-escape Wrap-N-Go, but your dog is afraid of hook-and-loop tape, what do you do?
Dogs love routine. They love schedules. They don’t tend to like what’s new and different. So the first step in changing your dog’s mind about anything is to make it a normal part of life.
Say your dog is an eager eater and loves nothing better than meals. While your dog is eating, play with some hook-and-loop tape. The sound will be associated with something your dog loves, rather than something scary. If your dog is so scared of the sound that he/she stops eating, move farther away. As your dog gets used to the sound and is able to ignore it, move gradually closer. In time your dog will realize there’s no threat.
If your dog isn’t crazy about meals, you do have other options for training your dog to get used to the sound. Think of something that your dog values highly – whether it’s a toy, or a chewie, or a particular treat. If you open the hook-and-loop tape while your dog is playing with a favorite toy, you’ll change your dog’s opinion. Just as if every time you rip the hook-and-loop tape open a little, you give your dog a special treat. Premium treats (Chicken Heart Treats, pieces of cheese or hot dog) will make it a sound your dog loves, rather than a source of fear.
Over the head
The same thing goes if your dog is afraid of something going over his/her head. Taking it slowly, rewarding heavily, and changing the experience into a good time makes all the difference. Just show the dog the harness and reward for looking at it, sniffing it, any interaction. Then put the harness over your arm and use that hand to give a treat. When the dog is okay with that, bring the harness closer, eventually over your hand. When your dog is okay with touching the harness to get the treat, you can gradually move it closer so it’s touching your dog. In time, it will become normal and routine.
Dogs are adaptable and their love for you will get them to try anything you want. As long as you introduce new or scary things gradually, and never try to fool them, your dog will keep trying.