One of the biggest joys of dog ownership is feeling that wet nose nuzzling your face in the morning. We put up with night-time barking and chewed shoes because we love the affection. However, some puppies are more affectionate than others. Luckily, you can teach affectionate behavior in aloof dogs.
Sit down next to your puppy. Lifting him from the ground in order to hold him can be a little alarming for him.
Pick Him Up
It’s essential to do this regularly to ensure the pup becomes used to being handled. But it’s even more essential to time handling correctly. If you pick him up when he’s sleeping, eating or otherwise distracted, he’ll associate handling with breaks to his preferred behavior. Handling has to the best thing on offer for the pup, so only pick him up when he’s not doing anything.
Don't Restrict Him
Hold him gently and allow him to move around. Simply holding the dog close will make him association human contact with restriction of his own movement. If he wants to go away, let him.
Encouraging Affectionate Behavior
Put yourself in a position where the dog will notice you, for example by sitting on the floor or kneeling. Give your dog a food treat as soon as he approaches you. This teaches him that contact with you typically has a positive outcome. If he’s an independent dog who prefers his own time and space, make yourself the most interesting thing in the room by removing all of his toys and closing the door. Every time he approaches, give a verbal cue such as “play time.” Eventually, he’ll learn that when he hears the cue, it’s time for physical contact.
Reinforcing Affectionate Behavior
Play with him and use lots of physical contact and verbal reinforcement, such as “good boy.” Observe his body language as you do this to figure out what he likes. Look out for the alert expression and wagging tail. Some dogs like a little rough and tumble, others prefer a gentle stroke. By knowing what he loves, you can make periods of affection more rewarding for him. Also, if you spot any defensive or submissive body language, such as cowering, dial the play intensity down a little.
Controlling Affectionate Behavior
Give verbal cues only when your dog is being calm and well behaved. If you give affection directly after he’s just chewed up the carpet, you inadvertently reinforce that unwanted behavior. Limit the period of affection to approximately 5 minutes at a go. Most dogs naturally crave affection, but even the tactile, loving ones need their own space, so overexposure to human contact can make them averse to it.
Affection as a Reward
Once you’ve got your puppy used to human affection and have taught that good things happen when he approaches you, you can use it as a reinforcer. When he does something good, give affection. He already knows that physical contact with you has a positive outcome, so he’ll seek it out. Deny him affection only directly after he’s done something naughty.
- Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images