If your dog jumps or flinches whenever you try to pet it, you might be wondering why and what you can do about it. This post will show you common causes and what you can do about them.

So, why does my dog flinch when I touch it? Possible reasons why your dog flinches when you touch it are that previous owners mistreated it, you approach it too boldly, it was not expecting you to touch it, you might have encouraged the behavior or that it has an injury.

There are many possible reasons why your dog has been doing it and it could be due to a combination of them. However, there are some things you can consider when figuring out the main reason and there are a number of things you can do about it.

Why your dog jumps when you pet it

Below are possible reasons why your dog has been doing it and what would make them more likely.

Previous owners

The cause could be that previous owners mistreated it. This would be more likely if your dog has never liked being touched, if you adopted it as an adult or if you know that it had previous owners that mistreated it.

In this case, it would help to interact with it calmy, to reward it when it shows signs of not flinching and to have patience with it since it should begin to get more comfortable as it begins to realize that it is safe around you.

You get emotional with it

Another possible cause could be that you have been petting it too boldly. If you tend to pet it with a lot of force or you do it quickly, it could be the case that the way you have been petting it is what has been causing it to flinch when you pet it. Instead, it would help to pet it calmly and from the front or side where it can see you doing it.

It was not expecting it

The cause might also be that it was not expecting you to pet it. This would be more likely if it only jumps when you pet it from behind when it cannot see you and if it does not jump when it can see that you are about to pet it.

Encouraging the behavior

It could be the case that you have been encouraging the behavior by giving it things it wants when it does it. If you tend to give it things such as treats, toys or extra attention, when it gets scared, it will likely do it more in order to get more rewards. Instead, it would help to avoid rewarding it when it behaves in a way that you do not want and to wait for it to clam down before rewarding it.

Nature

It might be the case that it is naturally timid. This would be more likely if it has always behaved that way and if it has been timid in other ways as well. However, even if it does seem to behave that way naturally, it would still help to encourage it to be less timid as discussed below.

Injury

It might be the case that an injury has been causing it to flinch. This would be more likely if it has started doing it suddenly and if it has been showing other signs of being injured such as limping. In this case, the best option would be to take it to a vet.

Things to consider

Below are some things to consider when figuring out the main reason why your dog has been doing it.

If your dog has always flinched when you touch it

If your dog did not always flinch when you pet it, it would help to consider what else happened when it first started doing it. If it started doing it suddenly, it would be more likely to be due to getting an injury but it might also be the case that there was an event that caused it to start being fearful.

What is different when it does not do it

If it does not always flinch, it would also help to consider what is different when it does not do it. For example, if it does not do it when it can see that you are about to touch it, the cause would be more likely to be that it flinches when it does not expect to be touched.

What to do about your dog flinching when you pet it

Below are some options you have when getting your dog to stop doing it.

Positive reinforcement training

Positive reinforcement training is where you encourage your dog to behave the way you want it to by rewarding it when it shows signs of behaving that way. To use it to get your dog to flinch less, you could do something such as:

  • Get your dog in front of you
  • Reward with a treat it for not being timid
  • Make it seem like you are about to pet it but stop before it is likely to flinch then reward it with at train for not flinching
  • Keep doing step 3, getting closer to actually petting it each time
  • Pet it slowly and for a short time period then reward it with a treat for not flinching
  • Pet it more and reward it with a treat each time that it does not flinch
  • If it flinches, go back to a previous step and build up again

Avoid encouraging the behavior

As mentioned above, it might be the case that you have inadvertently encouraged it to flinch by rewarding it when it does it. Instead, it would help to reward it whenever it does not do it and avoid rewarding it when it does.

Interact with it calmly

It would also help to interact with it calmly so that it does not feel threatened by the way that you interact with it.

Get help from a vet

If it seems like it could be doing it due to being injured or you are unsure why it has been doing it, the best option would be to take it to a vet.

Get help from a dog behaviorist

If you are unable to get your dog to stop doing it or it has been very timid, another option would be to get help from a dog behaviorist. By doing so, you should be able to see what has been causing your dog to behave that way and how you can get it to stop.

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Author

I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.