How can I gain back my dog's trust after accidentally kicking him?
I was in my yard the other day playing with a football and my dog was nearby. I was kicking the ball against the wall when my dog was walking past, I didn't see him and accidentally kicked him in the side toppling him over.
After crying out in pain, he slinked away and wouldn't come to me when I called him. It's been 2 days now and he is still behaving like this. He will move when he sees me coming or if I corner him and try to pet him, he puts his tail between his legs and cower.
This is my dog of nearly 4 years, a dog that would come to meet me at the gate or come running at a call when going for a walk. How can I gain his trust back and show him that I mean no harm?
Short answer: cover your entire hand in a light coating of peanut butter and offer it up to your dog.
If it means anything to you, dogs have a very high tolerance for pain, so when they scream out it is more because of them being startled or shocked than because of pain. I accidentally closed a door on my dogs tail, not hard but the startle caused him to let out a loud yelp.
He will regain trust you in over time, but an important thing to remember for the future is that dog psychology is VERY different than human psychology. Your first reaction if you accidentally hurt a child is to immediately fawn over the child and shower him/her with affection. The child needs to cognitively recognize the accident to get over it.
When you immediately get emotional, nurturing and reactive after an accident then you are teaching the dog through your nurturing that you are rewarding them for feeling scared. Nurturing is a reward for wanted behaviour so in the dogs mind you are telling the dog it is right to be scared and anxious about the very person or situation involved in the accident.
The best thing to do is to check the dog for injury, then immediately move on and try to get the dog to not dwell on what happened. After the dog is calm again, give them a treat to reward them having calmed down and give them extra affection then. It is never a good idea to give affection to a dog in emotional distress (physical distress is a bit different).
You will find the dog will move past the incident rather quickly because the dogs ancestors don't dwell on accidents. They make their intentions very known through deliberate communication and action. Dogs also live in the present. They don't dwell on past memories, their memories of what happened in the past are mostly emotional based and not event based. Eg. they smell the grounds of a dog park where they were attacked by another dog and they get an emotional surge of fear. The fear is an automatic reaction.
This is very reassuring, has some good points and eases my feeling of guilt. He is letting me pet him again now (4 days later). Still cringes sometimes but it seems we are becoming friends again.
There are a lot of resources from behaviourists suggesting that the central idea of this answer is incorrect. You can't reinforce fear. You can comfort your dog exactly as you would comfort a child and it will do no harm at all. See, for example : http://www.patriciamcconnell.com/theotherendoftheleash/you-cant-reinforce-fear-dogs-and-thunderstorms http://eileenanddogs.com/cant-reinforce-fear/ https://fearfuldogs.wordpress.com/tag/reinforcing-fear/