Have you ever stepped on your dog’s tail?
Or dropped something on them by accident?
It’s even more gut-wrenching when they yelp or whine.
The first instinct is to apologize a million times…
But dogs don’t always understand that.
So how do we let them know we’re sorry?
Keep reading to discover:
- 17 best ways to apologize to your dog.
- Precisely why you should apologize immediately.
- A weird trick dogs use to recognize our apologies.
- The surprising secret why snuggles are effective apologies.
- And many many more…
Table of contents
- How do I apologize to my dog?
- 17 best ways to apologize to your dog
- #1: Let them see your emotions
- #2: Spend time with your pooch
- #3: Show them affection
- #4: Soothing pets
- #5: Scratches on those places
- #6: Snuggles
- #7: Let them lick you
- #8: Give them kisses
- #9: Talk in a comforting voice
- #10: Praise your doggo
- #11: Play with them
- #12: Apologize immediately
- #13: No treats
- #14: Don’t make a big deal out of it
- #15: Try not to do it again
- #16: Don’t crowd your pooch
- #17: Let them come to you
- People also ask:
How do I apologize to my dog?
You can apologize to your dog by showing affection. Do this by petting, snuggling, playing, or talking to your dog. Letting them lick you can also be an apology. Make sure to do it right after the event, don’t overcrowd, and let them come to you.
17 best ways to apologize to your dog
#1: Let them see your emotions
Did you hurt your dog by accident?
The easiest way to say sorry is letting them see that you’re not angry.
Our doggos are very smart.
Thousands of years with humans has given them a superpower.
What’s that, you ask?
They know how to read our faces!
Most animals focus on sound or gestures.
But our dogs take it up another notch.
They combine visual and auditory clues.
Wanna know how?
Let’s take a look at this…
Dogs recognize human emotions
This study proves our pooches are capable of recognizing what we’re feeling.
The researchers had 17 dogs look at pictures of dogs and people. These showed varied emotions.
For the human pictures, happy and angry. And the dog pictures, playful and aggressive.
They showed the dogs the pictures side by side. Then they played these auditory cues one at a time:
- Neutral sound.
- Positive valence (pleasant sound).
- Negative valence (unpleasant noise).
The sounds corresponded with one of the pictures shown. The study even used different or unfamiliar languages. This removed the bias of languages heard by the dogs.
And you know what the researchers found?
For 67% of the time, the dogs looked at the picture that fit the played sound.
Interesting fact: The dogs didn’t focus on any facial expressions when they played the neutral sound.
“What does this tell us?”
The results tell us that dogs can recognize human emotions. It’s the same way they process the emotions of other dogs.
They use auditory and visual cues to interpret how others feel.
Which means that there’s an emotion-processing center in their brain.
The scientists think that they developed this over the years.
An evolutionary trait for improving dog-human relationships.
#2: Spend time with your pooch
Has anyone left you right after saying “I’m sorry”?
It’s not a pleasant feeling.
Don’t do the same thing to your doggos.
They’re probably feeling confused why you did something to hurt them.
So hunker down and spend time with your pooch.
Plus, doing that doesn’t give you any negative effects at all.
Well, except for not getting anything done.
“What are the benefits to spending time with your dog?”
The NIH tells us dogs can:
- Boost your mood.
- Reduce loneliness.
- Lower blood pressure.
- Lessen stress hormones.
- Provide comfort and support.
So what are you waiting for?
You don’t know what to do?
The next methods of apologizing will tell you how.
So keep reading.
#3: Show them affection
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines affection as “a feeling of liking and caring for someone or something”.
But I think that doesn’t sum everything we feel for our doggos.
It’s more than just liking or caring.
For some, dogs are like beloved family members.
So if you hurt your pooch, don’t hesitate to give them some lovin’.
#4: Soothing pets
One way you can show affection is through pets.
Did you know that dogs are more partial to pets than praise?
They also prefer it more than food (although this depends on the situation).
Let me talk about a study proving this.
Dogs like pets over praise
The researchers of this study did the experiment on 3 groups of dogs:
- Shelter dogs.
- Owned dogs with strangers.
- Owned dogs with fur parents.
The dogs alternated between these 3 scenarios:
- Receive only petting.
- Petting with vocal praise.
- Vocal praise with no interaction.
The 3 groups did this for 8 sessions of 3 minutes each.
Shelter dogs and owned dogs preferred pets in all the sessions.
They even wanted to be near humans. Regardless of who was petting them.
And they didn’t show any signs of getting tired of it.
Interesting fact: Vocal praise got the same reaction as no interaction. The dogs didn’t show interest in coming near.
#5: Scratches on those places
Now that you know your dog likes pets.
The next step is finding those feel-good spots for your pooch.
Most of them love it when their hooman rubs their ears.
The other areas where dogs love scratches can be on their:
But there’s a certain etiquette to petting pooches, as PetMD tells us.
Especially those unfamiliar with you. Or dogs who come from abusive situations.
Here are some tips for petting them:
Tip 1: Always, always ask for permission from their fur parent. If it’s your own dog, let them come to you for sniffing.
Tip 2: Crouch down and bend at the knees. Make sure your hands are placed palms-up on your thigh
Tip 3: Don’t reach out with your hand. Let them come to you. When they do that, let them sniff you.
Tip 4: When they lean in you can touch their chest or sides with slow soothing motions.
Is your pooch a snuggle hog?
Do they ask to sleep near you all the time?
If they are, you can use this as a way to apologize to them.
Touch is a very powerful tool. Especially when it comes to calming down your dog.
It releases the hormone oxytocin. Which promotes social reward. And it also reduces stress-induced activity in the brain, as this study finds.
Another study tells us that cuddles and snuggles increase oxytocin levels. This happens in both the hooman and their fur child.
Note: Don’t hug your dog immediately. Always let them come to you.
You can sit down and open your arms. Or invite your dog to come near you.
Let them initiate the cuddling.
#7: Let them lick you
Most of you are on the fence about this.
And I’m sure it depends on how bad your doggo’s breath is.
But dogs have an instinct to lick.
Their momma dog licks to clean and comfort them.
And you may have seen puppies lick older dogs when they first meet.
According to Blue Cross, this means that they’re seeking your attention. They do it because they want to interact with you.
So licking in this situation is positive.
But there’s a problem if your pooch keeps licking.
They can do it on:
- Your skin.
- Other surfaces.
- Their paws or skin.
Repetitive or obsessive licking is a sign that your dog has developed canine OCD.
This usually happens when they go through times of extreme stress like:
- Having a new routine.
- Moving to a new home.
- Family members moving away.
- The arrival of new people or animals.
The licking becomes a self-soothing behavior. It releases feel-good hormones that your dog might become addicted to.
Lesions or reddened areas can appear on their skin. Some even experience hair loss because of the constant licking.
Warning: If your dog seems to do excessively take them to your vet. Anxiety and stress is the most likely cause.
Your vet might prescribe:
- More exercise.
- Anti-anxiety meds.
- Sticking to a daily routine.
These will lessen the tension and anxiety that your dog feels. And with time, the need to lick will disappear.
#8: Give them kisses
This is one of those methods that you’ll need to do only if your dog:
- Welcomes it.
- Is comfortable when you do it.
- Knows that it’s a “sorry” gesture.
Some dogs learn that it’s a behavior humans do to show affection.
So they may do it to you, too.
If not, you can teach your dog to be comfortable with putting their face near yours.
Watch this video for a fun way to teach them how to kiss on command:
#9: Talk in a comforting voice
In #1, I talked about how dogs combine auditory and visual cues.
They are sensitive to changes in sound.
And did you know that they can hear 4 times further than us?
According to Dr. Siobhan Kehoe, dogs can hear up to 50,0000 sound vibrations per second.
That is such a high frequency. It’s the reason why dogs respond more to high-pitched noises.
Which we do, when we baby talk to them.
“But how do I speak to them if I want to apologize?”
You can speak in a slightly-pitched voice but with a slow cadence.
Remember you’re trying to calm your pooch. Not add to what’s already high arousal after you stepped on their tail or their paw.
Pair this with slow scratches or pets on the areas that they like. Such as their:
#10: Praise your doggo
Now, I know I talked about dogs liking pets rather than praise in #4.
But there’s a footnote to the study I mentioned there.
The researchers said that dogs are wired to love touch. But with praise, it seems like they’re conditioned to like it.
Which means that they learn that it’s something positive.
In any case, there is a study that found that dogs may prefer praises to treats.
Out of the 13 dogs, most of them decided to go to their owners for a “good doggy”.
Some would alternate between the food and their fur parents.
While only 2 dogs chose food. And both already showed a strong preference for it. Right from the start of the experiment.
With that said, you can still apologize to your pooch by stroking them in soothing motions.
And praising them in a comforting voice.
#11: Play with them
Nothing quite says ”I’m sorry” to your pooch than some playtime.
It’s another way of spending time with them. That’s why it also improves the bond between the 2 of you.
But not just that. Exercise is an important activity for your dog.
“What does exercise do for my dog?”
According to Fitzroy Vet Hospital, these are the benefits:
- Prevents obesity.
- Keeps boredom away.
- Improves their flexibility.
- Maintains a healthy body.
- Keeps your pooch happy.
And one more, it also has benefits for you, too.
The CDC tells us that exercise helps with:
- Brain health.
- Disease reduction.
- Weight management.
- Improving your mood.
- Strong bones and muscles.
You can play with them inside the house or outside.
Take their favorite toys and play the following games with them:
Now the goal of this game is not for you to win. But to get your dog’s interest.
Step 1: Get a tug toy or thick piece of braided rope. And let your pooch pull a few times on it.
Step 2: Once you have their interest, you can let them “win” the rope.
Step 3: You can also throw it in a game of fetch.
This game exercises your dog’s sniffing ability. It’s also easy for your pooch to gain victory.
Step 1: Have your pooch in a “sit” position. And let them “wait” while you prepare.
Step 2: Prepare some of their favorite toys. Hide them across the room or around your lawn.
Step 3: Release your dog with a command like “Find it”. Encourage them to sniff out their toys, if they don’t know what to do.
You can also substitute the toys with some kibble or treats. But use it for sniffing training. Not as a way to apologize.
Want to know why?
Then keep reading to find out.
#12: Apologize immediately
This is a very important thing to remember when saying sorry to your pooch.
Their memory doesn’t last very long. Some say it’s 3 seconds. While others say 15 seconds.
The main point there is they won’t remember.
This is why it’s no use scolding a dog for something that they already did 3 hours ago.
No matter how much you squawk and scream at them. They’ll just get confused and scared.
“Why does this happen?”
It’s believed that dogs don’t have long-term memory as we do.
But they can still remember through association.
This is why extreme positive or negative experiences make a huge mark on them.
For example, dogs rescued from abusive owners will have extreme reactions.
A raised hand may get a snap or a bark. Because the dog has associated hands with pain.
New evidence for episodic memory
This type of memory is what humans have. And for a long time, scientists have thought that we were the only ones to think like this.
But research offers new evidence. Dogs use episodic-like memory to learn from previous experiences.
It’s widely debated and there aren’t a lot of studies. But those available have positive results.
In this study, the researchers trained 17 dogs to “Do as I Do”.
This is a method where dogs learn to imitate their trainer’s actions.
And it went like this:
Stages of the experiment
First, the dogs learned how to “Do as I Do”.
Second, the experimenters trained the dogs to lie down. The demonstrated action didn’t matter. In this way, they were sure that the dogs weren’t just imitating.
In the next stage, the fur parents had to command “Do it” after doing an action the dogs didn’t encounter before.
The researchers tested the dogs 1 minute after the command. And again, 1 hour after.
The results showed that accuracy slowed with the long wait. But the dogs still did it.
#13: No treats
Do you use treats in training your pooch?
It’s effective if you want them to learn a new command. Or reinforce a new behavior.
But if you give it to them as a way to apologize, they won’t make the connection.
You can encourage a bad habit when you do this.
Dogs might assume that acting like they’re hurt gets them food.
So you can use pets, praise, or even playtime. But don’t use treats.
#14: Don’t make a big deal out of it
I know it’s hard.
When our fur babies so much as yelp or whimper, our first impulse is to:
Envelop them in a hug and say in the most over-the-top baby talk,
“Ohhh, is my darling okay? Did I hurt you? I’m so sorry.”
As much as you want to do it. Control yourself!
This is much more likely to heighten arousal and stress.
So instead of calming down, your dog gets even more stressed.
Whether you want to do only one or a combination, do it in a calm way.
What’s important is that your pooch doesn’t get even more excited.
And that they understand you’re trying to comfort them.
#15: Try not to do it again
According to PetMD, your dog needs only one bad experience. And that can traumatize them forever.
There are times when our frustration gets the best of us.
Sometimes that leads to us hitting our dogs. Especially when it’s for bad behavior
Learn more: Is it normal to be frustrated with your puppy?
Just one time will have your pooch flinching from your hand.
Even if you meant to have a petting session with them.
It’s hard to help dogs get over the trauma.
But you can start by letting them learn that a hand near them doesn’t mean a spank.
Step 1: Sit near your dog. In a calm way, put your hand on your thighs. Palms up. If your pooch doesn’t react, give them treats.
Step 2: Still palms up, move your hand closer to them. And still give them treats.
Step 3: Do this a little at a time. Until you can put your hand on your pooch. And they don’t flinch.
Note: Make sure that your dog doesn’t growl. Or show panic behaviors like panting or hiding.
Read further: Will My Dog Forgive Me For Hitting Him? 13 Vital Tips
#16: Don’t crowd your pooch
This overwhelms your dog. And they might react in a negative way.
Back away if your pooch does this when you come near:
- Yawn a lot.
- Lick their lips.
If these happen, they’re showing signs of stress and anxiety.
Which is normal, especially if your dog had a bad experience.
The best thing would be to give them some space.
If they do that, the problem might be deeper than you thought.
“Is this dangerous?”
Yes, it can be. In dog speak, they’re saying,
“I’m uncomfortable. If you do it again, I need to let you know.”
The next time you try to go near, it might result in a bite.
This is dangerous, especially with other people and children.
Warning: Prevent this from happening. Get the help of a certified animal behaviorist.
For situations like these, they will use desensitization and counterconditioning techniques.
It involves short exposures to their fear with treats. They get longer and longer exposure times. Until your dog doesn’t react.
#17: Let them come to you
Along with giving them space, let your dog set the mood.
Allow them to make the choice to come to you.
If you just touch them willy-nilly it makes them uncomfortable.
And instead of communicating an apology, your relationship gets worse.
So let your dog come to you on their own.
Take small steps. Back away if they avoid your touch.
Sometimes you just need them to get used to your presence.
Dogs with a fear of hands take time and patience.
But if you’re careful, they’ll love you all the more for it.
People also ask:
Do dogs understand when you say sorry?
Dogs may understand us when we say sorry. But it’s only to a certain point. Research has shown that dogs can understand human emotions.
They combine our voices with what they see on our faces. Our doggos can differentiate between angry and happy expressions.
So they’ll make the connection that you’re offering to comfort them.
How do I tell my dog I’m sorry?
You can tell your dog that you’re sorry by giving them affection. Soothing pets in the areas that they like. Talking in a comforting voice.
This lets your dog calm down. And it doesn’t contribute to higher arousal for them.
Do all these in a calm manner. Also, do it immediately after you hurt them. Otherwise, they won’t understand why you’re doing it.