Having a dog is a huge responsibility.
It’s not always rainbows and butterflies.
There will be times where your temper is tested by their crazy antics.
And out of frustration or anger…
You may suddenly hit your dog and feel so terrible afterward.
So now, you have these questions in your head…
“Will they forgive me?
And how can I gain their trust back?”
Read on to discover:
- If your dog will forgive you for hitting him.
- Whether they get traumatized by it or not.
- 13 vital tips on how to apologize to your dog.
- The answer to “Will my dog learn if I hit him?”
- And so much more…
Table of contents
- Will my dog forgive me for hitting him?
- Do dogs get traumatized if you hit them?
- How do I apologize to my dog for hitting him? 13 tips
- #1: Talk to them in a soothing voice
- #2: Cuddle them
- #3: Scratch their favorite spots
- #4: Shower them with kisses (only if your dog likes these)
- #5: Stroke the part that you hit
- #6: Be calm and give them some space
- #7: Spend more time with them
- #8: Groom them for a bit longer
- #9: Play with them
- #10: Walk them around
- #11: Prepare a special delicious meal
- #12: Offer them a treat
- #13: Don’t let this happen again
- #BONUS: Forgive yourself
- Will my dog learn if I hit him?
Will my dog forgive me for hitting him?
Your dog will ‘forgive’ you for hitting him – but not in the same way as we do. This is because canines don’t feel any resentment. So they’ll only forget what you did.
Nannette Morgan, a dog trainer, told PetMD that canines can get angry. And they may also growl and snap due to fear or frustration.
But, they don’t hold grudges. So forgiving someone isn’t their thing.
However, canines ‘reconcile.’
According to a study, dogs do this after a conflict. Which is similar to the concept of forgiveness or apology in our world.
And this is done to:
- Maintain hierarchies.
- Bring back the balance within the pack.
- Lessen uncertainties (because these cause stress).
Also, dogs tend to forget easily.
This is why your pooch won’t probably remember the incident after a few hours or days.
Note: This only applies if you hit them once or accidentally.
How far back can a dog remember?
Canines are believed to have an ‘episodic memory.’ Or the recollection of a certain event.
One experiment has proven this.
In the study, dogs were trained to copy their parents’ actions first. Then they were taught a different command next (e.g., lie down).
After a minute, canines were asked to imitate their parents again.
94.3% of them exactly copied what their humans did.
However, after 1 hour, only 35.3% of them did well when they were asked to do it again unexpectedly.
And this suggests that their recall of a specific event decreases with time.
Interesting fact: Let me share with you a story of an assistance dog named ‘Goliath.’ Based on Psychology Today, his parent had a brain injury when he was young. So the man lost his short-term memory.
His parent can’t remember recent events. Like where he parked his car. Or how to get out of a building.
But luckily, he got Goliath to fill in those small details. And it’s all thanks to his episodic memory.
Do dogs get traumatized if you hit them?
Dogs can get traumatized if you hit them. But, this will depend on the situation. For example, fear will be instilled in your dog if you hit them frequently. They’ll associate you with pain. So they may cower when you raise your hand or come closer. However, one bad incident might cause trauma too.
Canines may not remember every scenario in their lives.
But, they have what we call ‘associative memory.’
“What is it?”
It’s not a collection of actual experiences.
Dogs only remember certain places, people, or things because of the associations they made.
For example, they know that it’s time for a walk when you grab their leash. So they’ll be excited to see it.
However, if you’re about to leave for work, they might have observed that you always pick up the keys. Or wear a specific pair of shoes.
That’s why when they witness these, they’ll immediately whine and cling to you. Hoping that they could make you stay.
Now in this case, if you hit your dog often or strongly…
They may start associating you with pain. And this could result in fear or trauma.
Your dog might always avoid you or cower down whenever you try to touch them. While some fearful dogs will be startled even if you just raised your hand.
This is because it reminds them of the action you make as you beat them.
Also, did you know that…
Post-traumatic disorder, a.k.a. PTSD is also observed in dogs?
Vets say that this is usually seen in military canines.
But, Fidos who were previously abused can also have this. As well as those who had bad experiences.
Its common symptoms are:
- Tucked tail.
- Flattened ears.
- Sudden panting.
- Excessive whining.
- Destructive behavior.
So, if you feel so bad for hurting your dog…
How can you tell or show them that you’re sorry?
Well, let’s dive right in.
How do I apologize to my dog for hitting him? 13 tips
#1: Talk to them in a soothing voice
Your dog will likely be in shock or pain after the incident.
They’ll be confused too. And this is because they don’t understand what just happened.
But even if you feel bad, it’s safer to not touch or hug your dog right away.
This is because they may feel threatened and snap at you when you bend over. And also, you don’t want to add up more to their fright.
“What should I do instead?”
To appear less threatening, kneel down to your dog’s level. And then keep a safe distance from them.
Next, call their name and say you’re sorry in your best ‘dog voice.’
Meaning, talk softly. Just like how you converse with a baby. And tell them you feel terrible for what you did.
Then, wait until your Fido willingly comes to you.
Get ready for some licking too. Because it’s their way of showing affection and empathy. And they might have sensed that you need these at the moment.
Learn more: Why does my dog lick my arm so much? & Why does my dog lick my legs?
“Why does this work?”
A study shows that dogs listen more to people who talk in a calm manner.
It was also found that they spent more time with humans who spoke to them this way. This means that talking in a soothing voice helps us get their trust.
Interesting fact: Do dogs actually understand us? According to experts, they may know above 150 words. But to get what we mean, they’ll pay more attention to our tone than what we say.
VCA says that dogs are sensitive to intonations. And these help them to know our emotions. Say, whether we’re happy, sad, or angry.
#2: Cuddle them
If your dog went to you, reassure them more by petting them. Or by giving them warm hugs.
(But if not and they’re hiding, follow the other tips I’ll discuss later on.)
So, do whichever your pooch likes better.
This is because some dogs may not like being embraced. So hugging them will only increase their anxiety.
But, I’m sure that most dogs will appreciate being petted. As every caress might take the anxiety away.
Well, it’s known that cuddling with our dogs helps relieve our stress.
Studies even reveal that a few minutes of petting can lower blood pressure.
But, another research found that our furry friends also benefit from it.
It was found that 15 minutes of stroking increases dogs’ oxytocin levels.
“What is it?”
It’s called the ‘cuddle chemical.’
This is because it’s the hormone that’s responsible for forming bonds.
Note: Avoid overdoing this. Also, don’t try to cuddle your dog if they’re still in shock or tears. Why? Because you might reinforce their anxious behavior. Your dog would learn that acting like this gets them cuddles and attention. And they may do it again to obtain what they want.
#3: Scratch their favorite spots
While cuddling your dog, also give them some belly or ear rubs. As well as a nice back scratch (if they love this!).
Most canines love their tummy scratched.
In fact, they could be asking for this if they suddenly roll on their back. Then happily expose their soft belly.
Note: According to vets, these ‘sweet spots’ will vary per Fido. But you know your pooch well. And you probably know their favorite areas. So, scratch on. 🙂
#4: Shower them with kisses (only if your dog likes these)
Like hugging, kissing might also be too uncomfortable for some dogs.
But if your pooch isn’t one of them, then carry on.
Show them affection in many ways that you can as an apology. And just make sure that they’re gonna love it.
You might also like: Why does my dog bark when I kiss?
#5: Stroke the part that you hit
Where did you accidentally hurt your pooch?
Gently pat the area or slowly grab the part in your hand while saying sorry.
This could help them connect the dots and understand what you’re trying to say.
Warning: Be careful. If your dog’s being aggressive or avoiding you, this isn’t the way to say sorry. It’s possible that they might lash out at you. And we don’t want this to happen.
#6: Be calm and give them some space
Is your dog still in their hideout (at the corner)?
Or do they still act indifferent to you?
If these are similar to your situation, respect their personal space. And also, try to be calm.
“How does this help?”
You’re keeping a safe distance from your dog. And this is because you know that they’re not yet comfortable with any interaction.
Also, by doing this, you’re not scaring them even further. Which helps to make them feel more relaxed.
So, this could also be a way to tell your Fido that you mean no harm. And that you’re not a threat to them.
Note: This should only be done in the meantime. It’s not good to let your dog avoid you and hide in there forever. So be patient and earn their trust every day.
Keep on calling their name. Talk to them softly. Don’t force them to do something they don’t like. And also, always attend to their needs.
Soon enough (sometimes, within the day), your Fido will open up again. Then act like nothing happened.
#7: Spend more time with them
Another great way to make it up to your dog is by giving them more quality time.
You can teach them new tricks or take them for a short car ride.
Or just invite them over the bed or couch and snuggle together.
Canines are social animals.
They love interacting with people. And there’s nothing better than spending time with their favorite human.
(Oops! Maybe except for steak and bone!)
Note: This shouldn’t only be done whenever you do something wrong. Dogs need care and attention every day. So lack or less of these might cause stress or anxiety. And sometimes, even depression.
#8: Groom them for a bit longer
Does your pooch love being brushed?
If so, have a longer grooming session than usual.
Some dogs might not enjoy staying still for so long while their hair is being brushed. While others will be so excited about it.
This is also a nice bonding time. And at the same time, you’re helping your dog to relax and calm down as well.
One study reports that dogs who were stroked with a grooming device had lower heart rates.
This was compared to canines who weren’t groomed at all. So it shows that stroking and spending time with your dog can help lessen their stress.
Note: Oh, and while you’re at it, you might as well give your pooch some massages.
To know more about these…
Read this article next: 19 Proven Ways To Calm Your Anxious Dog (How-To Guide)
#9: Play with them
Alloting time for your dog and staying by their side is already enough as a sorry.
But, to make your quality time more enjoyable, do the things that your Fido loves.
I’m certain that they like playing. (Well, isn’t this given to all canines?)
So, grab your dog’s favorite toy and play with them. Or invite them for a tug of war or scent work (finding hidden treats or things).
#10: Walk them around
Apart from playing, dogs also love going for walks. So this is also one more effective way to apologize.
This is because…
One, it keeps them fit and healthy.
Two, it reduces their stress.
Three, it prevents them from getting bored.
And lastly, it gives them a chance to explore the outside and meet friends.
Speaking of other furry pals, you can also take your pooch to their favorite place. For example, a dog park or a nearby hiking site.
Note: Same with spending quality time, this should also be done on a daily basis. But how long should you walk your dog every day? PetMD says that canines usually need 20 to 30 minutes of it. While healthy and highly active ones can walk or hike for up to 2 hours.
#11: Prepare a special delicious meal
Have you heard about this famous saying?
“The way to a dog’s heart is through his stomach.”
Yup. You’ve read it right.
Serving your pooch a food they love can make them forget about what happened earlier.
This might help if your dog’s still cowering when you raise your hand. Or if they’re hiding behind the furniture or in the corner.
But in most cases, dogs have already forgotten about the hitting by the time you read this.
Because remember, they have short-term memory. And they’ll only recall an event if it’s too traumatic or done regularly. (I hope that this isn’t the case.)
However, if doing this can add to your peace of mind, continue doing so.
Your dog will thank you for it! 🙂
#12: Offer them a treat
Still having a hard time regaining your dog’s trust?
If so, you may have to bring out the last weapon.
“What is it?”
Some tasty snacks.
However, ensure that your Fido loves the treats that you’ll prepare. This is to make sure that they’ll be enticed to eat it and go to you.
But take note, this method has risks too.
“Why? And what are they?”
This is because if not done at the right timing, this could reinforce an anxious behavior instead.
This may happen if you quickly offer treats to your pooch while they’re still yelping due to shock. Or when they’re nibbling at your furniture because of anxiety.
By doing this, they’ll be confused.
And they may think that you’re rewarding them for acting like that. Even though you’re only trying to comfort them.
#13: Don’t let this happen again
Actions speak louder than words.
So even if you said sorry to your dog a hundred (or a billion) times…
What’s more important is your promise of not hitting them again. Or doing anything that could hurt them.
Sure, dogs can forget easily.
However, if their trust is broken many times, it’ll not be easy to fix it. Not to mention the fear and anxiety that it’ll bring to them.
#BONUS: Forgive yourself
You can’t change the past.
But, you did what you had to do. And you swore that you’ll never do this again.
So, I’m sure that your pooch understood that you felt horrible for what happened.
Also, control your emotions and try to stay calm.
This is because your dog might be more confused if they sense that you’re acting weird around them.
Will my dog learn if I hit him?
Your dog will not learn if you hit him. They’ll not understand that what they did was wrong. Instead, they’ll only associate you with pain.
Due to their fear, they’ll start seeing you as a threat. As well as anybody who will touch or come near them.
Research found that dogs who were punished showed more signs of stress.
They were seen to be tense most of the time. And they also had high levels of cortisol.
It’s also known as the ‘stress hormone.’
It’s responsible for the body’s fight or flight response. Which boosts our alertness and energy. And too much of this is bad as it can heighten stress and anxiety.
Another study also reported similar observations.
The dogs who received punishments displayed more stress behavior as well. Such as yawning and lip licking.
So, if you want to train and discipline your dog…
Use positive reinforcement instead
What do dogs love most?
Aside from their parents, they also go loco for treats, praises, and toys.
This is why using these things can motivate them more in training.
Experts say that it’s also more effective in the long run. And punishment only causes more problematic behaviors.
Risks of hitting your dog:
- Loss of trust (in you).
- Increased anxiety level.
- Heightened aggression.
- Submissive and fearful behavior.
“So, how is this done?”
You just have to reward your dog for every good thing they did. No matter how small or big it is. And ignore all the bad behaviors.
When I say ignore, you shouldn’t offer them anything. And also, avoid talking or paying attention to them.
By doing this, they’ll learn on their own that some behavior earns them some tasty snacks. While others don’t.
And canines repeat things that’ll only benefit them.
So, as a result, they’ll be more motivated to do the behavior or action that you like.