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I recently began dating a girl who I plan on being with indefinitely, hopefully. Anyway, her dog had torn something in it's leg before we began dating and it has not healed. He is normally protective of her and now more so due to his leg. Does anyone have any suggestions on how I can gain the trust of Sam?

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    Is he aggressive towards you in any way? How does the protectiveness show?
    – Layna
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 6:03
  • You'll definitely get better suggestions if you can tell everyone a little bit more about what he is doing -- how his he showing his protectiveness? Does he bark? growl? bite? Systematically destroy your shoes?
    – Amanda
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 16:49
  • He is not defensively aggressive, as in an angry fear. I saw him yesterday and it almost seems like in recognizing me he knows I have a connection and am trusted by his owners but he himself does not yet trust me. When on the leash he will bark continuously until my girlfriends father quiets him. A positive is I bought him a large bone and gave it to him myself. He immediately was fine with my presence and later, while I sat at their dinner table, he was content with leaving his blind side open right beside me as he drank out of his bowl. He does not bite, so I don't think he means ill-will
    – Ryan Amey
    Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 12:49

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I would work on training games with him. Honestly, this is going to sound a lot like the advice I'd give someone who wants a better relationship with his girlfriend's kid, too.

Get your hands on some easy to work with treats. Little jerky-type treats are best. Tear them into small pieces. If he already knows commands like touch, sit, down, just walk him through those. He doesn't need a treat everytime, just ever few moves. And then you can invent some fun things to add in -- shake, or jump through a hoop. One thing our first trainer taught us is that training games are a great way to build a relationship with an animal.

If he doesn't know "touch" or "sit" yet, there's no time like the present to start. Touch is the easiest. You want him to practice nudging your hand with his nose when you say "touch". To get there, you're going to use basic positive reinforcement. Hold a bit of treat between two fingers, show him the back of your hand (so he can see the treat) and say "touch". When he nudges your hand to get it, immediately say "Yes!" in your worst possible "why do people always use that stupid cheery tone of voice with puppies" tone. Yes! And then turn your hand over and give him the treat. Do it over and over. Touch. Yes! Treat. Touch. Yes! Treat. Spend five minutes on this every time you go over to her house, or every day, whichever is more frequent.

Note: people do "touch" differently. If your gf already has a system, use hers!

If he's barking at you or growling, remember that eye contact can be very threatening for dogs. So when you aren't playing touch (and even when you are), don't look at him. Look away. And if he's not even ready for "touch" you can play a game that Jeff Stallings calls treat/retreat. Same stash of little bits of treat. Ignore the dog, or pretend you're ignoring him, and alternate between giving him a treat from your hand that he has to come get, and tossing it over his head so he has to walk away from you to get it.

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  • Those all sound like good ideas. I may start with the treat/retreat. However, I have to be careful, he dislikes sudden movements.
    – Ryan Amey
    Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 12:58
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If you immediately see the injury and take a treatment from a vet doctor. • Give some nutritious food to dog. • Socialize with him. • Go for a walk with him
By all these Dog c can trust you

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  • The vet has been considered. The problem is the surgery would be several thousand dollars. Walking with him could be a problem because of the trust. However, a walk with him AND my girlfriend along with her father may help. Otherwise, the other ideas you mentioned are worth putting to use and trying.
    – Ryan Amey
    Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 13:02
  • Walks are always good. If you and your girlfriend walk together around the block with him every time you come over, before you enter his space, that would help a lot. And it certainly won't hurt.
    – Amanda
    Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 17:02
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There is a study that shows that dogs are more trusting of people who are helpful to their owners. I'm sure that you're not abusive towards your girlfriend, but stating the obvious that being nice/helpful to her will help gain the dog's trust.

Bonding activities are also helpful, like a class from your local kennel club, feeding/treating the dog, walks, visiting the park, or how about a nice relaxing doggie massage? Don't forget to smile! Dogs read expressions and smiling is huge.

This is not something that happens overnight, so it may take a few months.

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  • Can you add a link to the study you mention in your answer? Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 10:46
  • Yes please, to the study. That is actually something I read in another forum. Someone else suggested showing some sort of affection with his owners when in his presence. Whether that be a hug or kiss with my girlfriend or a regular hand shake with her father. The smiling definitely seems that it would help and I'll be sure to do that. One thing I've always been told is not to show fear. That the dog is barking in an attempt to scare me away, but by showing I am not afraid of him and, in fact desire a relationship with the dog, would help. Is this true? @Amanda
    – Ryan Amey
    Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 13:20
  • I am not a trainer, but I'd be less worried about "showing you aren't afraid" and focus on earning his trust. You can also show you aren't afraid by puffing your chest and yelling and generally scaring the bejezus out of him but it won't help him stop barking.
    – Amanda
    Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 17:04
  • @RyanAmey link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10071-014-0816-2
    – rlb.usa
    Commented Jul 17, 2015 at 3:28
  • @RyanAmey An article about it for the non-technical readers www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150220-dogs-know-if-youre-untrustworthy
    – rlb.usa
    Commented Jul 17, 2015 at 3:28

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