How Do You Apologize To Your Dog After Hitting Them?

Why You Should Apologize

Dogs understand more than we give them credit for, including sensing human emotions. According to research from Apologizing to Your Dog: Understanding Their Perspective, dogs can perceive love and affection from humans through voice tones and body language. Apologizing after hitting your dog shows you’re taking responsibility for your actions. It also helps re-establish trust and rebuild your bond, signaling that you still care for your canine companion.

Understand Why It Happened

It’s important to reflect on what triggered you to hit your dog in the first place. Often, frustration, anger, stress or other negative emotions can cause us to lash out at our pets when we don’t mean to. Identifying these triggers can help prevent it from happening again.

According to pet behavior experts, “hitting dogs is unacceptable as it stems from anger, lack of self-control, and misunderstanding of canine behavior” (Source: If you find yourself frequently losing control around your dog, it’s best to seek help from a professional dog trainer or animal behaviorist. They can assess your dog’s behaviors as well as your own, and provide positive training techniques to correct any underlying issues.

Getting at the root cause of why you lashed out at your dog is an important step in healing your relationship and ensuring it doesn’t happen again. Don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself and admit if you need help from a professional.

Check for Injuries

It’s important to thoroughly check your dog for any signs of physical injury after an incident where you hit them. Look for obvious signs like limping or difficulty walking, bruising, cuts, scrapes, or swelling. According to PetMD, signs of pain in dogs can include a tucked abdomen, tense or twitching muscles, shaking, and an arched back.

Pay close attention to your dog’s body language and behavior as well – does your dog flinch or vocalize when you touch them in a certain area? Do they seem hesitant to move around? These can all be clues that your dog is injured. The Vet Specialists recommend looking for signs like licking lips, flinching, turning their head away, or vocally reacting when you touch them.

If your inspection reveals any concerns about possible injury, it’s best to take your dog to the vet as soon as possible for a full evaluation. Getting prompt veterinary care can prevent further pain and avoid complications from untreated injuries. Don’t delay – it’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your dog’s health and comfort after an incident.

Give Your Dog Space

After hitting your dog, whether intentionally or accidentally, it’s important to allow them to retreat and have some space if they want it. Don’t force any interaction or try to immediately pet them or pick them up. Let your dog decide when they are ready to re-engage with you.

Dogs that have been struck may feel confused, hurt, or anxious. Providing space for them to process what happened and recover emotionally is important. As one Reddit user advised after accidentally hitting their dog, “Leave the dog alone to relax and destress. Don’t bother the dog, just let him be.”

Allow your dog to go to their crate or another safe space where they can be alone. As professional dog trainer Tom Arnold advises after a dog fight, “Take the dogs out in an open space, preferably not anywhere near where the fight occurred.” The same applies after hitting your dog – let them retreat somewhere away from where the negative incident occurred.

It’s natural to want to comfort your dog after hitting them, but it’s important not to overwhelm them. Let your dog signal when they are ready for gentle interaction again. With patience and by respecting their need for space, you can help your dog recover in their own time.

Verbal Apology

When apologizing to your dog after hitting them, it’s important to use a calm, gentle tone so they understand you’re not still upset or angry. While dogs don’t comprehend words in the same way humans do, saying “I’m sorry” can still communicate remorse and care to your pet.

According to dog behavior expert Patricia McConnell, immediately apologizing in a soft voice helps reassure the dog you didn’t mean to hurt them and are not a threat. She recommends saying something like “Oh sorry baby, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean that!” right after an accidental collision or strike [1]. Making a fuss over them also indicates the negative moment is over.

Though dogs don’t grasp the literal meaning of “sorry,” they can pick up on the regretful tone and emotion behind your words. As pack animals, verbal communication is very important to dogs. So speaking softly, repeating “I’m sorry,” and using their name helps convey your apology in a soothing way they intuit.

Body Language

When apologizing to your dog, an important aspect is displaying appropriate body language that communicates remorse and non-aggression. Get down on your dog’s level, and avoid prolonged direct eye contact initially, as direct staring can seem confrontational (—interpreting-dog-language). Keep your posture open and relaxed. Turning sideways, crouching low, or rolling onto your back shows you’re not a threat. Let your dog approach you when ready, rather than invading their space. Actions like yawning, blinking, or licking also communicate calmness.

As dogs don’t understand our words, body language indicates our feelings best. Remain patient if your dog needs more time due to stress. Continue providing submissive, non-threatening postures until your dog seems comfortable again. Avoid angry or dominant stances, and don’t force interaction. With calm, apologetic energy, you can rebuild your dog’s trust.

Positive Reinforcement

After apologizing to your dog, it’s important to rebuild trust and bonding through positive reinforcement. Offer your dog treats, pets, playtime, and other things they enjoy as a way to reinforce the positive relationship. Doing enjoyable activities together releases feel-good hormones in both you and your dog, strengthening your bond.

Positive reinforcement helps your dog associate you with good things again. It shows them that even though you made a mistake and hit them, which understandably damaged their trust, you still care for them and want to make it up. Rebuilding that trust after an incident like this takes time and consistency.

Make it a priority to engage in daily positive reinforcement. Set aside dedicated time for walks, play, training exercises using favorite treats, and quality one-on-one time with your dog. The more consistently you reinforce positive interactions, the faster your dog will rebuild their confidence and trust in you.

Prevent It in the Future

Since hitting your dog often happens as a result of anger or frustration, it’s important to learn how to manage those emotions through anger management techniques like taking deep breaths, walking away from the situation, or talking to a friend ( Consider working with a therapist if you find yourself frequently losing control around your dog.

Enrolling in dog training classes can help improve communication between you and your dog so there’s less frustration on both sides. A trainer will teach you how to positively reinforce good behavior, redirect your dog’s attention, utilize commands effectively, and read your dog’s body language. Understanding your dog’s signals for stress, fear, or discomfort – like yawning, lip licking, or avoiding eye contact – allows you to intervene before they misbehave (

Implementing preventative measures helps set you and your dog up for success so hitting never happens again. With dedication to management and training, you can rebuild trust and enjoy a happy relationship.

Professional Help

If hitting your dog continues to be an issue, it’s important to seek help from a professional dog trainer or veterinary behaviorist. They have the skills and experience to get to the root of aggressive behaviors and teach both you and your dog more positive ways to interact.

A professional can identify what triggers your dog’s unwanted behaviors and develop customized training protocols. They will utilize science-based techniques such as counterconditioning and desensitization to change your dog’s emotional response to triggers. This can help resolve the aggression at its core.

Trainers can coach you on how to better manage situations that lead to frustration and anger. They will teach you force-free training methods to reinforce good behaviors. Over time and with consistency, you and your dog can form a more trusting bond.

Veterinary behaviorists have specialized expertise in canine behavior issues. They can prescribe medicine if needed alongside a training plan. Their comprehensive approach addresses all factors contributing to aggression.

Getting professional help is the most effective way to stop hitting your dog and resolve any underlying issues that cause this behavior. It leads to a happier and healthier relationship for both you and your dog. According to one source, “Even highly experienced professionals get bitten from time to time, so living with and treating an aggressive dog is inherently risky.” Working with an expert maximizes safety and success.


Forgive Yourself Too

It’s understandable to feel guilty after hitting your dog, even accidentally. But beating yourself up doesn’t help you or your dog. The important thing is to learn from this experience.

By sincerely apologizing to your dog and committing to prevent it in the future, you’re taking responsibility for your actions. This is an important step in the healing process for both you and your dog.

Forgiving yourself may take time. But know that you are not defined by one mistake. Reflect on what caused you to hit your dog and make changes so it doesn’t happen again. Then, little by little, self-forgiveness will come.

As stated in the article “Pet loss and self-forgiveness” from, “Self-forgiveness is not about claiming you don’t hurt or denying the part you played in your pet’s passing. Instead, it’s about choosing not to continue punishing yourself for past mistakes.”

With self-forgiveness, you can both move on with a stronger bond.

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