Trainer reveals the two things you can do to boost your nervous dog’s happiness and help them feel more comfortable around you

Woman hugging black dog
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Do you have a nervous dog who tends to growl, shrink back or simply look unhappy whenever you try to shower them with your love and affection? If you do, we understand how hard this must be.

As pet parents, most of us adore our pups and would do absolutely anything for them - but sometimes we're so focused on how we like to receive love, that we may be unintentionally disrespecting our dog's boundaries. 

While there are some very clear parts to being a dog owner - such as making sure they have good food, a comfy bed, plenty of toys, and tasty treats in the form of the longest lasting dog chews, when to give affection and how much is a lot murkier.

Thankfully, expert dog trainer and behavior expert Antonio Diaz has come to the rescue with a video shared to TikTok that outlines a two-step process for showing your nervous dog some love in a way that feels comfortable for them. You can check out the video below or read on for a summary of the key points. 


♬ original sound - Leader Of The Pack LV

Diaz opens the clip with a dog growling at his owner as she tries to touch him. "Your dog is doing that because he doesn't like you in his space and he's telling you that he's not comfortable," he explains.

While growling at you when you try you pet them may seem like bad behavior, Diaz says nothing could be further from the truth. "It's actually clear communication that he's giving you. 

I'm a very affectionate person and I know it can feel like a slap in the face because you love your dog and you give them all the nice things, you give them treats, you take them to the park and you want to give them your love, but you still have to respect their boundaries."

Diaz goes on to share that his dog, Logan, has always been a sensitive and defensive pup and does not like it when Diaz leans over him to try to pet him. "And that's ok," he stresses.

"What I've done and what I recommend you do is, number one, respect what he is telling you and don't encroach on his space to try and force your affection on him. Number two, create space for him to come to you and to receive affection from you."

To demonstrate how best to do this, Diaz quietly sits down on the floor away from Logan and quietly invites him over. Logan immediately accepts the invitation, walking over to him and licking his face.

"You can see how different Logan is when he comes to me versus when I come to him and lean over him and try to force my affection on him. Logan is actually very affectionate in the right situations and it's my job to create that situation if I want to give him my affection."

So, next time you want to shower your pup with affection, remember Diaz's tips - respect their boundaries by not forcing affection on them and create a safe space for your pup to come to you for a cuddle or pet.

Enjoyed this piece and looking for more content that will help you respect your dog's boundaries? Then be sure to check out 'my dog doesn't like long walks' where a pet parents shares how she uses brain games to tire out her pup. 

Kathryn Williams
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.