Training a sensitive working dog is not always easy. If you have ever owned a dog you will know that in some ways they are quite similar to people. Many dog owners may know a lot about breeds of dogs, but many simply don’t have an understanding of the personality of sensitive dogs. In fact when training a gun dog for instance sensitivity is probably one of the least understood issues that an owner may encounter.

Yet this issue it is something that is so important it can make the difference between successful and unsuccessful training and forming a life-long bond with your dog. In human terms we understand that a highly sensitive person often needs careful handling; it is exactly the same for a sensitive dog.

Mishandling any working dog can damage its nerves and make it fearful, shy, neurotic or even unmanageable. High sensitivity in a dog may manifest as emotional, sight, sound or touch issues. Your dog many exhibit one or several of these characteristics at different times and in different situations.

Training a sensitive dog requires tact, patience and insight. The behaviour they exhibit in stressful or pressure situations may call for a different type of correction than would a less sensitive dog’s behaviour in the same situation.

A dog that is sensitive to touch is often difficult to train using a standard training collar. Sensitivity to touch means even a basic correction by pressure on a collar may be too much! Defensive reactions in a touch sensitive dog may run to biting, freezing up, or just plain trying to run away from the situation.

Gentler training methods should be used for the touch sensitive dog, and you must avoid rough handling at any cost. Too much touch makes over-reaction a habit, so keep your hands off the sensitive dog during training as much as possible. Slow, gentle, soothing movements are a must even with a slightly sensitive dog, be cautious of busy hand movements that may make the dog anticipate a touch.

The emotionally sensitive dog is often highly strung with a strong need to feel praised about even small achievement and if they make mistakes, this type of dog will still need reassurance that you are pleased with them, otherwise there is a risk of them becoming withdrawn and unresponsive.

Bear in mind that these dogs are hypersensitive to criticism and show cringing, submission, slinking, lying down behaviour patterns if they sense they have not pleased you. Train them more slowly than a confident dog.

Do give them plenty of opportunities to do well and be rewarded so you constantly build confidence and above all a trust in you the handler. Also bear in mind that some dogs are distracted by the tiniest movement such as a bird, trees moving in the wind or even a leaf blowing along a gutter – this can take their attention away from you.

They may also react in training to hand signals or body movements we are not even aware we’re making! Anticipation when training any animal can be a problem, as they see you starting to get ready to give a command before you have a chance to give it.

This type of sensitive dog often needs louder commands than normal, and you will need to keep your body movement still more controlled. You’ll also need to do lots of deliberate attention focusing work to keep their concentration out in the open where movement is all over the place. In a nutshell you must be fare more interesting than any possible distraction.

If you have a sporting dog that shows a fear of loud or sudden sounds it is often because sounds are exaggerated for this type of dog, and they react by crouching or possibly urinating if spoken to in a sharp or loud manner. It is never the dog’s fault and therefore softer tones and gentle correction are much more effective.

Loud rebukes or shouting will frankly ruin a noise sensitive dog and accept that it may also run away from gunshots, trucks or other loud noises however they will willingly tune in to any whispered commands, once they learn your style of communication.

If you do need, from time to time, to use strong verbal commands or reprimands, keep your tone of voice jolly and cheerful to avoid a reaction of excessive worry and fear.

Training Techniques For Sensitive Dogs:

All sensitive dogs will need more time to train and usually need to be brought along more slowly.

Training programmes need to be deliberately tailored for success and reward as opposed to punishment, shouting or disapproval.

Remember no two dogs will react alike so some trial and error while training is inevitable.

Never give up on a sensitive dog – is not your failure, just the opposite in fact as once you break through you will win a loyal companion that looks to you as its leader.

Always make allowances and try to understand the special needs of a sensitive dog and learn all you can about effective handling methods.

Try to keep the whole exercise as much pure fun for your dog as is possible.

As with most things, the secret of success is in a step-by-step learning process that your dog will enjoy. Learn how to “read” a dog’s body language and behavior, or talk to an experienced trainer and learn as much as you can about dog training techniques.