Will My Dog Forgive Me for Hitting Him? Do These Things

Last Updated on July, 2024

Let me guess: thanks to your bad mood, you got so mad at your furry friend. You gave him a good hard smack, and now you feel bad. Or you accidentally hurt him.

Wondering if your dog will forgive you? Well, honestly speaking, YES, your dog will forgive you!

But hey, wait, for it to happen, you must show that this was just a one-time incident and shower him with LOVE!

Quick Summary

Dogs have the ability to forgive and forget, but it requires effort from the owner to patch up any damage in the relationship.

There are multiple ways in which owners can damage their dog’s trust, including taking away their things, yelling at them constantly, and forcing them to do things they don’t want to do.

Positive reinforcement is a more effective method of discipline and building a strong bond with your dog, as opposed to using physical punishment or negative reinforcement.

Will My Dog Forgive Me for Hitting Him?

a sad brown dog laying on the floor


Research has proven that dogs have the ability to forgive, but definitely only with your effort to patch up.

We are lucky that our canine companions don’t hold grudges and cook up revenge plans against us. But, if you wanna get your spot sealed in your dog’s good book, you gotta work for it. Spend some quality time with your pawsome friend! 

If you’re having issues with your dog’s behavior or training, seek professional guidance and use positive reinforcement (I will discuss this later). Before we talk about forgiving, do dogs remember a hit?

Will My Dog Remember That I Hit Him?

Dogs don’t possess long-term memory and tend to forget most things in the long run. However, they are more likely to remember if they are frequently hit.

They might not remember why you hit them, but certainly, dogs remember the pain you gave them and the aggressive behavior you showed.

If you get pissed at your dog often, your dog will feel scared of you and will not trust you at all. But that’s not all. Other actions can tarnish your dog’s trust and future interactions.

Actions That Can Hinder a Dog’s Trust

Alpha bond is built on respect and trust, but not the kind which comes from fear. If you think physical punishment on your dog is the only reason to damage its trust in you, you’re WRONG.

You might be unknowingly damaging your dog’s trust in you in different ways. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • Taking Their Things Away Too Often

If you keep taking away your dog’s toys and bones to punish him, he’s definitely not gonna like it. This is associated with food, too.

You must never walk up to their bowl and snatch their food away. This can hinder your dog’s trust and hinder the positive relationship between the two of you.

  • Yelling At Them Constantly

Who doesn’t make a mistake? NOBODY

The same goes for your four-legged friend as well. They would make mistakes as well. Yelling at them, or at worst, physically punishing them, is not the best remedy for this. Instead, it would just ruin your dog’s trust further.

  • Not Being There For Your Dog When He Needs You

It would be best if you never left your fur-bulous friend’s side. If you do so, there are high chances he’s gonna trust you quickly. You must not let other people touch him if he doesn’t like it, and don’t put him in uncomfortable situations.

  • Forcing Your Dog To Do Things They Don’t Want To And Don’t Like

Nobody’s gonna like it if they are forced to do something they don’t do, right? Well, it’s the same with your dog. Forcing your dog to do things they are not a big fan of is clearly a big RED flag. Your dog’s not gonna like it and not gonna trust you either. 

How Do Dogs Respond to Being Hit or Negative Punishment?

A brown and white dog standing on a gravel road with its tail between legs

How your dog responds to negative punishment can also be a critical factor affecting the result of negative punishment. 

Most dogs respond with either fight or flight for negative punishments, but there are other responses. Understanding them well can help your ability to understand what is going through your pooch’s head.


Powerful and aggressive dog breeds such as Rottweilers and Pit Bulls have tough fight responses. This is mostly expressed by their ferocious bites, which can be dangerous to you and your dog.


Dogs typically run, hide, and show behaviors of avoidance as a means of flight response. These dogs are more concerned with escaping danger and surviving than understanding their mistake and learning the lesson.


This response is shown when the dog is unable to fight or flee. Pet owners usually misinterpret this as the dog is ‘giving in’ to them, but sadly, it’s not. The dog will be filled with negative feelings and are usually shutting down mentally.


The fawning response is where your canine buddy will try to compromise and calm you down.

They express this by showing behaviors like trying to approach you, licking your face, and tucking their tail. If your dog fawns, he’s just trying to calm you down and hasn’t learned his lesson.

What Does Your Dog Learn When You Hit Him?

If you think that hitting your dog is going to help him realize his mistake, well, no, IT IS NOT going to help.

This doesn’t mean he hasn’t learned anything.

Typically, when a dog gets hit, he will be able to remember the pain you caused. So the next time he sees your hand in a similar position, he will flinch automatically. This is to protect himself from your physical punishment.

If you hit your dog to make him learn a lesson or understand his mistake, he might only learn the WRONGlesson. It is sad to say, but generally, this is what happens when you hit your dog. He will not learn to stop making the mistakes.

He’ll instead make a mistake when you are not around. This also means that you will be forming a relationship based on fear. (Which is certainly not what you want)

Dogs don’t hold grudges but frequent hitting can change their view on you. They will think you’re dangerous and not trust you easily.

Effects of Physically Punishing Your Dog?

a picture of a dog terrified

When you physically punish your dog for a mistake, you are more likely to force your canine companion to suppress his behavior.

Even a human being would not want to do that, right? You might have reduced the behavior, but you have definitely not dealt with the cause. For instance, if you find your dog barking too much, you physically punish your dog for it.

Your dog might stop barking, but you have not understood the reason and helped your dog out with it. Suppressing your dog’s behaviors without trying to understand and deal with the cause is definitely a form of abuse.

Ok, fine, I get it. You’ve realized your mistake. After all, that is why you’re here. Let’s find out how to fix all this now.

How Do You Apologize and Get Your Dog’s Trust Back?

Well, you will not have to worry much if you’ve accidentally hurt your dog or given him a hit only as a one-off incident. By the time you’re wondering if your dog has forgiven you, he must have forgotten the incident and already moved on.

But if that accident or one-time thing is too traumatizing, it can be a concern and take longer. Gaining your four-legged friend’s trust back can be a tough task. But hard work, dedication, and LOVE can definitely achieve it. No doubt about that!

  • Ensure That All His Basic Needs Are Covered.

This can be a no-brainer, but it is an extremely important factor. You must ensure your dog is fed properly, clean, and up-to-date with the shots. If your dog appears to be unfit or injured, seek veterinary care regularly.

  • Speak In A Subtle And Soothing Voice.

Dogs are sensitive animals and can tell if you are happy or angry with your body language and voice. Lower your voice and speak in a soft tone. You can complement this with tactile massages like strokes and brushing.

  • Offer Consistency

Set a schedule for your dog and be consistent. He’s gonna love it! Feed him, take him out for a walk, and play with him at the same time every day. Knowing that he gets everything on time will encourage him to lower shields with you.

  • Use Positive Reinforcement

Reward your dog with treats and other affirmations for his good and desired behavior. Rewarding good behavior is a highly effective way to discipline your dog and boost his confidence.

  • Increase Exercise And Play

Boost the physical activities that you and your dog engage in. This is a powerful way to enhance your bond with your pooch.

  • Be Patient And Persistent.

Everything comes to him who waits. We all know how important patience is, and it’s also key to your bond with your canine buddy. Trust can be easily broken, but earning it back can take time.

How Do You Know if Your Dog Has Forgiven You?

a dog standing in front of a camera

You will know if your dog has forgiven you through his body language. 

Once your dog has no negative association with you, he will be more relaxed. That is a clear sign that he has forgiven you! They will have their ears forward and wag their tails. Most importantly, they will show a clear desire to be around you. 

If this happens, Kudos! Your canine companion has accepted your apology!

How Do You Move Forward in Your Relationship With Your Dog?

Understanding and accepting the mistake of physical violence is important to move forward in your relationship with your dog. 

Firstly, remember that everyone makes mistakes, and accidents happen too. Bearing the guilt of having hit your dog can be pretty tough. Remember, don’t be harsh on yourself.

Spend time with your pooch, and show him that YOU LOVE HIM! (It’s cuddle time!). And remember to reward your dog for positive behavior.

This improves your dog’s behavior. It can be extremely effective compared to negative reinforcement, like physical punishments. It is also important that you control your anger and make sure you don’t physically harm your dog in any situation. 

I Can’t Stop Hitting My Dog. What Should I Do?

a frightened dog during a walk on a leash

Have serious trouble with anger issues? Not able to stop hitting your dog regardless of all your efforts? SEEK HELP IMMEDIATELY

  • Don’t share the same space with your dog the next time you feel a surge of anger. Go out straight away.
  • Get professional help from a therapist to improve your anger management. Learn to process and control your emotions with their help.
  • It is sad to say, but you might have to find another home for your dog temporarily or permanently to ensure it is safe.

Seek Assistance From Professional Dog Trainers

I am not able to remove the unwanted behaviors from my dogs. What should I do?

I understand, it can be tough sometimes, but that must not be a reason for you to swat your dog in the face. If you are having trouble with dog training, seek professional assistance.

A professional dog trainer and behaviorist provides many benefits:

  • They can help to deal with these unwanted behaviors effectively. All this through only tools and no negative reinforcement!
  • You can gain precious knowledge and experience in dog parenting.
  • Personalized methods can be used specifically for your situation and enhance your bond with your dog.
  • You can be assisted in understanding your dog’s emotions.
  • Positive reinforcement methods can be used to improve your dog’s behavior. 
  • You can train your dog using positive training techniques.

How Do You Discipline Your Dog Through Positive Reinforcement?

a person offering a treat to their excited dog

Providing your dog with treats and goodies as acknowledgment for his good behavior is how positive reinforcement works. It is an effective way to discipline your dog and remove unwanted and undesirable behaviors. 

Along with treats and toys, gifting your dog with extended playtimes, praises, long walks, and other activities your dog likes are also positive reinforcements.

You must make sure that your dog is rewarded right after a positive behavior. This ensures that your dog associates the positive behavior with the action. 

How Will I Politely Show My Disapproval to My Dog?

There are so many ways to show disapproval to your dog politely and without any punishments or physical pain.

  • Show Disapproval In Your Voice Tone.

Dogs are animals with high emotional intelligence. They will be able to easily understand the voice tone of humans and understand their emotions.

Dogs learn from their surroundings as well. Speak in a lower pitch and clearly express your disapproval (you don’t need to scream)

  • Stay Calm

Being calm and firm with your dog is sufficient to show disapproval, such as a firm ‘no.’ You must also follow this with rewards for positive behavior.

  • Ignore Unwanted Behaviors

Ignoring your dog can be effective in showing your dog your disapproval. Reacting in other ways can result in the situation worsening.

How Can I Punish My Dog Gently?

a person gently disciplining their dog with their hand

Punishing doesn’t always have to be associated with physical punishment or screaming. There are different ways in which your dog can be gently punished.

  • Refuse Rewards

This is an effective way to show your dog that he has done something wrong.

  • Understand The Cause Of Bad Behavior.

There are different reasons for your dog to behave in certain ways. It’s important to understand this by spending time with your dog. You can seek professional help as well.

  • Eliminate The Triggers Of The Bad Behavior.

Once you identify the cause for the undesirable behavior, remove those triggers. For example, if you find that your dog barks at anyone who passes down the street. Close the curtains and remove the trigger.

  • Praise Good Behavior

Similar to punishing bad behavior, it is also important to praise your dog’s desirable behavior. This encourages him to behave the same way.

  • Redirect Unwanted Behavior

If you see unwanted behavior in your dog, you must divert his attention to something more suitable and appropriate.

For instance, if your dog won’t stop chewing your shoes, get him a chew toy instead. Praise him and give attention to him playing with it as well.

Other guides and tools you might need when training your dog:


Hitting dogs and other abusive behavior are never accepted. It must be avoided at all times. However, accidents do happen. Getting your pooch to forgive you can be quite challenging. Still, with determination and, more importantly, love, you can get there!


Apologize to your dog by showing gentle affection, speaking softly, and offering treats or favorite toys. Ensure to spend quality time with your dog to rebuild trust and avoid hitting or any form of physical punishment in the future. Consider positive reinforcement training for better behavior management.

Yes, dogs can get traumatized when hit. Physical punishment can cause fear, anxiety, and behavioral issues. It’s important to use positive reinforcement and gentle training methods instead.

No, hitting a dog does not effectively discipline it. It can lead to fear, anxiety, and aggression. Positive reinforcement and consistent training are more effective and humane methods for disciplining a dog.

Yes, dogs do care if you hit them. It can cause fear, anxiety, and damage the bond between you and your dog. Positive reinforcement is a better approach for training and maintaining trust.

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Laura Vinzy
Laura Vinzy is one of our contributors. She is also a certified professional dog trainer & currently lives in San Francisco with her husband and her two rescue dogs.

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