A reader called asking for help with her new rescue dog. She got it from another city and doesn't want to return it, but the dog is afraid of hands and hand motions. She can't even pet it.
Touching, for dogs, is a learned response. Therefore, it is helpful if newborn pups have been touched and cuddled the first six or eight weeks of their lives, or until they leave for new homes. Touching or petting a puppy seems to most of us a natural thing to do.
However, since it is a learned activity, the right approach is needed. Try never to startle a pup or dog especially if it is sleeping, eating or otherwise distracted. Instead, approach quietly from the side, but within the animal's view, talk softly to your new pet, extend your hand, palm side down, for the dog to sniff, and then stroke along the cheek with your finger. The body language is understood by the dog. The sideways approach is neutral and friendly, the extended hand allows the dog to check you out just as it would another dog, the cheek stroking with one finger reminds the dog of the lick-greeting one dog will give another. Rarely will a dog take offense if the body language displays friendliness and neutrality.