You’ve got a big birthday bash coming up, with friends, family and work colleagues attending. Your kids will be there and you’d love it if you could have your canine friend there too. But your dog has developed an unfortunate fear of strangers and will be a nightmare at such an event. It’s the same when you have new guests over to the house. He gets terrified, he barks, he runs to his bed and may even shake.
Getting a handle on this behavior is essential, not just for you, but also for the wellbeing of your dog. Whether he’s had a bad experience in the past or just developed a fear, socializing him with strangers is in the best interest of all involved and may bring back your once happy and care-free dog.
This type of training isn’t always plain sailing, you will need to use obedience commands to incentivize and reinforce positive, calm behavior. You will also need to take steps to gradually introduce him to strangers. As the training must be built up gradually, it can take anywhere from one to eight weeks before your dog will be comfortable around strangers.
You may see quicker results in puppies who aren’t stuck in their ways yet, but older dogs may need considerable time to fully conquer their fears. It is essential you get this training right, as a dog that is terrified of strangers may one day attack them, causing serious injury. It is important then you get a handle on this behavior rapidly. Don’t be put off by the time frame, the results will 100% be worth it!
Before you commence training you will need to get together several things. You will need a long leash so you can secure your dog while strangers are around and still afford him some freedom. You may also want to get your hands on a muzzle until the danger of aggressive behavior has passed.
You will also need your dog’s favorite food or treats. These will be vital for rewarding him and encouraging calm, friendly behavior.
Once you have collected the above, just set aside 20 minutes a day for the next several weeks and come armed with a positive attitude!
I have a real problem when someone comes to the house. Recently he had a vet appt. It didnt go well. It seems to get worse as he gets older. He acts really aggressive towards them and they cant even examine him because he tries to bite them. This last time i got nipped on the hand as i was holding him trying to control the situation. Ultimately it seemed he was scared.
Hello Tammy, If Chewie's only encounters with the vets or someone examining him are during times when shots are being given, blood is being taken, swaps are being done, things are being poked, and other unpleasant experiences are happening, then he will be afraid. Some dogs respond to fear by acting submissive, hiding, urinating, or shaking. Other dogs respond by fighting back. Chewie needs to have regular experiences with people that he does not know while being given tons of rewards. This needs to happen as often as possible, likely for several months. Every week or several times a week would be ideal, but do it as often as you possibly can, even if you can't do it that frequently. Have the stranger come into your home and toss him tons of treats while ignoring him in other ways. Save your dogs entire meal kibble for this if you want to. Practice this with different people until he learns to like it when people come to your door and walk inside. When he will relax when that happens, then have the person toss the treats closer to himself. As Chewie gets more relaxed and is willing to come closer, then have the person toss the treats right by his feet. Next, have the person feed the treats out of his hand, when Chewie is willing to approach the person on his own. Tell the person not to touch Chewie yet. Practice this until Chewie is totally relaxed. You want to recruit people who will remain calm around Chewie and be patient with him. While you are practicing the treat training with other people that Chewie currently barks at, also work on getting him used to being handled by you. Touch an area of his body while you feed him a treat with your other hand. Be gentle and careful. Practice this by touching his ear, his paw, his tail, his belly, his other paw, his other ear, his nose, his mouth (carefully), and every other location. Start slow, and touch the areas that he likes best at first, to show him that you are not going to hurt him. As he begins to relax, then touch the areas he is more resistant to, but feed a treat while you gently touch that area, then remove your hand when the treat is gone. Repeat this over and over again every day, until he enjoys being touched anywhere. You can do this at meal times, and use his entire portion of food, measured out into a baggie, to practice this, rather than giving him a bowl of food. When Chewie is relaxed around visitors and will let you touch him anywhere, then practice having the visitor gentle touch him while he feeds him a treat. Practice the handling exercises with the same person for multiple days, giving a treat for each touch, until Chewie will let that person touch him without getting tense. When that happens, then practice with a new person. Also, have the visitors dress like Vets some of the times when they visit, at this point. You can purchase one white coat or whatever your Vet tends to wear and leave it outside for the guest to put on before they enter. If he is likely to bite the person still at this point, then get him used to wearing a soft silicon basket muzzle ahead of time, so that he can wear the muzzle during the touch training. A basket muzzle will have holes to let the person feed him the treats through it while she touches him. Before you have him wear the muzzle, spend time getting him used to it and have him generally just wear it around the house at times when you are there to supervise him, so that he will not associate the muzzle with a person coming to visit. To introduce the muzzle, feed Chewie a treat every time that you show him the muzzle. Touch it to him gently and then feed him a treat. Practice this until he enjoys the touches because of the treats. Next, progress to holding it against his face while you feed him a treat through the holes. Gradually increase how long you hold it there for and feed treats, one after another, as he becomes more relaxed around it. Finally, put it on him, feed him treats, then take it off after a couple of minutes. Gradually increase the amount of time that he wears it for while you feed him a treats every couple of minutes. Overtime, also space out how often you give him a treat too, until he can simply wear the muzzle around without noticing it. You can also spend time introducing Vet's tools to him, by doing the same gradual introduction process with his food or treats, like you did to introduce the muzzle to him. Make sure you hire a Vet who will take the time to warm him up to her and go slow with him. There are good mobile vets out there who will spend time getting a dog used to them before starting, feeding treats and helping the dog relaxed first. Ask around and read reviews to find someone like that. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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my dog is fine with kids and my family but with strangers she will bark growl at them while on leash
Hello Marla, I would suggest using the "Strangers = Treats" method from the article that you commented on in her case. https://wagwalking.com/training/accept-strangers . I also suggest hiring a professional trainer that is part of larger group of trainers, so that different trainers can work with your dog on her issue. Your dog's breed is naturally more protective and distrustful toward strangers. She will likely need a lot of intensive socialization to help her relax more. She will also need a solid foundation of trust and respect toward you, her owner, so that she will let you handle situations more and take her lead from you rather than trying to control situations. Accomplishing this is more complex than what I can answer here. I would highly suggest hiring a trainer. In the mean time, practice "Strangers = Treats" with strangers at a distance, work on her respect and trust toward you by using the steps found in the article I have linked below, and get her used to wearing a soft-silicone-basket muzzle so that she can be socialized safely at closer distances later. Use a basket muzzle because it will be more comfortable and allow you to pass her treats through the holes. Spend time slowly introducing the muzzle to her with lots of treats and gentle touches with the muzzle. Meal times, using her kibble as rewards, is a good time to do this for at least two weeks, and until she is completely relaxed while wearing the muzzle. Here is the link to the article on teaching respect and trust. Pay special attention to the "Obedience" method, in addition to applying some of the principles of the other methods as well. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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