When company comes over, does your dog lose control, jumping, barking, running around in circles, and otherwise making a nuisance of himself? When you are on a walk and encounter a stranger, does your dog act aggressive, lunge, pull, bark and growl? Unless you live under a rock, you and your dog are going to encounter other people, people your dog doesn't know, and your dog needs to know how to behave when this occurs. A dog that reacts aggressively to the presence of strangers can end up lashing out and biting. Even a dog that does not show overt aggression but gets overexcited is usually reacting from anxiety, which can eventually manifest in aggression. If you have a particularly large dog, his excitement around strangers can send someone flying if he jumps up, or result in a scratch to a face, especially with children or seniors.
Chica is training to be a service dog. She heels. However she refuses to sit on command in places she is new to. And when she meets new people she tends to pup on the leash and tries to jump up to their knees.
How do I fix these problems?
Hello Aracelie, There are many skill levels when it comes to sit and other obedience commands. Chica has likely mastered beginners level, and she can do the sit without distractions around but needs more practice in the presence of distractions for it to be reliable. Begin taking her places with a little bit more distractions, such as in a calmer part of your neighborhood. Bring some treats or favorite toys along with you. Command her to sit while on a walk in your neighborhood, if she does, great! Give her a treat and be sure to praise her right when her bottom hits the ground. If she refuses, then step in front of her, blocking her view with the leash tight enough that she cannot leave you but not so tight that it hurts her at all. Now Wait. Give her time to get bored and think about what you have asked her. If she attempts to get around you to sniff or look at something, step in front of her again to block her view. If you think she did not hear the original command or if fifteen or more second have gone by, you can repeat the command once more, but do not repeat the command over and over. Wait until it has been at least fifteen seconds between sit commands before repeating it each time. You want her to learn to do it the first time that she is told to sit. This exercise can take some especially stubborn dogs as long as fifteen minutes to complete the first time you practice this, so be patient. Most dogs will get bored and will sit in less than five minutes, but give her time to think about what she was told and to choose to do it. If she is really struggling, then you may need to choose somewhere slightly less distracting, such as your own yard to practice this in first. Once she can sit in one location quickly, move onto a slightly harder location and repeat the process again. Her sitting skills need to gradually develop, just like a person who is practicing a new skill needs time to get better in harder and harder situations. Does Chica seem excited and happy to see people when she is jumping and pulling? If she is jumping and pulling out of excitement then what you can do is to recruit various family members and friends that she is likely to jump on to help you mimic a stranger approaching her. Give these volunteers treats for them to hide in their hands behind their backs or in their pockets. When they approach Chica, have them command her to sit or down. If she does so, have them give her a treat from under her chin, if sitting, or between her front paws, if lying down. Giving the treats this way will keep her head down and make her less likely to jump up. If she pulls while they are approaching or if she tries to jump, have the person immediately turn around and walk away or leave the house. When she has calmed back down, repeat the approach and have them instruct her to sit or down again. This will likely take many attempts at first, so be patient. The more times that they approach, the less excited that she will be and the easier this will be for her to do, and the more she will understand what she is supposed to do and not supposed to do. When the person can approach her without her pulling and without her jumping. You can choose to have them give her a treat here as well, before they command the sit or down, if you would like to make this sightly easier. Then once she has that step mastered add in the sit or down step. When she will reliably sit or down when that person approaches, and she no longer jumps on them or pulls towards them, practice the whole thing again with a different friend or family member. It will take practicing this with multiple new people before she will be able to handle doing this around real strangers. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Hello! I read this article, and while I found some aspects informational, I still have a few questions. Kiwi is a very protective girl, and has people that she easily likes/ wont bark at, but also has people (this is the usual, anyone she has never met basically) that she goes crazy over. We are very family orientated people, and love taking kiwi with us. However, when Kiwi is ALWAYS barking around new people, it gets hard. Most of these tips went for when you're in home. How will these hold over for when we go different places? Do you find the 'quiet' method to be useful? Such as when she barks, I just gently hold her mouth closed, and say quiet. I am just confused on how to specifically train her, as we still want her to protect us if in danger, but she has to learn how to stay calm when we say it's okay, no matter where we are.
Hello Abigail, I would recommend having a few different friends that Kiwi is not familiar with help you practice the training methods described in the article first in an non-intimidating environment, such as a calm park, your home, your yard, or your neighborhood. Somewhere without too many extra people around . I would recommend also teaching Kiwi the Quiet command and the "Say Hi" command. You can utilize your friends for teaching the "Say Hi" command. Practice having a friend ignore Kiwi, and when Kiwi chooses to approach them quietly even slightly, tell her "Say Hi" and have the friend drop several treats on the floor towards her without looking at Kiwi. Repeat this ever time Kiwi approaches them. After she is comfortable then command her to "Say Hi" BEFORE she begins to approach them, and when subsequently she approaches them when told to then reward her. If she does not approach them then go back a step and wait until she offers the approach herself before giving her the command, then once she makes the connection between the approach and the command you can continue forward again. Once she can approach that person on command then introduce new friends that she does not know and practice doing it with them while they ignore them. As she improves make things harder by having them interact with her more by smiling, talking, and making normal friendly eye contact. After she knows the Quiet command and the Say Hi command you can then practice having her Say Hi and be Quiet around real strangers and give her rewards when she does so. I would also recommend bringing treats or favorite toys with you when you go out in public and rewarding and praising her whenever she looks at someone and remains calm, especially if she looks back to you after looking at the person. You may need to keep a lot of distance between you and strangers at first, in order for her to feel calm enough to not react negatively while learning, and then very gradually decrease the distance as she improves. Doing these things will not only improve your communication with her so that she understands clearly what she is supposed to be doing when told in each situation, but it should also help her to associate people with food and rewards and decrease her tendency be suspicious and fearful. I would not worry about her becoming too friendly and not protective enough. A well socialized dog is more likely to protect you when needed because they better understand when a person is acting normal verses not normal. Protectiveness is more of a temperament trait and will not likely be lost by increasing friendliness towards average people. Friendliness will however allow you to bring her with you more places. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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We adopted a dog from a shelter who only had her for two weeks if that. They found her and her sister abandoned near a zoo. She's very scared of strangers and took her a little bit to get use to us even but she doesn't seem to want to get use to others.. She still barks growls and lunges or runs from anyone that's not us. She even growls and barks at us if startled and takes her a minute to realize it's us. How do we help her build her confidence in others while not knowing her past
Hello Tielle, If she is food motivated I would work on pairing the presence of people with food rewards. If she is not food motivated you can use a favorite toy and a game of tug or fetch as a reward in place of the treats. First, experiment with different types of kibble or treats to find out which ones she loves. Something small and soft will be the easiest to use. Liver or real chicken are a favorite for many dogs. Second, take her somewhere where she is likely to see people, but where she does not have to be close to people until you are ready to introduce her. A large quieter park could work for this. Make sure that the harness or collar that use on her is secure so that she will not be able to wiggle out of it if she becomes frightened. Third, walk her past a stranger, close enough that she notices them but far enough away that she is able to remain calm and still look at you when you try to get her attention. Whenever she looks at the stranger or whenever she looks at the stranger and then back at you, praise her happily and offer her a reward. Always remain upbeat and happy sounding. You are trying to build her confidence and not pity her or worry her. Continue to reward her at that distance until she seems completely relaxed and happy at that distance. Once she has reached that point then decrease the distance by a couple of feet. Repeat this process, decreasing the distance very slowly over time, until she is able to walk right past someone and still remain calm. Once she is able to remain calm even while next to someone, teach her to "Say Hi" to them. Have a friend that she does not know help you with this part. Give your friend several treats to hide in her pockets. At a calm location, such as the park, practice walking past your friend like you did before with strangers. Walk past your friend without stopping and without saying hi several times, like you did before with the other strangers, until your dog seems relaxed. Once your dog seems relaxed, then walk by again, but this time when you pass by, stop a couple of feet away from your friend and tell Rispah to "Say Hi". When you do this have your friend toss out several tasty treats while at the same time ignoring your dog. Practice this until Rispah will walk up to your friend willingly in order to sniff her and receive treats from her. Once Rispah is comfortable with your friend, your friend can gradually begin to talk to her more and more and to touch her gently. Practice this with many different friends until Rispah begins to do better with people. Once she does well during the structured training sessions you can practice this with calm people out in public, one at a time. Be sure to only let people whom you feel will be gentle and patient meet her, and when they meet her instruct the person to take things slow with her and allow her to warm up to them. Because she may have been traumatized by people before she came to you, or she simply was not exposed to enough people while young, this process will take a lot of time and patience on your part. Keep up the good work. It sounds like she has found a great home with you. Best of luck in training, Caitlin Crittenden
Ok thanks. We are trying the treats trick and she refuses to accept from one friend today Mom said she wouldn’t eat them till after he left. I guess we have to try it with the ignore part tho like you said. She’s so scared. I hate to think what happened before the shelter found her. She’s definitely happy here tho. Just taking a while getting her acclimated to others.
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Smokey gets extremely excited around strangers.
Hello Ray, Because Smokey is young, part of his excitement is probably due to age. Young dogs need to be taught self-control. To teach Smokey self-control work on obedience commands with him. Teach him how to "Heel", and then how to "Heel" around distractions, such as strangers. Teach him how to do a "Place" command, and then how to do it for long periods of time and around distractions. Teach him how to "Sit" and "Down" and "Stay" in both of those positions, and then practice those in public around distractions. Once he understands what the commands mean, teaching him how to do each of those commands for long periods of time and around distractions is accomplished through practicing each command in gradually harder and harder settings. For instance, teach Smokey to Sit, then how to Sit and Stay, then how to Sit and Stay for ten minutes in your home without distractions. Once he can do that, practice having him Sit and Stay in your front yard, then Sit and Stay in your neighborhood, then Sit and Stay in a pet store, then Sit and Stay in a park, then Sit and Stay outside of a Dog Park. You can gradually increase the difficulty level by practicing in a new location once he has mastered the Sit and Stay at the current location. You can also work on teaching an automatic response to the presence of people by heavily rewarding him whenever a certain situation occurs. For instance, you can teach him to automatically lay down whenever someone approaches you by recruiting friends to help you. You can teach Smokey how to do a down, and then whenever your friend approaches, tell him to do a "Down" and have the friend wait to come over until Smokey complies. Every time that Smokey gets up, have the friend walk away a little bit, and every time that Smokey lays down, have the friend come closer. While he is doing this, place treats between his feet while he is in the "Down" position to make the "Down" position more rewarding and desirable. This will take time to teach, but when he learns that someone will only come over to see him if he lays down, then the presence of a stranger approaching will always be both his cue to lay down and his reward for doing it. You can teach the same thing with Sit instead of Down also. Work on rewarding calm behavior throughout the day as well. If you see him laying down calmly without having to be told, quietly walk over to him and place a treat between his front feet, and then walk away. At first he may jump up excitedly, but he should gradually begin to realize that laying down is rewarding and begin to do it more often on his own. Also if you are out in public and you see a stranger at a distance and he is remains calm, even if the reason is because the person is far away, then reward that calm behavior by softly praising him and offering him a treat. The more you do this, the more he will begin to associate calm behavior with rewards and offer it on his on, and the more that he will begin to realize that staying calm around people equals rewards. Doing all of these things will teach him better self-control in general. Even though some of the training may not seem connected to the excitability, he will have an easier time responding to you during times of excitement if he has developed good self-control. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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We recently adopted Duke and he is a wonderful guy, however we are having problems with barking at basically anyone. He does great with me but barks at my husband anytime he enters the room where I am, I have been removing Duke from the area when he starts this behavior and only allow him back in once he has calmed himself, however he is still doing this over and over. Duke doesn't mind my children but does whine when they become close to my area. Duke also tends to whine after being brought back into the area if I am touching my husband or not paying him attention. I have been ignoring the behavior but can't seem to get him to stop. Duke gets tons of exercise and has been vet checked with no underlying issues. We are hoping to start training Duke as a service dog but fist need him to be able to socialize and not bark at people or other animals. (Currently he has not shown interest in other animals, there are many dogs in our area and he does not bark back when other dogs are barking.)
Hello Paula, It sounds like Duke might be possessive of you, in additional to lacking social skills around others. German Shepherds are naturally protective dogs, and can be strong willed and will try to lead, if they lack respect for those in charge. I would work on teaching Duke a "Quiet" command, an "Out" command, which means leave the area, a structured "Heel" command, the type where the dog walks right by you and looks at you often, and a "Place" command, which means stay in a specific spot for a long period of time, such as staying on a dog bed for one or two hours. After you have taught him these commands, if he is barking, command him to be "Quiet". If he is trying to get between you and your husband or children, command him to "Out". In general when you are hanging out with family, have him practice staying in his "Place", so that he can practice self-control, have something concrete to do other than act possessive, and learn how to be OK when not right with you. While he is in his Place, you can give him a stuffed Kong or something else to occupy himself with, so that he will not be bored, but simply have boundaries. When he walks with you, make him walk in the "Heel" position, and do not let him pull ahead. Also make him work for everything that he gets. Possessive behavior means that he lacks respect for you, and is trying to be in charge of who is allowed to come near you. He is trying to "Claim" you essentially. This is not something you want to encourage, especially if he lacks social skills and is fearful, so it is important that he learns that you are in charge, and one of the best ways to do that is to teach him to respect you by having him work for you. Have him sit for you before you feed him for example. Have him do a "Down" every time you are about to pet him, and do not pet him unless you initiate it. Have him "Watch" you before you take him outside, and when you walk him, have him walk in the Heel position, and not pulling ahead or ignoring you. Work on having him earn things from your children and husband too, but when they work with him make it lots of fun. Have them give him commands and feed him pieces of his meal kibble for every command that he obeys. If he is scared of your husband, then anytime that he is calm around your husband, have your husband praise him and toss him treats, even if that means tossing him a treat from the other side of the room. Let Duke initiate any physical interaction with him though, to prevent more even fear. The softer and higher pitched your husband's voice is, the less likely Duke is to react, but your husband obviously can't talk like that forever. After he is comfortable around family, take him places and let him view people from a distance. Any time that he remains calm, or looks at you after looking at the stranger, praise him and offer him a treat. Expect this to take time, so be patient with him. If you friends are willing to help, have them come to your home or meet you somewhere out in public, and anytime that he acts calmly toward them, even for a second, have them toss him a treat. Let him choose when to approach them though. When he finally approaches them to sniff them, instruct your friends to just ignore him, except to toss out treats. Do this with each person until he is completely comfortable. When he is completely comfortable, and showing no signs of fear, then they can interact with him more. The more people you practice this with, one at a time, the better he will probably do around strangers in general. If at any point you see any signs of aggression, do not wait to contact a trainer in your area who has a good tract record of success working with aggressive, fearful, and reactive dogs. The earlier you deal with the aggression, the more likely you will be to overcome it. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Tipper does not like her nails trimmed and she gets aggresive when I try to do it. I don’t force anything because I want it to be comfortable for her. And nobody has ever been mean or aggressive towards her. I would like a solution that will make her comfortable when her nails are being trimmed.
Hello Abby, First begin by getting her used to wearing a basket muzzle. Make sure that it is a basket muzzle and not another type, so that she will be able to open her mouth while wearing it, and receive treats through it. To get her used to the muzzle, show it to her, and when she touches it, give her a treat. Practice that until she is relaxed around it, then touch it to her face briefly, and give her a treat every time you do that. Practice that until she is comfortable with it, then hold it on her face for a couple of seconds, and reward her for that. Continue to place it more and more onto her face, for longer and longer periods of time, and reward her whenever she cooperates, so that she will like wearing the muzzle. When you have reached the point where she is ready to wear it, then put the muzzle on her and buckle it, and either slip treats through the muzzle to reward her for it, or get a drinking straw, and dip the straw into peanut butter or squeeze cheese, and poke the straw through the muzzle for her to lick as a reward. Start by having her wear it for only a couple of seconds, and gradually increase the amount of time that you leave the muzzle on her, rewarding her for tolerating it for longer and longer. Do this until she looks forward to wearing the muzzle for up to thirty minutes. Once your dog is used to the muzzle, then have her wear the muzzle, and practice briefly touching her foot with your hand, and then giving her a treat. Gradually increase how much you touch it, and how long you touch it for, rewarding her for every touch and for longer and longer touches. Do this until you can hold her paw in your hand and place a little bit of pressure on her paw, and she likes it because she expects to be rewarded for it. After you have done this with one of her paws, then move onto the others, working on one at a time, until she will let you touch any of them. When she is used to having her paws touched, then introduce the nail clippers. Just like you did with the muzzle, reward her for touching it and sniffing it when you show it to her. Do this until she is comfortable, and then briefly touch it to her paw and reward her also. When she is used to that, begin to hold it to her paw and nail for longer and longer, while rewarding her. When she will let you both hold her paw and hold the clippers to her nail for several seconds, then gently clip off just a tiny bit of nail and reward her. Continue this process until you can clip the nail shorter. When you can clip the nail shorter and she will tolerate it, then gradually work up to adding more nails, and then work up to clipping more than one nail in a row. Do this until you can clip all of her nails, while giving her treats, and she will let you. After Tipper is used to having her nails clipped, then continue to make nail clipping fun by always including treats in the process. When she is used to it, continue clip her nails like normal, but every couple of nail clips, offer her a treat. Do this for the entire grooming session every time you do her nails. If you are using a nail dremel instead of the clippers, then you will need to spend extra time getting her used to the sound of the dremel, with treats, before touching it to her, and you will need to spend more time on each step, since the dremel will vibrate and feel funny when you touch it to her nail. Dremels are great tools for grooming, but expect that process to take longer. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden Because she has shown willingness to bite when she is afraid, you will probably need to have her always wear the muzzle for nail clipping, just in case you were to accidentally cut her quick. If you were to cut her quick by accident, then your face would be very close to hers already, and she might react by biting. If you continue to keep the muzzle positive and rewarding, then she should be fine wearing it.
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Henley is a 4 month sold Giant Schnauzer. we have had her since she was 11 weeks old. she’s always been a little skeptical of new people but lately it’s gotten worse. we try to take her out as much as possible but she has now started barking at new people or even when people open the door and enter my room. she is fine with people after she meets them but is still skeptical about letting them pet her. she is terrified during initial meetings. she is going to be 90lbs+ and i do not want this to turn into anger. i’m feeling helpless.
Hello Dalila, Between the time that a puppy is born and twelve weeks of age most puppies are accepting of all people and animals, after twelve weeks of age puppies begin to realize that not all people are safe, and this is when signs of fear and aggression can creep up. It sounds like Henley desperately needs to be socialized starting absolutely as soon as possible. Have as many people as possible feed Henley treats or kibble. Make your goal at least a hundred different people. Take her all types of places and do this as often as possible. Two or three times a day would not be too much, but do as much as you can. Take her to the pet store and recruit people to toss her or hand feed her treats, especially when she is being calm for even a second. Take her to local outdoor sporting games, to parks, to playgrounds, to outdoor shopping areas, and anywhere else you can. Have all different types of people feed her treats, including kids, men, and people who look different than you and your family. Sign up for a puppy class that works on getting puppies used to being handled by others, by trading puppies during the class and touching them while giving them treats. If money is an issue, then look for other puppy owners to do this with for free. Throw "Puppy" Parties" and invite your friends to come over and give Henley treats. If they have their own puppies to bring, even better! Right now her behavior is probably due to fear, so you want to make her think that all strangers are fun and rewarding. If you do not see results quickly, then do not wait to contact a trainer with experience with aggression, fear, and reactivity. Many temperament problems can be overcome if you start to work on them early, but they become much harder the longer that you wait. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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