Tips for Introducing your Dog to Strangers
If your normally mild-mannered dog goes into defensive mode whenever a strange person comes to visit, you’re not alone. Newly adopted dogs in particular can be difficult to settle around strangers and may exhibit behaviors such as barking, jumping, or growling. Although every dog’s personality is different, there are a few things you can do to make your dog more comfortable around strangers. Keeping these tactics in mind will help ease anxiety for your pets and your guests.
Control the Situation
When opening the door to visitors, you’ll want to make sure that your dog is restrained with dog harnesses and/or leashes. You’ll need to remain in control of the situation if your dog has shown aggressive behavior in the past. When the doorbell rings, you can instruct your dog to sit and allow the pet to sniff the stranger before they touch the dog. Consider shaking hands with the guest first, and then allow your dog sniff the stranger’s scent on your hand to help increase familiarity. This puts you at the center of the interaction, rather than letting the dog loose on the visitor.
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Use the Reward System
As you take your dog to new environments or greet visitors within the home, be sure to reward calm behavior. Give immediate verbal praise when your dog greets a stranger without barking or jumping, and use treats for successful sit/stays. As your dog calms down, it can be helpful for the stranger to give your dog a treat – this can help boost the positive interaction between stranger and dog.
Help Guests Understand Calming Signals
If your visitors are unfamiliar with dogs, it can be helpful to give them a few behavioral tips that will make them less threatening to the dog. Remind them that when meeting a new dog, it’s best to avoid direct eye contact at first and to use a slow approach to avoid startling the dog. Showing disinterest in the dog will help calm him down, since he can see that the guest isn’t about to grab him.
Don’t Push It
If your dog feels fearful or threatened, it’s important not to push him into meeting someone new. Forcing a dog into certain behaviors can often backfire and make him more resistant, so if Fido seems agitated, you’ll want to take it slow. You could choose one of these comfortable dog collars at dogscorner and keep your dog on his leash for the duration of the visit if he starts to show visible fear. Keeping a calm demeanor yourself will help your dog feel calm, because she can pick up on your emotions.
When in Doubt, Separate
It might be helpful to put your dog behind a gate in the front hallway, which allows the dog to view visitors and react to their presence without feeling threatened. Observing that the stranger means no harm to the dog or to you can help calm him down. If young children or guests with a fear of dogs are visiting, it may be better to keep the dog in a separate room entirely until they are much more comfortable with people.
Like any training exercise, teaching your dog acceptable behavior around strangers will take some time and effort. Being consistent and rewarding good behavior right from the beginning can help alleviate a natural fear of strangers and help your dog overcome shyness.